Companies, why do you keep giving generic answers in customer service in the era of personalization?
Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, Renfe’s long-distance trains have not carried a cafeteria service on board. It is one of those topics that have featured in a few angry tweets – you discover it when you search about it on Twitter – and also a few news in the media – especially linked to what this has meant for the workers of the subcontractor that provided the service.

At the beginning of June, Renfe announced that it was going to resume the service. It would be from July 1 and “a progressive recovery”, according to the press release. For the media that had to address the issue, the press release gave the classic generic explanations. For passengers who have to board a train in the first days of July, the information is zero relevant.

These travelers will do what we end up having to do in the newsroom: contact Renfe directly to try to find out if their route is one of those that enter the list of “traffic and times of the day with the most demand”. On the Renfe website there is no clear list that says which trains will have a cafeteria and which will not, but if you write an email to their customer service you will not achieve much more.

The answer takes one day and is a paste copy of a standard answer, which does not take into account that you have been given the exact day you are going to travel and the specific Alvia that you are going to take. The customer service email is more outrageous than useful (and ends up making you contact the company via Twitter, where they respond quickly and immediately with the necessary information and thus duplicating the customer service work) .

It is not a unique practice

Renfe is usually a kind of headliner when it comes to bad user experiences, especially for everything that happens with its website, but it is far from the only one that falls into these practices. Just look at the responses Prime Video, Amazon’s VoD service, gives consumers who want to know when the new season of their favorite series will premiere.

As much as Amazon is making its profile on Twitter more dynamic, more in line with the Netflix school, its answers to doubts are still boring and repetitive, which contribute little. It is always the same text – or very similar – that says that it does not have that data but hey! follow our profile to find out more things. It is not very explanatory and almost spam.

The copy-and-paste type answer format for certain types of questions is almost a classic in social media marketing, especially applicable to certain types of frequently asked questions that consumers ask over and over again. For SMEs, for example, it is usually very useful, especially when the social media team is very small and the person who responds is sometimes an outsider.

But while there are exceptions where they are permissible, does it make sense to keep cutting it off in the age of customization? And, above all, do you have it when you have a large team giving answers in customer service?

Even if the Renfe email was answered by a bot, it would have done its job quite badly: the question was very specific and the answer overly generic (an answer that his Twitter team solved in a matter of 5 minutes).

Why is a problem

Consumers don’t want generic answers: they want brands to show that you’ve cared to understand what they need and that you’ve at least worked hard to find a solution. It is likely that the social media team does not know if the new season of the X series is coming or not, but they can make their answer a wink to whoever asks or creates the illusion that you have gone to investigate what about that product.

And, of course, if consumers ask something specific and with an answer that the company must have (is this train wagon cafeteria going to take? What measurements are the size X of this shirt?), They want a concrete answer and exact, not vague words, because the company should know and give that information.

It does not matter that your company later does a customization job when it comes to attracting customers or email marketing campaigns that greet you by name and take into account certain biographical data to segment the actions. If the moment comes when the consumer needs you, you condemn him to receive generic answers, you will have lost it.


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