"All of our agents are busy..." How important are you?

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 25th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Business>Ethics

We all make call to resolve the problems we face on a regular basis, yet the quality of service by many organisations have declined dramatically over the years. Here are some thoughts about he customer service challenges many businesses face today and questions whether the modern call centre is really able to address these issues.

That DARN message...

You call a company for something that is important to you and you are met with the message "all of our agents are currently busy, your call is important to us please remain on the line..." this is potentially the most frustrating message you will hear at any time in the day and it is often a sign of something that is becoming endemic in our society. At 9am when the customer service centre opens we may expect a sudden rush of calls, because people with problems will all call, but there are times you have to question the value of putting the customer on hold, it is generally a sign that either the company does not care about your business or they are not employing enough staff to handle the call volumes they face.

Any time business puts it's customers on hold is a time they risk losing them! Whether the customer is calling to purchase something or calling the service centre to get a problem resolved, they could so easily move to a competitor. If they are calling a service centre to get a problem resolved then lets be honest this call is more important to the customer than to the firm answering the call, but if the interaction is not resolved satisfactorily then next time they buy they may do so elsewhere. Think about how frustrated you may feel when making a call to any other organisation then think about how frustrated your customers can be when your organisation does the same to them.

Saffing Levels and Training

Picture this, a small city taxi company is acquired by a large company in the capital city and as a part of buying this smaller firm they centralise all call answering into their existing call centre, adding three new jobs in the capital, but causing fifteen lay-offs in the local office - the reason they can do this is because they utilise spare capacity at head office and have the call answerer taking calls for each of the cities the company operates in. Customers were used to calling and having the phone answered immediately on 99% of occasions and having people in the local office who knew their needs, when call answering was switched they get the dreaded message "your call is important to us..." well at 4 am is there really any need to have any call put on hold, clearly this call is not so important to the new owners of the business. Today the customer may wait, because they hope to get their favourite driver, tomorrow they may also wait because they are loyal to the previous company, but too much waiting and their loyalty wears very thin indeed, they will, after some time, seek alternative arrangements, they will call the competitor's number. Add to this the fact that the call centre does not understand the location and its special needs and the customer can become very frustrated very quickly and poor old Ellie that needs to be picked up from Bingo at 9pm can no longer call and simply say "It's Ellie" and know that the car will be there where she needs it in five minutes now she has to explain every time she calls that she is around the back, down the ramp, at the disabled entrance, then on Tuesday she was left waiting for 40 minutes for the car to arrive in the freezing cold, how loyal do you think she feels now?

Testing a Cusomer's Loyalty

Not every business is as instant as the taxi business nor as locally focused, where the customer has a choice to call a competitor and get instant service, but it is an example we can learn from for any business. Every time your a call to your business results in people being placed on hold then there is a possibility you will lose that customer. We all know being put on hold is inevitable on some occasions but your business must strive to ensure the customer only hears that dreaded message on he rarest of occasions, every time the message is played is a dagger in the heart of a valued customer or prospect and the answer is often to be found in either the training of call centre agents, or employing more people when your call centre reaches peak capacity, flexible work hours is one aspect in resolving this issue, another issue is ensuring these workers understand the importance of their role and the potential it brings in terms of future business being won by the company.

A large consumer electronics conglomerate has outsourced its customer service to an offshore company which has call centres around the world, including many in the USA, Canada, Europe, and Japan each of these locations operates until 10 pm local time, but one offshore call centre remains active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and handles all overflow calls and whether the caller gets a call answerer that is proficient in English in order to understand the customer's needs, let alone the company's products seems pot-luck, they were all trained, but it seems to different standards dependent on the country the agent is in. In principle there is no reason a person on the other side of the planet cannot resolve your problem, but for some reason people always prefer to speak to a local person, perhaps it is the accent or perhaps something more colloquial, but at the end of the day it is the quality of service that is essential to them and they do have an inkling when the answerer is on the other side of the planet.

One negative aspect about call centre operations is the script used by agents, scripts do add value to an organisation in building sales, but are of little assistance when a customer has a complaint they need addressing, they feel a need to be listened to and listening is one of skills call centres do not have in great abundance because they are trained to diagnose using the script, deliver results quickly and drop the customer as soon as possible, call centres do not aid the building of relationships, in fact rather than providing better service they are nothing but the bane of most people's lives and the truth is we probably call at least one every single day of our lives. Professionalism demands the return to old fashioned customer relationships where loyalty is key and customers are treated with respect and not merely as a number, because lets face facts that is what is happening today.

No wonder we are Irate

As a customer/caller we hate the stupidity and wasted time and effort associated with all such calls. The following are some of the problems faced:

  • Customers enter their account number through the phone system then asked for it when the representative answers the call, validate their ID some other way because causing callers to repeat themselves is a sure-fire way to lose (or at least annoy) them. Remember that every time we annoy a customer THEY are keeping count of the negative marks.
  • The call centre has more historic data than ever before yet when a customer is calling back they must repeat the whole history of what has happened, including the steps discussed and carried out by the prior agent.
  • The company cannot provide the information required, even though the law states they must.

An angry customer is someone you need to pay special attention to because if you handle the situation competently and effectively they you may not lose their business altogether, in fact you could turn them into an ally. The worst possible result is to stick to the script and fail to alleviate their problem, in fact by inaction you have likely made things worse.

Building Relationships

To build customer relationships it means the company must actually have a relationship with the customer, not simply build data about them. Irrespective of who the agent is they must act in a consistent and professional manner designed to build a lasting relationship with them and use the data collected to know what point the relationship is at right now and act appropriately given the things you already know about the customer, when they have said that they don't want something last week don't ask the same up-sale question this week. Every time your staff talk to them is an opportunity to know more about their needs and develop the relationship over time, but remember sales opportunities will exist in the future so when the customer has a problem please don't try to up-sell, deal with the problem at hand.

Listen and Understand

Customer service is about listening and understanding, and it is important that businesses understand this.

To date the author (Peter B. Giblett) has published more than 400 articles on a variety of subjects here Wikinut plus over 200 on a variety of other sites, these are the most recent articles published...

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Tags

Angry Customer, Call Centre, Customer Loyalty, Customer Service, Lose That Customer, Loyalty, Not Employing Enough Staff, On Hold, Standards, The Company Does Not Care, Trained To Different Standards, Training, Your Call Is Important To Us

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
25th Jan 2014 (#)

Good evening, Peter; thank you for this article. Wonderful examples of the reasons many of us so dislike having to make a call to get a problem resolved. Had one a couple of weeks ago - my important call took them 27 minutes to answer or I would lose my place in the virtual line. And if I am calling to get a problem resolved, please fix it before you try to upgrade my services - that was the final straw with that call. Irritating, annoying and not good common sense by my way of thinking. Thanks for letting me rant. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Jan 2014 (#)

Imagine that Taxi company scenario - had you waited 27 minutes to call for a cab to the train station it is likely you would have missed the next train.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
25th Jan 2014 (#)

I so agree with what you write here Peter..I hate getting that answer message...usually I just put the phone down...nothing is so important that it cannot wait ...

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author avatar Jerry Walch
26th Jan 2014 (#)

You were right on the money with this article, Peter.

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author avatar Retired
26th Jan 2014 (#)

Interesting article, Peter. Some time back I had a new laptop fail. Called the manufacturer's service department and simply got nowhere. Took the computer back to the shop where I bought it and they changed it on the spot - even though they had not given a shop guarantee. A month later the second laptop developed a fault. Once again, no help from the manufacturer, but the shop stepped up and replaced the faulty part (memory) at no cost. They also offered me a different brand if I paid the price difference. That was customer care well beyond my expectations. But it came from the retailer and not the manufacturer.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Jan 2014 (#)

This is often the attention you can get from a local shop (even if they are part of a national chain), that you do not get from call centres.

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author avatar Ptrikha
30th Jan 2014 (#)

Indeed the local shops often are much better in dealing with problems, even without the fanfare of swanky offices or highly trained individuals, because they value long term customer loyalty more.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
26th Jan 2014 (#)

Ooh! Such a big pet peeve of mine!! Also, the announcement that my problem can be handled online and the address. If I could handle the problem online, I would have!!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
26th Jan 2014 (#)

That announcement is another pet peeve, which I do intend to cover at another time.

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author avatar Connie McKinney
26th Jan 2014 (#)

It is so annoying to hear those messages. I agree with you, Peter. Interesting article.

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author avatar joyalariwo
27th Jan 2014 (#)

That hair wrenching, fist clenching experiences we all go through.... aargh! thank you so much Peter for sharing this.

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author avatar Ptrikha
29th Jan 2014 (#)

Another puzzling case is that many of the service industry companies have big BI, and Data Warehousing as well as all kinds of analytics and big customer service departments, still they keep on asking so many customer details everytime we interact. And then there are phone calls of different agents from the same company, which irritates us.

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author avatar Ptrikha
29th Jan 2014 (#)

I have seen exceptions, where the customer service executives do a great job. One such example is executives from Oracle Corp.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
29th Jan 2014 (#)

Customer friendly companies should measure the average response time. Government departments are worse and I wonder what public servant means then! siva

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author avatar Ptrikha
10th Feb 2014 (#)

One who makes the public his or her servant?? :)

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author avatar Claudia J. Rodriguez
29th Jan 2014 (#)

Well done, informational and well done.

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author avatar Kingwell
4th Feb 2014 (#)

I agree Peter.

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author avatar Mariah
16th Feb 2014 (#)

Absolutely Peter, maintaining that personal touch of customer service is vital to sustain the loyalty of exiting clients, and in successfully adding to business clientele, recommendation by word of mouth is very powerful advertising.

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