Outsourcing and Call Center Blog

3 December, 2007

Thank you for calling, please hold, click

Seth Godin writes in his blog today about an excruciating experience with PayPal. Reading through it I can’t believe there is anyone who doesn’t feel his pain – we’ve all been there. It also strikes me that while they are not alone, this is definitely an example of the intended customer service model for the PayPal-eBay-Skype group in my experience.

Coincidently, I was using Skype (which I think is a brilliant product) to call my bank back in the UK about my new credit card that’s gone missing in the post. While I was waiting in the queue I read in Seth’s blog:

If you’re on this system and a long-time customer calls in with a complicated problem, one that’s going to require supervisor intervention and follow up, what’s your best plan? Is it to spend an hour with this person over three days, or is the system designed to have you politely get them to just give up?

which I figured was probably an amazing bit of foreshadowing.

Both here in India and in the UK, reps know very well how to simply hang-up when they get one of these hard-to-deal-with problems, never mind being discouraging. Fortunately this is not the norm but it does happen with disturbing frequency. This is the curse of the AHT (Average Handling Time, the mean amount of time a rep spends on his/her calls during the day/week/month). It’s often the main measure for our staff and our centres and everyone in the industry knows that it is inversely related to good customer service. So one wonders how we have come to the conclusion that measuring and encouraging poor customer service is good for business. You can say it’s more complicated than that and perhaps it is, but it isn’t.

Is it any wonder that we have such high turnover of staff when we stress quality, have QA managers, monitor calls for quality but then incent for speed?

Because my new card was lost in the mail, my bank cancelled it leaving us now cardless in the run-up to our Christmas travels. Because of our travel schedule, if we don’t get the card next week, we won’t be able to collect it until sometime in February. The rep handling my call was friendly and understanding and stuck with me and my problem for every bit of 30 minutes trying to solve it. Alas, she was unable to get the dispatch people to send the new cards by courier even after I offered to pay for it myself, But they did offer this, and I’m not making this up, “Tell him to call back tomorrow and ask, maybe we’ll be in a better mood.” And with that, they went home for the day. I wonder what they’re measure on?

4 October, 2007

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Filed under: BPO,Call Center,ethics,personal,Rant,Trust,Values — shamrin @ 23:06

There were a couple of things going on here in the last week that led me to an entry about telling the truth. The first event is that we spent the weekend in Dharamsala, the home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama, political and spiritual leader of Tibet. The second event is that some people on my staff broke my trust and that of my organisation in such a brazen and bold way, that I’m still trying to come to grips with it. Now, it’s hard to explain how these two things came together, so hard in fact that I’ve had to scrap two attempts to do it. Yet I still am compelled to record something on this topic.

I have mentioned here before the reverence I have for the late M. Scott Peck and his series of books that starts with The Road Less Travelled. Peck has insights into how we really are that consistently leave me amazed and that never fail to instruct. In a section of The Road Less Travelled called “Withholding the Truth” he has some insights into truth-telling that I will quote here as they say more than I can on this topic.

Yet the rewards of the difficult life of honesty and dedication to the truth are more than commensurate with the demands. By virtue of the fact that their maps are continually being challenged, open people are continually growing people. Through their openness they can establish and maintain intimate relationships far more effectively than more closed people. Because they never speak falsely thay can be secure and proud in the knowledge that they have done nothing to contribute to the confusion of the world, but have served as sources of illumination and clarification. Finally, they are totally free to be. They are not burdened by any need to hide. they do not have to slink around in the shadows. They do not have to construct new lies to hide old ones. they need waste no effort covering tracks or maintaining disguises. And ultimately they find that the energy required for the self-discipline of honesty is far less than the energy required for secretiveness. The more honest one is, the easier it is to continue being honest, just as the more lies one has told, the more necessary it is to lie again. By their openness, people dedicated to the truth live in the open and through the exercise of their courage to live in the open, they become free from fear.

– M. Scott Peck

It’s funny how often I see in the statistics on this blog that people have searched for something like “call center ethics” or “ethics of running a BPO”. It’s encouraging to me that people are concerned about such topics and I hope that this blog in some way contributes positively in this area. So, if you’ve found this entry with that particular search, here is your pay-off; Tell the truth, it makes life better.

15 June, 2007

Returning messages – a mini rant

Filed under: Rant — shamrin @ 13:12

Please forgive me this little rant about returning messages, it’s Friday and it’s been a frustrating week. I’ve been trying to push through some fairly radical (but completely necessary) organisational changes here in my company and have been meeting with, not resistance, not scepticism, not even grudging agreement, but instead a kind of spongy nothingness. This must be what purgatory feels like.

Maybe it’s that lack of reaction to my wild and crazy ideas (did I mention they they are utterly necessary?)  that has me on edge regarding returning messages. Is it just me? Was I on holiday out of the country when they changed the rules about getting back to someone who is trying to contact you? This week I contacted 3 different suppliers on 2 continents (neither of them Asia) in an effort to buy something;  in one case I am looking for some sales representation and in another a little web development. I’ve contacted each of these companies using a combination of email, phone messages, IM and web forms. None of them have even acknowledged the contact. I don’t get that. In each case I’ve made it clear that I’m a potential buyer for what they are selling.

I learned a while back that the things we don’t like in others are quite often the things we don’t like in ourselves so I’m asking myself, “am I unresponsive to people?”. Or perhaps I’m just too demanding, maybe when you call a sales organisation you shouldn’t actually expect them to get back to YOU, it’s your responsibility to pursue them until you are able to get them to sell you something. I just don’t know.

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