Since having call centers became all the rage, many of us feel insulted when we place the call about a problem and get the situation depicted above. It's even worse in the good old USA when the first option offered when the phone is answered is for a foreign language. But getting beyond that point, if the customer service representative is just learning and unsure of what they are doing, the dead giveaway is a script being used. Churn and burn is what you get when the public face or voice for a business organization is one of the least respected and poorly treated of those working for the business. Add to that the newer push for outsourced call centers, when the noise in the background is often in a foreign tongue, it is easy to wonder why bother, particularly when the actual representative is difficult to understand. And while there are some companies that really train their personnel well and they master pronunciation, it is still a major problem for others. Further, it can make one wonder why try to buy in the USA in the first place if the company being dealt with doesn't hire using the same philosophy.
In my particular instance of management, I was working for a large, nationwide firm, but we made the decision to have decentralized call centers run in the same geographical area as the outside sales staff. That worked quite well, since the call center employees understood the area they were servicing and that made confusion much more manageable. Case in point, the old Sears Roebuck had a major central call center and when scheduling appointments, the employee dealing with the call merely had a map and used it to assign daily tasks. When you are sitting at a phone with a map in front of you, not a very large map at that, it is impossible to correctly assess travel times and, as a result, complaints grew quickly. In our case, the center employees were given specific territories within the serviced area, were given the opportunity to build a relationship with the appropriate sales personnel and the result made work much easier with appointments which could be carried out on schedule. Nothing makes a customer happier than to have a service technician show up on schedule. It might seem to management like a small issue, but when it snowballs, so do the problems and the cost. But, and I might add stubbornly, some corporate executives just can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to keeping good customers happy because by the time they make the big time, they have lost that awareness..
And money is the last issue that I want to talk about and, of course, it is of critical importance since the bottom line is the ultimate determinant of success. From my personal experience, corporate "bean counters," aka the internal accounting and financial management staff, are usually extremely talented at overseeing the bottom line but are usually quite deficient in an understanding of what it takes for the front line folks to get them there. While the expense of training good telemarketers, making them thoroughly proficient at understanding their serviced areas and the travel requirements of sales representatives they support can be a large initial outlay, it is money well spent. Furthermore, when the employees have proved their worth and now are capable of handling more problems more easily, they need to be fairly compensated or they will leave and the turnover issue will get out of control. Yet, if customer service isn't effectively carried out, the bottom line will be a disaster and it begs the question that applies to so much of business but it can also be applied to other aspects of life as well, just change the scenario. Why do we sometimes expect the lowest tiered employees to shoulder the main responsibility for building lasting relationships? After all, they are the ones who most frequently come into contact with the customers of the company, thereby serving as the face, or should I say voice, of the company to the buying public. Looking at the high paid executives, analysts and financial folks in most corporations at upper levels, sometimes it just doesn't make sense.
While the personalized customer service approach is still used today by some small companies and is usually the best way to deal with ad upset individual, it is rapidly becoming obsolete in the modern, electronic world. But the next time you have the requirement to deal with an issue and are dissatisfied with the experience, and trust me it won't take long, just think about these words here. Money is certainly important, but if you don't do the thinks necessary to build and maintain the business, money will be fleeting very soon. Then what will the company do? Probably be gobbled up by a large competitor or go out of business. Sadly, it's the way of the world today.