Sunday, 30 January 2011

The call centre is not central to customer service ...

Fixing the call centre will fix the customer service problem in your business.
Customer service is not about how well the call centre deals with your customers. Customer service begins long before the call centre gets involved. It ends long after the call centre has played its part.
One of South Africa’s leading cellular networks has added a new dimension to its call centre. After spending twenty minutes waiting for and speaking to a call centre agent, the customer is now expected to expend even more time answering a survey on the quality of service received.
This process is flawed. Your customer did not want to call in the first place. The customer had better things to do with the twenty minutes that has already been spent. Asking the customer to spend another five to ten minutes to answer questions about the call centre experience is criminal.
Presumably, call-centre agents that achieve good survey ranks get a bonus. Those that get low ratings are disciplined.
The survey is based on entirely the wrong premise. It is based on the assumption that service related problems begin and end with the call centre. It is based on the assumption that the performance of the call centre agent plays a major part in delivering the service. It doesn’t. At the time that the call ends, the customer has no way of knowing if the problem has been resolved. He will only find that out later.
In the majority of cases, the result depends on the systems in place. The call-centre agent cannot do very much about these. The call centre is able to resolve a few small problems. It is unable to resolve issues where the customer has been overcharged or air time has not been credited.
These issues are typically passed to the “back office”, a black box that works on its own time to its own agenda. Once a query enters the black box, it disappears for an undetermined amount of time. It could be a week or it could be a month. All too often the query is simply closed without any resolution.
The poor customer has no choice but to phone the call centre again. When that fails, another call is followed by yet another call. Each time the customer has to start from scratch. The entire problem and its history have to be spelled out over and over again. The call centre is barred from putting the customer through to a manager. The number of the switchboard is a closely guarded secret. It is changed frequently to prevent people from using and distributing it.
Every major company in every country in the world now has a call centre. Everyone hates calling the call-centre. Everyone would rather speak to someone else. Even call-centre agents and the managers that run call centres hate them. Yet nobody questions the necessity of the call centre.