NUTTY CONSUMER’S 1ST RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS TACTICS

  THESE TEN BLOGS DEAL WITH MY RANT AGAINST THE “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL SYSTEM TACTICS.  I MAY BE BLOGGING ON OTHER CONSUMER ISSUES. My value as a Florida elderly voter, taxpayer and consumer of Italian descent, formerly from New Jersey is often taken for granted. I am tired of dealing with mediocrity, folks not willing to go the distance to do a job right, interacting […]

NUTTY CONSUMER’S 2ND RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS

MY RANT  AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL SYSTEM TACTICS CONTINUES… HOW DOES A CONSUMER KNOW WHEN THEY ARE DEALING WITH A COMPANY SUFFERING FROM THE “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTER SYNDROME?                               LOOK AT THE  SYMPTOMS!                                     Every time a client calls they  have to talk to a different agent. Even if the call is a major complaint and the customer is furious, […]

NUTTY CONSUMER’S 3RD RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS

customer service

In some cases the call center prototype is adequate for companies to optimize their profits and to retain their reputation for good customer service as is the case for companies selling one time purchases, reservations for airline tickets or car reservations, etc.  The consumer’s purchase of  an airline ticket, etc. can be managed under the standard call center  prototype because the vast majority of purchases or reservations can  be  completed during one phone call while requiring  a minimum level of customer service follow up. It is easy for  any agent to take over the next call with no documentation on the record for their clients.  For example, the adjustment of rental days  is a one step adjustment based on the existing record showing previous dates. It is not too difficult a task to track the  results of these transactions regarding sales, customer service satisfaction and the performance of the agents.

Problems arise when the call center marketers sell this same “cookie cutter” call center system to companies selling more sophisticated products which is where what is best for the company, their customers and their employees gets lost. For example, an insurance, bank, mortgage and/or financial advice company deal with more complicated products than companies selling a one time purchase. The standard call center prototype without modification is  not adequate in the following instances:  (1.)when satisfactory  customer service may require multiple calls from the consumer at a relatively high frequency in order to obtain a resolution on any of their issues; (2.) the product has a high price tag and your company wants the client to maintain or renew year after year; (3.) the company expects future business from current clients as in the form of upgrades and the purchase of future products.  These companies are supposed to be attempting to encourage a long term relationship with their clients in order to expect them to have some loyalty. In short, when a company does not consistently treat their customers with respect and consideration for the consumer’s valuable time and with a sense of fairness and integrity, they will not be rewarded with the clients’ loyalty IN THEIR future business dealings.  Customers do have choices and competition is fierce.

Cartoon-8-thumb aht cartoon small

It only makes sense that a company strives to increase profits in order  to be a viable, successful business. This is the reasoning behind most businesses reticence to deviate from  their “cookie cutter” call center culture. If company leaders were to look at the bigger picture, they could ask themselves, is it possible to modify the culture of the typical call center to better please their clients and their employees while not sacrificing the increase in productivity and the increase in profits due to cost cutting measures? Other companies like American Express, Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Zappos are already doing this while also showing a tremendous increase in revenues as well as an improvement in all their parameters across the board. Companies  which step forward and lead their companies in adapting to a modified model of streamlining operations to reduce costs while also catering big time to their clients and employees will be the winners.

There can be unintended consequences when a company selling more sophisticated products buys into the “cookie cutter” call center syndrome without any customization and business planning. One of them is that you definitely will not obtain a true reading as to who are your star employees. You will know how many calls each agent takes and what their average handling time is. In the year 2013, an insurance  sales representative from a very reputable company told me that the amount of monies she brought into the company and/or the actual number of products she sold was NOT  tracked and was not part of her performance review. This same company did keep track of how many times her clients purchased new products within a three month time span after the initial contact. Can you believe these figures did not have any impact on her performance evaluation?  It was more important that she took her breaks and lunch at an allotted time, had a record of  shorter call handling times, took more phone calls during her work schedule; and was able to report a high number of client sale referrals for the possible purchase of additional products. The production of a high number of sale referrals was greatly valued even though there was no tracking as to whether all these referrals ever resulted in a sale. She stated that every day she received sale referral transfer calls from different divisions within the same company with the customer being oblivious as to the reason for the transfer. In addition, agents who sold one policy per client as well as a bank account with a minimum deposit was as highly rated as the agent who sold 5 policies along with products from different lines of business. This was true even if the client never used the bank account and only signed up to benefit from a multi- product discount. I have never heard of a company claiming to have a legitimate sales organization not keeping track as to how many policies and/or products one sold as well as how much money they contributed to the company’s coffers. It is mind numbing to think that a company would not track and reward the sales agent who sold 50 policies per month versus her peer who sold 25. In addition the agent who sold 25 products per month is more valued because his/ her  average call handling time (AHT) for the month would be less than the agent who sold significantly more. In this case the (AHT) is not the best way to measure an agent’s productivity.

images another planet customer serviceIn the year 2014, this same company is now tracking the total sales of each agent per client as well as their referrals which result in a sale. It is no longer okay to create for example, a bank account which is never used and have that count as a sale. When a client calls for customer service, the agent is no longer required to make a sales referral. It is important for companies to focus more on results of the actual products sold and monies produced per agent. A gifted sales person can bring in a lot more funds in half the time of other agents who look really busy.                                                                                                                                    

image_preview gm recall

How does the company culture lead to situations where a company like GM does not openly deal with an in house known problem for 13 years even after many customer lives are lost, or Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase recently being accused of falsifying mortgage loan documents?  The answer is easy. In both of the above cases, the customer was not the priority. Bottom line cost cutting in order to increase profits was partly what ruled the culture in both these companies. I am sure the individual employees in most cases would not want to act unethically but somehow both companies created the environment and conditions which caused employees to act without integrityA major red flag indicating a problem  work culture is when your company’s front line folks do not feel safe to confront, question, talk to, share important information with their direct management without fear of paying a high personal price. Does your company provide a known safe way for an employee to disclose serious issues involving their direct supervisors while maintaining anonymity? If your frontline folks live in fear of retaliation, not being promoted, not receiving plum assignments; not being valued and respected for daring to do their jobs by informing management of  potential costly issues, what can you expect? If you can describe your company as an entity which does not suffer from this dysfunctional work place then you are self insured against the high costs of loss of reputation, loss of branding and the resulting loss of clients, monies and market share.                                                                                                                                                                                                  As a case study, it is interesting to note that the CEO of GM, Mary Barra is the lone survivor after having testified at a U.S. Congressional hearing. She is the only one who arrived at the hearing with a clear vision that GM was burdened with major work cultural problems but she had concrete plans to change this. She has dealt with the negative publicity head on while taking full responsibility. Those harmed are being properly compensated. GM has managed to do well despite this tsunami of bad news because of her handling. Contrast this with how General Eric Shinseki of the VA Administration and Director Julia Pierson of the Secret Service presented themselves at the recent 2014 U.S. hearings, where they both discounted the existence and depth of the systemic work culture problems within their organizations. They did not grasp that the events being discussed were not simply isolated events which could be fixed with a new procedure, practice, study, office, new department head, etc. When General Shinseki resigned, it became obvious that he did internalize how dysfunctional the VA work culture had become and he felt so disheartened; however, I do not believe Director Pierson is even admitting that there is a cultural malfunction within the Secret Service. In both cases, they did NOT see the red flags warning them.

In a Forbes article published 5/29/2014, by Joann Muller, Mary Barra, CEO of GM, was interviewed with the following  question and response:

“Forbes: In a recent Town Hall meeting with employees, you lamented that there’s still a “culture of fear” within GM, a fear of rocking the boat. How do you convince people it’s ok to speak up?

First, it’s having programs like Speak Up For Safety. If someone picks up the phone and says, “Hey, I’m worried about x, y or z, it’s important that you answer them, either to say, ‘Wow, thank you for raising that issue,’ or ‘Hey, that’s not an issue and here’s why,’ so they don’t leave thinking, ‘I tried, and they didn’t listen to me. They just ignored me.’

It also is me demonstrating the culture and making sure the leadership (follows through). Because they can hear me, they can even believe me, but what is their daily work experience like? What is it like in their department?

We rolled out our three core values last year – the Customer is Our Compass, Relationships Matter and Individual Excellence is Crucial. We’re now getting an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of them because they’re seeing from me, from Dan, from Mark, that we mean it. It’s our continuing to be consistent.”

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR COMPANY TO BE FACED WITH THE FOLLOWING NEWS REPORTS?

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Wells Fargo Loses Bid to Block FHA Mortgage-Fraud Suit …  http://www.bloomberg.com/…/wellsfargo-loses-bid-to-block-Jun 10, 2014 – Wells Fargo & Co. failed to convince a federal appeals court that a multibank … may increase pressure on San Francisco-based Wells Fargo to settle the … primarily involved loan servicing practices and foreclosure abuses. Mar 12, 2014 

consumerist.com/…/wells-Fargo-employees-say-threat-of…Dec 23, 2013 – … for McDonald’s,” one former branch manager from Florida tells the L.A. Times. … Wells Fargo averages more than 6 financial products per household … accounts, one of the 30 Wells employees dismissed in October tells the Times … We are taught exactly how to sell multiple accounts,” says the former …

Times investigation of Wells Fargo culture provokes strong …  articles.latimes.com/2013/…/la-fi-mo-wellsfargosales-pressure-2013122…     Dec 28, 2013 – A Times investigation into the intense sales culture at Wells Fargo Bank, published in … Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times (lufbmepd/600/600×383 ) … They said the selling is intended to benefit customers by identifying and …

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NUTTY CONSUMER’S 4TH RANT AGAINST CALL CENTER TACTICS

 

images top cartoonimages customer service re somone being a number

I can’t help but wonder how the employee morale would be for any employee who had to work under the conditions as described in my prior blog. I’m saddened at the thought that employees at GM would be expected to compromise their moral compass by being party to practices like not being up front with their customers about a design problem, known for years which cost a significant number of clients, their lives. Many of the employees who worked for Wells Fargo had to experience reticence in falsifying customer foreclosure documents. I’m betting that a few at the VA Hospital felt sick over falsifying the appointment records of their patients. While I was watching a recent U.S. Congressional hearing regarding the Secret Service, I kept hearing comments along the lines that Congress  had to rely on information from whistle blowers and that the front line professionals seemed to feel safer talking to congressional members versus their direct managers or even upper management.

cartoon-94 lady customer service

I have been trying to figure out why  management would allow this. My best guess is that these “cookie cutter” call centers were originally conceptualized, so those selling them could legitimately promise their customers and businesses significant increase in profits, efficiencies, productivity by streamlining operational activities between the frontline professionals and customers. The thinking of those marketing these systems was that not only could they help a company to earn more revenues but they could easily win the support and buy in of middle management by painting the picture of how much easier it would be to manage the sales force. The call center sales people explained that by measuring standards such as calls per hour and average handling times by agents and by assisting them with standard type sales pitches with tweaks here and there, the sales would follow. The frontline agents would be randomly listened to, audited and coached. Thus, the “cookie cutter” call center marketers almost guaranteed middle managers easily achievable goals of increase in profits as well as the resulting raises, bonuses, and promotions. The “cookie cutter” call center is designed to measure more transactional type of activities versus detailing actual results which means the frontline managers would not be accountable for hard numbers like the quantity of products sold and the amount of revenues produced within a team or department. Altering this status quo would be strongly resisted by middle and frontline management. Over time, supervisors can become complacent and some how they come to justify the steps they take even when they are not acting in a manner consistent with the company’s mission statement which probably includes words like honesty and integrity. These marketers convinced buyers that with their support, training and other assistance, that the customer service satisfaction surveys and the sales results would continue to do well. Now, welcome to planet earth!

great customer service cartoonI can only guess as to how these employees felt about being so micromanaged. I cannot fathom how a reputable company would not feel mortified at creating this type company culture. My guess is that this “cookie cutter call center syndrome” culture has probably evolved over enough time, so that top management may not be aware of how the decrease in employee satisfaction survey ratings; the increase in employee turnover; increase in employee non planned absenteeism; employees out on disability leave due to mental health issues could be associated with the implementation of the typical call center prototype. The employee is not about to step forward to complain even about any serious integrity issue concerns during this current job market downturn. In addition the employees would be so fearful of retaliation; not being assigned plum jobs; not receiving raises; bonuses and decent performance evaluations. In this environment, the employees who do not rock the boat are highly valued as middle management would not want their boat rocked. Those who dare to question or suggest a better way to be productive, will not last. The methods used to accomplish this are discussed extensively in my other blogs. In this culture, any training designed to encourage employees to value the diversity, different thinking styles and the creative input of others is a waste of money as this would be counter to the interests of middle management which would be very much aligned in keeping the status quo. A significant percentage of these employees have to be suffering from work related stress and mental health issues.

imagesLWJQRJLZBully Online is the world’s leading web site on bullying in the workplace and related issues including stress, PTSD and bullying-related suicide. When this web site was started in the United Kingdom, it was inundated with complaints from call center employees. The “cookie cutter” call center is a huge industry in the United Kingdom and Ireland. One of  it’s articles refers to David Oliver, a researcher in Newcastle, northeast England, who reports the following; “the hi-tech software used by most modern call centres allows supervisors to directly compare call length and amount per hour. He states that although this is a useful management tool, it is used by supervisors on the floor of the call center to discuss which staff are better than others. This is discussed openly and meant to induce competitiveness but in reality often leads to undue competition which makes people more stressed when they deal with customers. In many centres there is a poor structure whereby the management (who are mostly competent and well respected) put pressure on the supervisors to increase performance. These supervisors are not professionals; all they do is increase the pressure on the call takers. This increases the stress on the call takers who, due to this stress, underperform. This underperformance is picked up by the managers who again pile on the pressure. It’s this cycle of pressure, David suggests, which leads to unhappiness at all levels and is thus the cause of the high turnover rate.” The site indicates that the turnover rate of these call centers for inbound calls is at a minimum is close to 50%.

THIS IS ALSO HOW THE "COOKIE CUTTER" CALL CENTER CULTURE EVOLVES OVER TIME
THIS IS ALSO HOW THE “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTER CULTURE EVOLVES OVER TIME

As per a Harvard Business Review article, published in May, 2014, titled “Blue Ocean Leadership, the authors describe what future leadership roles in a competitive world  looks like. In one of their leadership programs, they detail the actions of some in the position of frontline leaders.  “In their program study, the future frontline leaders study team called themselves “Cut Through the Crap” which was changed to “Cut Through to Serve Customers.”  “In this profile, frontline leaders did not defer the vast majority of customer queries to middle management and spent less time jumping through procedural hoops. Their time was directed to training frontline personnel to deliver on company promises on the spot, resolve customer problems, quickly help customers in distress, and make meaningful cross sales- leadership acts and activities that fired up the frontline workers, were sure to excite customers, and would have a direct  impact on the company’s bottom line. …Liberate, Coach and Empower” was the tagline for middle management’s to be profile. Here leaders’ time and attention shifted from controlling to supporting employees. This involved eliminating and reducing a range of oversight activities.” This model will make it essential for the competitive successful companies of the future to be able to attract creative, top notch managers and frontline agents. These folks are not likely to be excited about working in the “cookie cutter” call center company which definitely will never be mistaken for the “Blue Ocean Leadership Model of the Future.”

untitled lady screaming

The succumbing to the quick increase in profits by companies implementing the “cookie cutter” call system without any modification is all fools gold.  As soon as the job market significantly improves, the company’s star employees will leave in droves.  Top rated college students and professionals look at certain websites such as “Glass door” and “Indeed.com” to help them in their decisions as to which companies they would have some interest in pursuing for a job. These websites keep track of how current and previous employees feel about their work environment. Most sites are set up so that employees cannot give a lot of positive input to increase the ratings of a company. For example, there is a provision that allows other readers to agree or disagree with any comments. If a positive comment gets one agree and twenty disagrees, this is telling. I did check these websites for a couple of insurance companies that operate a call center as described above and overall the positive comments had a few agrees but the negative comments had many agrees. There is no way that any company who emulates this “call center cookie cutter syndrome” will receive great ratings which means you will not have top notch potential employees knocking on your door.

This is an example from glassdoor.com:                                                                                                    Not the same company, now cookie cutter just like rest of the call center financial firms in Phoenix.” 

  • Comp & Benefits -Work/Life Balance- Senior Management-

    Culture & Values-Career Opportunities

Former Employee – Anonymous Employee in Phoenix, AZ 

I worked at Charles Schwab full-time (more than 10 years)
Pros

Their insatiable appetite to make decisions based on the bottom line and low level managers being low level across the board forced me to find myself and find a much better way.      CONS                                                                                                                                                                                        Too many to list if you have a soul. Any time spent here will certainly compromise anything positive that you believe in.

Advice to Management

Get a clue….bunch of clowns….people are not stupid or stuck. Leveraging poor job market scare tactics to have their way and think they can make all the rules. Stop hiring people to post all the positive comments on Glassdoor. I’ve been on the inside, I know the truth….it’s a joke but only funny in hindsight. Very sad for the many people that I know still there.                                                                                                                                                                               Doesn’t Recommend                                                                                             Helpful (6)

 imagesN6N5X0WW process issue ..why more customers leaving

In addition, you will not have an inkling as to which agents consistently give out accurate and complete information or who  takes the time required to satisfactorily resolve any issues whenever possible during the initial call. You will not have tracking to be able to detail which agents return promised follow up calls. All of the above examples cost your companies real monies via dissatisfied customers who decide not to purchase your products; start doubting the integrity and branding of the company; start checking out competitors  instead of solely being loyal to your company. Please do not allow your company to be a lemming by continuing to enable these call center marketers without requesting some customization and adjustments as to their business analytics to account for the above described activities.

RELATED ARTICLES:

1.)Does corporate culture drive financial performance? – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/does-corporateculture-drive-financial-perfor…

2.)Stupefying Statements from the CRM Call CenterForbes www.forbes.com/…/5-stupefying-statements-from-the-crm-callce

3.)From Call Center Agent To Zappos’ Life Coach Forbes www.forbes.com/…/from-callcenter-agent-to-zappos-executive-th…

4.)A Story Of Poor Customer Service And How To Fix It – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/a-common-problem-a-story-of-poor-custome

5.)How American Express Transformed Its Call CentersHarvard blogs.hbr.org/…/american-express-how-we-tran…

NUTTY CONSUMER’S 5TH RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS

Customer-Satisfaction-Cartoon-286x300 customer service survey

For any business decision maker, I am gifting you with my minimum standard wish list for how I would like to be treated when I contact a call center selling  more sophisticated products such as property and casualty insurance.  My first wish is not to be placed on hold for more than two minutes and to be connected to the right department on my first contact. I do not want to verify my identity more than once. I strongly dislike having to be trans-ferred around and so I shouldn’t have to endure this more than one time. I want to work with a professional who is qualified, competent and empowered to handle whatever issue I plan to discuss during the initial phone call. I would hope the agent is allowed enough time to listen to me as a human being without the agent having to worry if their greeting was correct; that the call flo met the company’s standards and the closing statement matched a script. As a non legal scholar, I should be able to clearly understand any legal compliance disclosures and should not have to listen to the same disclosures repeatedly.  I would like to be able to count on the agent not being so micromanaged, so that there is enough time for the agent to make sure all my problems are resolved even if my issues are complicated or time consuming to fix. If I am calling for customer service or to complain, I do not want to be sold  something not related to my call. I want my issue to be handled!!!  Any information provided to me should be accurate and complete. If my request  or issue cannot be completed during the initial contact, then I would like the first agent to document sufficient notes so that the next agent can assist me without me having to repeat the entire story again. All possible steps should be taken to avoid my having to make a return call. For example, if I need to email or sign a form, another agent could finish up whatever the first agent started and then email or mail me the results. Remember my time is also precious.

images9D2EMYCT customer service letter

At the end of the call, the agent can then inquire if I have any interest in learning or being sold any of your other company products. If an agent or supervisor has promised to return a phone call on a particular date and time, then I would like the agent to be able to meet their commitment. Whenever possible, I would like the extensions for various divisions to be listed on the company’s website along with the correct hours of service, so that when I call, I can just input the extension and circumvent the voice call system which  never seems to understand me.

Personally, I prefer to use the internet; however, please be aware that many of your more mature clients may not be comfortable using the computer.  Their monies are just as green as your younger clients. If some of your clients are not computer literate, please have marketing materials to mail them along with the CEO’s name; address, phone and fax numbers; a listing of all your products; extensions for the various divisions with their business hours. If your company will treat me as I have described above, then your company will eventually reflect a “customer culture” environment.

customer serviceConsumers, please do not continue to enable your favorite companies to be overtaken by the “COOKIE CUTTER CALL CENTER SYNDROME.” When a company  does not treat you with the dignity, respect and value that you deserve, please write or email the company’s CEO. If you “google” any company’s name, the right side of the screen should list the name of the CEO, the headquarters address and phone numbers. Occasionally, there is an email link.               

Dear Company management, please keep up to date as to improved call center metrics to insure better treatment towards your customers. The following is from a blog  published 10/10/2013 by an insider, Mike Jeffries, ” It is important to take a holistic view when working out what you’re trying to achieve with contact centre performance measurement. For example, if you’re measuring cost per call, it might seem sensible for a centre to finish that call as quickly as possible. However, the more satisfied the customer, the more chance of them becoming brand advocates. The ROI from the call is then probably higher as a long-term relationship is nurtured even if the call has extended slightly beyond answering the initial query. Creating a formula to calculate the ‘time versus value add’ could be beneficial. In fact, as businesses have moved away from viewing contact centres as purely cost centres, and have increasingly acknowledged the value in providing a positive experience to the caller, so metrics such as average call handling time have become outmoded.”

In my opinion, it would be better to track the number of products ( within and outside of one’s division) that an sales agent has sold as well as how much monies they have produced for the company. The referral sales’ transfers should be tracked as to which result in a closed sale. Emphases should always be placed on measuring actual results versus conformity to a set of rules such as following the outline of a script etc. An independent group could monitor the agents’ calls for quality control with the goal being to insure that the sales and/ or customer service agents consistently deliver information and assistance that is accurate, complete and disclose any legal compliance rules.They should not be aware of the identity of the agent or even the results of any previous evaluations to prevent any bias. Then the gifted sales agents would be enabled to handle calls from potential clients as suits them while still maintaining high professional sales and performance standards which are measurable. They would be empowered by having truly objective parameters to compare themselves to their peers and they would have the satisfaction of seeing how they have directly contributed to the profits of their employer. Direct management and any coaching should be of a positive and supportive nature. All customers should have access to a customer satisfaction survey at the end of a call without the agent being able to bar them in any way and the customer should be subject to no more than three questions.They should be offered the option to go on to the company web site to provide input and/ or there should be a well advertised, easily accessible  phone number by which a customer could leave a message regarding their experience. In house team meetings could include brain storming sessions by which the sales agents can share their thinking on how to improve their sales performances and customer experiences. Various levels of management could make time to attend part of these sessions without immediate management present to insure that the infrastructure is well established to allow the agents a safe haven for the free flow of ideas. More research and development could be performed to continuously provide your sale professionals with the most up to date information regarding the competitors’ products and practices in addition to verifying that your products are the best value in the market.

images6AHQBAIY

Again, as per a call center marketer insider on the blog dated July, 25, 2012, Andrew O’ Brien writes: “When cookie cutter centers (CCC’s) spew value propositions on sales calls and in RFP’s, pricing is noted as the predominant competitive advantage. There is substantial cause for this claim: the outsourcer has cut corners at every turn to drive cost down to its lowest levels, and they want to brag about it. Hundreds of these providers mention low cost and high savings as a key competitive advantage. Usually and unfortunately the correlation between cost and quality is clear.” He continues with the following comments: “When agents can track and measure and manage their own performance, their individual effort takes on greater contextual meaning. Culture begins with engagement and engagement begins with finding meaning in your work – no matter what job you are doing. In our contact center world, there is a clear line from transparency, accountability, and meaning at the agent level to a strong, productive culture at the corporate level.”

RELATED ARTICLES:

1.) From Call Center Agent To Zappos’ Life Coach: This Forbes www.forbes.com/…/from-callcenter-agent-to-zappos-executive-th…

 2.)7 Secrets To Get Good Customer Service By Phone – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/7-secrets-to-get-good-customerservice-by-ph

 3.)A Story Of Poor Customer Service And How To Fix It – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/a-common-problem-a-story-of-poor-custome

4.)How American Express Transformed Its Call CentersHarvard blogs.hbr.org/…/american-express-how-we-tran…

5.)Earn Customer Loyalty Without Losing Your Shirt – Harvard blogs.hbr.org/…/earn-customer-loyalty-without/‎‎

NUTTY CONSUMER’S 6TH RANT VS. “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS

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THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF PROVIDING TIPS TO ASSIST COMPANIES IN BREAKING AWAY FROM THE “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTER SYNDROME.

Is it not feasible to customize these “cookie cutter” call systems to better suit the needs of your customers?

What would it take to make sure the client has access to a customer service survey at the end of each call ( or some legitimate alternative) by which the agent is not able to bar the clients from completing it? Can the client have only 2 survey questions to answer along with an option to voice details? My preferred questions would be: (1.) Based on a score from 1-10 with10 being excellent, was the agent able to take care of all your requested needs that were possible to accomplish during this one call? (2.) Based on a score from 1-10 with 10 being excellent, would you recommend this company to your friends and /or relatives?(3.) Would you like to add any comments which would enable us to better serve you in the future?

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Make sure your sales and customer service agents really know how to conduct the new buzz term of “relationship sales.” If I invited someone into my house, I do not want to talk or form a relationship with anyone reciting a scripted greeting; ending and a check list of what questions should  be asked during our conversation. I would be horrified if someone I just met started asking me personal questions that I am not likely to share with anyone. Why do some company personnel believe that these norms of courtesy do not apply to a sales agent and a potential client? Over time as I talk to my guest and discover that his/ her history reflects some common interests with me, then the guest could eventually be comfortable enough to start to ask pertinent questions and to share information that would  help me to demonstrate how whatever I am selling would benefit and suit my client’s needs. This is “relationship sales.”

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One of the major complaints voiced by many call center representatives who are professionals in their fields of business, sales, insurance, banking, and financial planning, etc. is this requirement of being obligated to follow a script no matter what the circumstances. Some agents have told me that their scripts keep being adjusted. In one case, the company management has stated that the agents have to utilize a particular opening and closing statement; follow certain set of steps in the call process; ask a certain amount of questions, and keep the call as short as possible. It is as if the top brass are searching for the magic bullet to standardize the sales procedure to make it easier for agents to sell and for supervisors to be able to manage the sale process. If one searches the internet, there are numerous call center marketers advertising and promoting their perfect script guaranteed to improve anyone’s sales numbers. None would be a good example of developing, the “relationship sales” model. The best “relationship sales” course offered as a basic lesson online that I have found is on SAI Global . Incidentally, there is no magic bullet as you will always be dealing with the client who is not scripted.

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Is your company able to demonstrate an increase in revenues due to increase of both the tenured and newer clients purchasing new products and decrease in tenured clients partially cancelling current lines of business; increase in customer retention rates and increase in customer satisfaction ratings while increasing revenues due to cost cutting measures such as operating a “cookie cutter” call center? Having access to sophisticated business analytics is even more crucial if the business you are managing involves selling to a limited market. Pleasing your customers, being true to your brand and earning your clients’ loyalty over and over again by consistently delivering exceptional products and services can’t afford a c- change in this expectation. A company can’t afford to have their culture compromised by management’s decision to implement the “cookie cutter” call center in order to increase the financial soundness of the business but without the necessary strategic business plan and customization to mitigate the typical unintended problems associated with this type of operation.

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One of the hidden problems has to do with the call center employee attrition rate approaching 50% for large organizations incurring mostly inbound calls. According to a write up, published in 2012, http://www.trostle.com,”; Managing Hidden Costs of Contact Center Teams In The New Economy, turnover is described as follows: “Turnover is the percentage of the total number of agents leaving the call centre over 12 months, divided by the number of seats during the same 12 months. Turnover can be healthy or unhealthy, functional or dysfunctional, voluntary or involuntary, avoidable and unavoidable. Research from Chris Bracken of Call Me! IQ reports that “Industry data shows large call centers average 49% annual attrition, . . . call centers focused on outbound dialing average more than 60% annual attrition. Turnover costs have a significant impact on the department budget and company profitability. Total costs can range from 60 to 200% of an employee’s annual salary, according to various reports. One study estimated that turnover-related costs represent more than 12% of pre-tax income for the average company and up to 40% for companies in the 75th percentile.”

images2FWR1U0VThe report continues: “There are both tangible and intangible costs associated with turnover. Intangible costs include: low morale; lack of commitment; breakdown of trust; critical skills or knowledge drain; dissatisfied customers; lost intellectual capital; reduced reputation; potential lost customers. Tangible costs (both voluntary and involuntary) include hiring costs associated with replacing an employee: third party recruiter fees; online system and advertising costs; candidate interviews (assessment, testing, and screening fees); new hire bonuses, referral fees, and sign-on incentives; processing and time associated with replacement (HR, management, multiple interviews and departments involved); training new hire costs – on boarding process and associated costs of acclimating a new employee to the environment (mentor or co-worker time) In the case where a replacement cannot be found quickly or it is decided not to replace, there are costs associated with redesigning the work, as existing employees must be retrained to cover the vacancy and overtime must also be paid in order to cover the additional work. In addition, there are lost productivity or business costs – includes the “savings” incurred by not paying wages for the exited employee, and it also includes costs associated with low morale, lost revenue and the performance differential for the new employee as well as costs associated with lost sales.”

If your company wishes to continue to be proud of being an exceptional company which provides outstanding products and customer service,  then do not give into the “fools gold” marketed by the call center systems sales teams without any modification as to how customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction is measured. Do not compromise! It cannot just be how they answer your customer satisfaction surveys and employees respond to employees surveys but how are customers voting with their pocketbooks and is there a reduction in the employee retention rate. Focus on placing the pleasing of your customers first has to be based in reality, and then invest in a healthy work environment which actively encourages the free flow of ideas by your frontline employees; otherwise, over time you will end up compromising your hard earned reputation and branding. YOUR COMPANY WILL REFLECT THE “COST CULTURE!”

RELATED ARTICLES:

1.)Wells Fargo’s pressure-cooker sales culture comes at a cost http://www.latimes.com/…/la-fi-wells-fargo-sale-pressure-20…;

2.)Does corporate culture drive financial performance? – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/does-corporateculture-drive-financial-perfor…

3.)Wells Fargo foreclosure manual under fire – The Washington Postwww.washingtonpost.com/…/wellsfargo…/25cd38…

4.)Call Center Confidential: The Underbelly of Customer Centricity blogs.hbr.org/…/callcenter-confidential-the-u/

5.)The Truth About Customer Experience – Harvard Business Review hbr.org/2013/09/the-truth-about-customer…/‎‎

BELOW ARE TYPICAL CONSUMER COMPLAINTS AGAINST COMPANIES WHICH HAVE THE “COOKIE CUTTER CALL CENTER SYNDROME: 

1.)Called into xxxxx at the end of DEC 2013 to inquire about auto and home insurance. Was disconnected by xxxxx’s “survey request” automated service; and subsequently reconnected to a different agent. Unbeknown to me the 1st agent issued a home policy without my consent.
If that were not enough– xxxxx apparently filters its “member reviews” because my complaint of this practice via the member review method never saw “the light of day” in their system– it was never published. No wonder all that you ever see on their website are glowing reviews of their service and company; with only a minor slight shown now and then to promote a fabricated image of fairness. 259c286        

2.)       Problem #4:  We are in a rental property that requires 60 days written notice that we are planning on moving out.  We simply asked the mortgage representative  what would be a good estimated date she could give us for closing….it was her favorite answer “I don’t know!”  With her continuing to not know anything, giving the 60 days notice too early could leave us homeless or too late could leave us paying rent and a mortgage. Finally, after getting fed up with her enough I spoke to her supervisor and made a complaint but we were still not getting very clear answers on anything.  We spoke with another mortgage company who immediately locked us in a for an interest rate and had much lower closing fees than xxxxx.  They immediately sent an appraiser out and had a report back 2 days later.  This other company is having no issue of meeting our closing date of Jan 17th.              
3.) I have been a xxxxx customer for 16 years and have always spoke highly of them. I have never made a claim until recently. When I called the claims associate, Juanita **, she was extremely rude and could care less about the loss of my property. Juanita did a very poor job with explaining the claims process and interrogated me like I was a criminal. I asked to speak with a supervisor and she refused numerous times until I raised my voice. My claim has not been settled yet but I am already looking for a new insurance provider for my home, auto, property, and valuable item insurance that xxxxx currently has. My experience with xxxxx has been so poor that I am switching companies even if it costs me money.

4.)I do billing and collections for doctors. At one time, I would recommend xxxxx. They conducted business with their policy holders with great care and consideration. It seemed they paid the claims without too much problems such as large reductions. Reductions cost the patient, and they are not legal! I work for doctors who do not want their patients to have to pay any more than what the policy states. So if their policy states that out-of-network, the policy is 80/20, I am there to assure the insurance pays the 80%, not reduce the charge and only pay 65% or less leaving a balance for the patient.

Because insurances are not forced to pay what their obligation is, it has caused the rise in health care. If they would pay as they have promised their clients, hospitals would not need to start a charge for an aspirin at $20.00 in the hope to get the 20 cents. At one time, xxxxx was the best insurance and as a bill-er, I was called often to give referrals. It broke my heart when I had to warn people about xxxxx instead of giving them as my referral.