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 with representatives who are not empowered to act with a reasonable amount of flexibility to assist me. I feel as if I grew up in a time warp, the “MAD MEN” business era when cell phones and the internet were non existent. I recall  the words I grew up with: “the customer is always right.”

My frustration has erupted past the boiling point in having to deal with “cookie cutter” call centers . This is discussed in the next 9 blogs. A personal experience with Humana  started me on this tirade. I had tried to be reimbursed  from my Flexible Spending account. The FSA account is designed to permit employees to set aside monies from their paychecks  to pay for health care expenses without being subject to taxation. However, as of 2013, the IRS rules stipulated that whatever amounts that the employee did not spend from their FSA funds would revert back to the employer, as of March 31, 2014.  Humana’s internal records listed my 2013 out of pocket medical expenses as far exceeding the balance in my FSA. I had submitted several forms for months; and I had contacted several different representatives by phone. Repeatedly, my claims were denied no matter what I did. Finally, on March 13, 2014, I faxed another claim form along with letters to the CEO of Humana,  my state senator and the appropriate government regulatory agency. Finally, I received a letter from Humana’s executive offices dated  March 17, 2014, with notice that I would receive my monies in full. However, I also received  another “cookie cutter” call center standard denial letter dated March 19, 2014. How frustrating is it for all of us having to interact with companies managed as typical “cookie cutter” call centers?

Customer-Satisfaction-Cartoon-286x300 customer service survey

Besides the consumer worry that insurance companies may be   delaying and denying legitimate claims for financial gain, my other  speculation is that too many of these companies have been overtaken by the “cookie cutter” call center syndrome.

These “cookie cutter” call center systems create enormous profits for business, frequently  at the expense of the consumers’ best interests.  This call center system business is a billion dollar industry and the marketers sell their systems to businesses with the virtual guarantee of increased profits by streamlining the operational costs pertaining to their parts of the organization which interact directly with the consumer. According to Wikepedia, there is a long list of  notable call centre companies.The question is how does a company implement this “cookie cutter” call center system while still maintaining an improvement in most companies’ goals which are increasing customer satisfaction; increasing customer retention rates; increasing employee satisfaction rates; lowering employee turnover while increasing profits by cutting costs.; and increasing revenues and market share in a competitve world. It is my opinion that companies which utilize this “cookie cutter” call center prototype will show an increase in profits due to cutting operational costs but they will also suffer a decrease in many of their other goals. In future blogs, I will explain how these “cookie cutter” call centers are designed and marketed to have the business analytics focus on the benefits of increased profits while minimizing the unintended consequences such as a decrease in customer satisfaction ratings; consumer retention rates; employee turnover rates; increase in employee non planned absentee days; increase in employee short term and long term disability rates due to mental health problems.

untitled great customer service w pix w hving client wait until she finishes greeting

Listen to the words from an insider, Andrew O’Brien about the “cookie cutter” call center as per his blog, Why the ‘Cookie CutterCall Center Doesn’t Deliver High Quality Customer Experiences; “There’s something to be said about the consistent messages that are advertised by call center outsourcers. When companies are seeking a partner to handle their customer service calls, most organizations hear the same age-old promotions: “we’re different,” “we provide outstanding customer experiences,” and “come read our case studies to see why we are so great!” But when the truth is told, most centers are the same: cookie cutter operations with different agents.”  No matter how many cookie cutters talk about their unique culture and approach, they fail to deliver high quality customer experiences.

“He adds the following words in another blog; “Again, cost cutting measures that are used to create competitive advantages result in universally poor customer experiences. This also applies to the investment made into culture and company character: when any type of business invests in the satisfaction of its people, great things usually happen – including increased efficiency and productivity. A work quality study performed by Cornell University cited that 67% of all agents work in low to very low quality jobs. Another study by Kerry Bodine, a leading Forrester researcher, found that cultural change is the most effective tactic for improving the call center experience. Agents at companies who placed the highest importance on culture (ironically also the most successful) were happier and more passionate about their work performance.”

Blue Ocean Leadership that the author, Mr. O’Brien refers to is a Canadian company that specializes in the modification of the call center culture to better serve customers and employees and which has been examined in several “Harvard Business Review” articles.

cusotmer-satisfied PIX2Yes, there are companies which I will describe later, operating successfully in a call center environment while still treating their customers and employees with integrity, value and respect. No company is perfect but you can tell when a company’s goal is to  please the consumer and to treat their employees well. These companies reflect the “customer culture” versus the “cost culture” as per the words of  GM’s new CEO, Mary Barra. As an update, you don’t run systems  similar to what the public has witnessed during the past six months in 2014, at the recent U.S. Congressional hearings, regarding the competency of the Secret Service organization and the VA by which there was testimony that their frontline agents were so fearful of negative consequences that they wouldn’t think to professionally and legitimately question their immediate supervisors’ directives, practices and statements. There was not an infrastructure in place to allow for this.
Fortunately, GM has a huge open market and under the competent direction of Mary Barra, GM will survive. Those who require access to the VA or the protection of the Secret Service, are extremely limited as to alternative solutions and so, both these organizations will survive their tarnished branding and overwhelming negative publicity. Any company dealing with a limited or closed market by which their clients do have choices as to where they can purchase products, may not survive.
NOTE:  My main question is why continue on this route when there is proof that these same companies by customizing the “cookie cutter” call center can be in a position to better treat their employees and clients while earning greater revenues. I will argue how this modernization also protects companies again the loss of branding, reputation, law suits as at GM.                                                                                         

Related Articles:

1.) Avoiding Call Center Disasters (Before They Happen)  BusinessNewsDaily ‎- by Sara Angeles                                                                                                                                                                                        ‎ 2.) Blue Ocean Leadership – Harvard Business Review

3.)From Call Center Agent To Zappos’ Life Coach: This Forbes…/from-callcenter-agent-to-zappos-executive  

4.) Jackson Customer Service Achieves “Call Center World…/press_release.asp?

5.) How can American Express help you? – Fortune Management…/…/Employee-Review-Charles-Schwab-RVW339660…

6.)Call center smashes rules – San Antonio Express-News…/Callcenter-smashes-rules-This is about a company, CGS breaking away from the “cookie cutter” call center tactics.


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