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 5TH RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS

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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.

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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.

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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.