Forward - Thinking Organisations

Why Call Centers Suck

Call centers are a latent curse of modern times. In principle, the idea of a call center seems to fit perfectly into the scalable systems of big business, however in reality, call centers fall very short of the purpose or efficiency they were intended for.

So for example – lets say that Big Company ‘A’ has a view that they are going to open a call center to enhance customer service and efficiency. They want to improve the quality of their customer service, upsell existing customers onto new products and generally implement a faster, more accessible communication system that better oils the many thousands of nuts and bolts that bring revenue into the business. The company setups a call center, doesn’t fully understand the call center operating model, under scopes the cost and complexity only to then discover it needs to employ a whole bunch more people than it anticipated. However, budgets have been allocated and management want to make sure their cost efficiencies are maximized. Cutting costs, the company employs the extra workforce but typically skimps on the quality of staff and training to cut costs. The call center is, after all, operational and can be improved as time goes by and when more budget is available.

Skip forward 1 year and the call center is still functional yet owing to the basic mundane nature of the work and the continued push for growth, call center staff turnover has increased and the culture sucks. As the churn of new employees never stops, they are brought in and given the minimum training and put to work. In reality most of these staff have little desire to work there, but take the work as it is the only job they can get. They are being trained and paid to follow scripts, to churn out volume not quality, and to do, but not to think.

There is little commitment to the brand they are representing and what the company stands for. Meanwhile the company continues to release a slew of new products and facilities which the call center employees have a hard time keeping track of, let alone understanding how they can or could potentially relate to one another. The result is the maddening call center confusion of today’s commercial world. And who bears the consequence of this failed system – the customer, the very person it was intended to serve!

The description above is broad, yet it serves as general example of the many finer nuances and problems that call centers suffer from. Companies, both big and small, who have call centers need to consider the implications on their customers. They need to be aware of the frustration they cause and the added cost and time pressures they create for the very people they are supposed to be serving as well as the employees who are being paid to follow a script. In essence who is the call center actually being developed to serve – the customer or the desired efficiencies of the company developing them? This is what call centers get very wrong. They are inwardly focused.

My suggestion is that call centers need to rethink about why they exist and how their systems could add value to customers and their company simultaneously, in a post modern environment. Call centers need to stop being a function of economics and rather than a function of quality, value and service. A one size fits all approach was the modern way of doing things, yet a flexible agile solution is needed in a post modern world. Call centers need to be very clear what their real purpose should be and about who operates the phones – both management and operators. They can bring about the necessary change if they truly focus on creating the value they were intended for. Understandably the organization needs to operate in a disciplined manner by implementing processes, systems, regulations and necessary forms to complete, yet human beings are far more intuitive, emotional and dynamic than a list of instructions.

Some might argue that there is no place for independent thinking, emotional quotient and personal stories in a call center employees dialogue, yet in the post modern world this could perhaps be the dynamic edge that actually makes it work fluidly and serve the function in the way it was intended…


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