4 Practices to Avoid Call Center Santa’s Naughty List
This holiday season I find myself thankful for the many gifts in my life – family, friends (new & old), health, joy, talented co-workers and a slightly wicked sense of humor. As I sat down to write my holiday gift giving list, I started thinking about who’s been naughty and nice in my life. Children all across the world know exactly what gets them a pile of coal in their stocking.
Having visited dozens and dozens of call centers, I often wonder how that simple distinction between a good idea and a bad one can get so lost in the midst of so many good intentions. In that spirit, I’m revealing my list of naughty and nice call center practices. We’ll start with the naughty! These are practices that if employed in your call center should be re-evaluated so that next year you can make Call Center Santa’s other list.
1. Mandating upsells on every call – There’s nothing quite as effective as a daft salesperson to turn a customer off. Case in point, there was a hairdresser I used to frequent. She was cheerful, had interesting thoughts and opinions about more than just hair, always gave me a great cut and was someone whose chair I actually looked forward to sitting in. That is until the last 5 minutes or so of the appointment where she gave me the “hard sell” on hair products, knowing full well that I work from home and am probably the single largest fan of the pony-tail movement. I have since replaced her with another, simply to avoid the awkward sell at the end. I always cringe when I see call monitoring forms penalizing call center agents for not upselling on every call. I understand the financial drivers behind this decision, but it’s a really bad choice from a customer experience perspective. Teach your call center agents to listen for buying (and non-buying) signals and then encourage them to use their very best judgment in serving customers. You will never delight your customers by regimenting away the personalities and free will of your call center agents.
2. Allowing a culture of helplessness to dominate your call center – There is nothing, NOTHING more irritating to a customer than being passed around from department to department, from agent to agent, none of whom are willing to own the customer’s problem. If you need a flow chart to diagram your call transfer procedures, carefully remove it from your call center wall and promptly burn it! First and foremost, your message to agents should be to own every call that comes their way. That is what you pay them to do – not to shrug responsibility, not to throw the claims, billing or shipping departments under the bus, and not to enlighten your customers that their problem is common one in that particular model. Create an environment of ownership from the top down and your customers will thank you for it!
3. Overwhelming your call center agents with too many to dos – If your “to do” list is anything like mine, it’s more of a scroll than a list – one item gets crossed off, three items are added. And that’s okay, as long as I only have to address one of the items on the list at any one given time. Unfortunately that’s not the case for balanced agent scorecards. They represent the priorities agents must maintain as “top of mind” at all times, and some of them are lengthy! Humans can only retain 5-9 “chunks” of information in their short-term memory at any given time. The amount of information that can be processed, not just maintained, is even less. Agent scorecards 9, 10, or 11 metrics deep are a recipe for failure. Simplify your expectations and watch your agents bloom:
a. Work your scheduled hours everyday
b. Solve your customers’ problems – think outside the box if necessary!
c. Be available and ready to take calls during your non-break work hours
4. A first line of defense that has no clue - When your agents are the very last to know, you’ve got a problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a call center, sat next to an agent, watched and asked “why?” only to be met with a look that I can only interpret as oh-my-gosh-I-have-no-idea-why-is-she-asking-me-this-am-I-in-trouble? Take the time to explain to your agents the logic behind the processes they must adhere to. They may not remember every step from memory (hopefully you have solid documentation), but the intent behind the steps will stick with them.
Of course this list of ‘naughty practices’ could be much longer. If you were Call Center Santa for a day, which practices would you add to this list?