Off Center
I’m not usually one to be critical, unless I am awake and somebody is nearby to listen. But I simply cannot sit idly by and watch as people make very avoidable, costly mistakes – mistakes that often result in the loss of respect, money, career and lunch.

During the nearly two decades I have spent writing about and researching contact centers, I have uncovered several common critical mistakes that keep centers from ascending and customers from applauding. Here are the top three:  

1) They obsess over “industry standards”. Industry standards are like crack to many contact center professionals. These managers would kill their own mother for some, and when they (or think they) get a hold of it, things fall apart. At least crack is real; contact center industry standards don’t even exist. They are like Santa Claus or functional CRM solutions.

Rather than take the time to determine what would be the best service level objective or response time goal or first-contact resolution target for their particular center, many managers simply want a quick fix – a magic number or formula upon which they can base their critical contact center decisions and strategies. They embrace metrics and objectives that don’t fit their specific budget or business or customer base just because some other center has succeeded using the same goals and measures. A suicide hotline operation should not copy a software support centers’ caller access strategy; if they do, they are certain to “lose” customers.        

2) They don’t measure customer satisfaction, or do so ineffectively. It never ceases to amaze me how many contact centers don’t bother to formally measure C-sat. They just assume that if they haven’t received any ticking packages in the mail and have decent internal quality scores, then customers must be content. Just because a center’s quality assurance specialist deems a call well-handled doesn’t mean that the caller didn’t hang up and reach for his voodoo doll or a weapon, or, worse, blog about their experience. The only way to know just how satisfied or homicidal customers are is to ask them directly following their interaction with the contact center.

Of course, many centers that take the time to do just that do so poorly. They survey customers too late and/or the survey itself is designed badly (too many questions, too few questions, not the right questions). Many centers still use traditional mail surveys, which the customer doesn’t even receive until days after their interaction with an agent (thus making it hard for the customer to fully remember the subpar service they received), and which doesn’t come back from the customer until after the agent who handled the contact has been promoted to the Marketing department or has left their job to check into an inpatient mental health facility.

The best C-sat measurement initiatives center around a timely post-contact survey via phone, IVR or email, and that features between 5-8 questions – one of which asks the customer if their issue was fully resolved, and one of which asks the customer how likely they are to send a ticking package to the contact center via mail.   

3) They don’t let agents work from home. If I were a contact center manager and heard that there was a staffing strategy that study after study has shown to improve agent engagement and retention, recruiting, quality, productivity and staffing flexibility, the first thing I would do is ignore it.


But that is just what most contact center managers have done with telecommuting. True, frontline telecommuting is on the rise of late, but still only about one in five centers industry-wide use home agents to some extent. The old arguments like “How can I tell if they are working if I can’t see them” simply don’t hold water anymore. If you pick the right agents to work from home, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they are adhering to schedule and doing what they are supposed to be doing. And even if you don’t trust your home-based staff, there are numerous technologies that enable managers and supervisors to spy on home agents and capture their every word, keystroke and nap.

There is a reason why some centers that decide to test out telecommuting end up kicking most or even all of their agents out of the building. It works – very well. Not only do home agent programs enable you to hold on to your best reps – who will likely perform even better from home due to being happier and more motivated – such programs also enable you to rid the contact center facility of those agents who smell funny but who are simply too good at customer service to fire.

8/13/2010 02:33:16 am

As always, you are able to throw a left hook with a smile... and connect.
Keep up the incisive humor. We all need it.
Cliff Hurst

8/13/2010 02:40:11 am

Thanks, Cliff!

Stick and move, stick and move. I float like a butterfly and sting like a b(usiness humorist).

3/8/2012 03:16:23 pm

People like this should not be tolerated and must be given the lessons not to do more mistakes that may harm others.

3/8/2012 10:32:02 pm

Yeah!I know right! Your discussion makes me feel better to my employers.

3/11/2012 12:02:30 pm

That a good lesson for the society.Great acknowledgement.

3/13/2012 10:36:49 pm

How we can handle our customer if we have no alertness to convince or just gonna ask what they are needed?


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