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Confessions of a Call Centre Agent

During the Call & Contact Centre Expo in London we invited visitors to confess their calls in our Natterbox.  This could be as a call centre agent or on the receiving end of a call.  Very interesting viewing, providing us with a clear insight into how customers feel about their suppliers and how agents feel about the lack of technology to support them in their roles.

With only a few positive calls detailed, we heard how customer service and the overall experience that customers receive on the phone is extremely poor and appears to be getting worse.  You would think that especially telecommunications companies would get it right, after all communication is their business, wrong!

Our visitors told us how after numerous attempts to resolve a problem, one had to go in search for the Head of the Global Contact Centre on LinkedIn in order to threaten the agent with the Managers name in order to get the matter resolved.  Yes, we live in an age of technology at our fingertips, but have we really come so far that the only way to get a swift resolution is to research the Senior Management Team within a company?

Another is so fed up with his mobile phone provider, that after 12 years as a loyal customers, he’s never experienced such poor service.  “Train your Staff and sort out your IVR” he shouted into our box!  I’m asked for my number and then have to repeat myself – why?

And then finally there’s the lady who when calling into another very well-known telco provider was left in a loop for an hour, going backwards and forwards and getting nowhere.  This resulted in her screaming into our camera.

So experiences on the phone are resulting in customers shouting and screaming.  Are you even aware of that?  If they’re telling us, they’re certainly telling others about your service (or lack of it).

The Finance industry is becoming more technology savvy with more online banks opening up, where you never have to see someone or God forbid step into a bank.  However, what use is it if your voice is your password and yet the system doesn’t understand you?  A customer of a well-known World Bank is very frustrated as the voice recognition either doesn’t work or there’s too much background noise.  Left with no alternative options, she’s left disappointed and despairing!

And of course, we’ve all experienced the call where you’re left on hold for 30 minutes, knowing that in any minute the call will be answered and you’ll be able to get on with your day – only for the line to go dead.

We all know how easy it is to switch provider in the Utility Sector and yet, things aren’t improving there.  One visitor told us how he had moved home and called in to make the necessary arrangements, only to be put in a long queue with no resolution, to something that should be so simple.  Needless to say, he’s no longer with that provider.

Then there’s the Contact Centre – who haven’t got all the information in front of them and don’t even know how to spell the town of one of their own stores “Solihull”.  Really?

Surely the information should be at the agents fingertips?  Why don’t they know who I am? despaired one visitor.  She received a call offering her treatment for Prostate Cancer.  After explaining she didn’t have prostate cancer and that she was a woman, she was offer PPI!

Whilst not being put on hold and speaking to an agent might seem like the result we’re looking for, one customer would have preferred to be put on hold.  Instead he had to listen to the full conversation about him taking place whilst he patiently waited.  Not ideal – yes, he had a quick resolution and discount, however, is that really the kind of mistake we want our customers to experience, all because we don’t have the information in front of us?

But let’s take some time to see what the agents had to say, those that deal with us, the customers every day.  They’re just as frustrated at not having the information they need to hand, they want to help and provide outstanding service and hate being shouted at and to be honest spend most of their days hating their jobs.

There are the agents who are treated like personal counsellors, being told every problem, whether it’s related to them and their company or not.

Then there’s the other extreme, the customer who becomes obsessed.  One lady was working the night shift and took a call from an Australian customer who was known to be difficult.  She handled the call professionally, was courteous and friendly.  The next day a bouquet of flowers arrived for her which was a lovely surprise.  Whenever the customer called in, he only wanted to speak with her and refused any other service.  This had obviously been a very good call, however, things began to get weird when gifts and plane tickets started to arrive.  Just as well she was on a temporary contract.

One area that was confessed during the event, is the lack of support for our aging demographic.  We heard how an 83 year old regularly needs to complain about her Wi-Fi not working, she is put on hold each week and then after a 10 – 15 minute wait is told the same thing as the week before.  Why aren’t we supporting our elderly callers?  Call Centres should surely take age into consideration and at the very least offer a call back service so they’re not left on hold for long periods of time.

So where does this leave us and you as suppliers?  Our confessions booth has shown us that the customer continues to be king and our expectations have changed.  We have high demands and we’re not afraid to switch supplier and let everyone else know in the process.

There is a simple answer and this small exert of the challenges expressed to us during the show are so easily resolved.  People are clearly still picking up the phone to talk and likewise, there are numerous agents out there wanting a more efficient approach to their calls.

In 2018 and beyond, customer experience is the key differentiator – it’s time to prioritise your phone!

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