It has recently (painfully) come to my attention that there are many companies out there that think having a call center is a nice way to kill two birds with one stone- answering the phone and providing customer service. There have been several times recently that I’ve contacted a company for a variety of reasons and couldn’t get a satisfactory resolution from the call center employee who answered. I have started asking for a contact phone number for someone working at the actual company, and I have been surprised to find that most companies I’ve dealt with that employ call centers do not have any other employees trained to or designated to assist a customer.
I really focused in on this issue recently when my Project Manager, Kelly, got a new printer (I am not one for casting stones, so I won’t name the brand, but I will tell you that it rhymes with “smache p”). She got it home, set it up and it wouldn’t print. Kelly is a smart girl, she checked the manual and did some troubleshooting, including checking the ink level, which estimated that she had plenty of ink (it was after all a new printer that came with a new ink cartridge). So, she called the 800 number and within mere minutes (in the double digits) she was talking to someone who was difficult to understand, who asked for all kinds of personal information, and then asked a set of canned, rapid-fire troubleshooting questions.
This all ended in determining that although the printer “estimated” a moderate level of ink, and although it was a new ink cartridge from the manufacturer, they don’t actually put enough ink in the cartridge to really do anything other than the alignment print test. “It IS just an estimate” he told her. He then promptly hit her up with a sales pitch to order more ink. She politely declined (she is a proper Brit, you know), hung up and went to the store for more ink. Not good.
This experience hit closer to home- I did some research to find a new telecom provider for my company, and determined what company we would use. We felt very confident about this choice since this company is associated with another well known corporation we currently do business with. I called on a Monday and invested 40 minutes in setting up an account, and “Paul” assured me I would be receiving an email with all the information I would need to access our account and set up our greetings by the next day.
Of course, 3 days later, I received no email and initiated an online chat with a customer service agent (I can’t stand being on the phone any more than I have to). He kept asking me the same questions over and over, “what is your address? was this account established by phone? what is your email address? was this account established by phone?” I finally caved and asked him to just call me. He told me that they were experiencing “system issues” the day I set up our account (just my luck…) and that he would get me over to the Sales Dept. I assumed I would be placed on hold while he filled in a salesperson on the problem and that I would be connected to him or her. WRONG. I was immediately bounced into auto-hold nightmare, listening to horrendous, static-y hold music for over 10 minutes. T E N M I N U T E S! Hold time is like dog years, multiply by 7 and that’s how long it feels to a person on hold. Finally, a salesperson picked up and I have to start all over from scratch. I wasted another 45 minutes setting up my account, again. I ended the call by asking if there was someone at the actual phone company that I could talk to about the situation and was told that there wasn’t a “designated customer contact at the company”. I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. I hung up wondering what our long term relationship with this company would be like.
The lesson learned from these experiences? Too many companies rely on call center employees to fulfill customer service. They don’t. They don’t care about your company. They don’t care about your goals, products, culture, or philosophy and they certainly aren’t thinking outside the box to solve a problem. They are sitting in a cubicle reading a script on a screen, drinking a Big Gulp, watching the clock (I know first hand, one of my first jobs in high school was at a call center).
So, this big long rant about customer service really is about your company’s marketing- Think about all marketing dollars that were spent to get Kelly to buy that printer, or for that phone service to get our business, and think about the cost of client acquisition. It is all wasted when you entrust customer service to a third party call center. Give your customers a number where someone who cares and can assist them answers the phone and kill the call center!
Jennifer Maggiore holds degrees in Business-Marketing and Journalism and has worked for major companies including M & I Bank, the YMCA and Nordstrom. Jennifer is the owner of Maggiore Consulting & Marketing, a marketing company which integrates web marketing and traditional marketing for highest-impact marketing with measurable ROI. Please visit for more information. (Jenn Maggiore, Jenn Loyd, Jennifer Loyd)