Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Practical suggestions to improve a call center

Many customers find it difficult to access the call centers of large organisations, such as banks, telephone companies and government departments. They have to wait a long time for the call to be answered, and had to go through a maze of automated messages.

Here are some practical tips to improve the situation:

a) Have different telephone numbers for different languages. There is no need to ask someone to indicate the language, as it is identified by the specific number.

b) The first question for the automated message should be "press 1 to talk to a person or 2 to go through the automated system".

c) The next question should be optional "Enter your account number if available, press 0 to bypass".

With this simple change, the customer experience would be improved tremendously, without any additional workload for your call center.

Here is another tip, Train your call center staff to identify the routine inquiries (which they can handle) and the specialized inquiries (which they cannot). For the specialized inquiries, get the name and contact number of the customer and get the specialized staff to call back. Most people have mobile phones and would be happy to receive the return call.

Tan Kin Lian

10 comments:

Tan Kin Lian said...

I do not know why most call centers are designed to make life difficult for their customers and staff. By imposing much hassle to the customer, it does not reduce the work for the staff as they still have to answer inquiries from customers.

If a staff is stuck with a customer, it can cause a long queue of other customers waiting to be served, so the "specialist call back" will help to remove this bottleneck.

Anonymous said...

REX comments as follows,

No matter how you suggest the programming of the call automation is done, there will be some who may not like it for some reasons.

I have a better suggestion: dump the automated programs and the hardware totally!!

All calls to be answered by human beings.
Is it that difficult?
In the past, we felt that if a call is handled by human, we have to wait very long before being attended to.
But now, we are back to square one, we also wait very long using automated system.!!!!

So there is no progress. Then let's go back to human answering your questions -manual. If there are many calls, too bad, just wait a bit. But at least you know when someone picks up your call you will have your request served sensibly with less hassle. The total time taken to get serviced is still the same, bec the current automated system takes you through so much trouble and sometimes you give up totally.

Another advantage: this creates EMPLOYMENT!! Average or medium skilled staff will do, and even disabled people, and ex-convicts, to manage the lines after some training. Help the jobless Singaporeans!
Good idea?

REX

Tan Kin Lian said...

Hi, Rex
I agree with you that each call should be answered by a human being. My suggestion is only 1 step away. Most people can press 1 to talk to a person, which is likely to be 90% of the time. Why force them to spend a few minutes on irrelevant messages?

But, the big businesses cannot dump away their automated systems, after spending tens of millions. So, my suggestion is to give them "face".

But, we also have to recognise that in some cases, the customer wants to go to an automated system, if it is for defined transactions such as checking their account balances, points, etc.

Tan Kin Lian said...

There is a mistaken belief that an automated call center reduce manpower. I suspect that it uses the same manpower (to answer the customer enquiries) but it adds to the customer frustration through listening to useless messages.

But, only a proper analysis of the actual types of calls will provide an answer. I hope that the businesses will engage independent people to carry out this analysis and make a restructuring of their system.

Ronnie Eng said...

Automated answering is a misguided reaction to increase productivity and misplaced efforts to cutting costs.
The call centre industry was born to meet this. Indeed it created business opportunities and employment. Nonetheless, productivity has fallen anyhow.

To differentiate service quality that business can offer to their customers' service experience, employing a well trained staff to answer calls is a guaranteed winner.

The source for these "well-trained" staff comes from non other than their own employees. Job redesign for older workers who know the company's policies and various dept and frequently asked questions.

But Human Resource people seem to be unable or reluctant to advance these initiatives. I am quite certain older workers would be attracted to this. A short training stint in telephone techniques would suffice as the maturity of the employee will be an added bonus to the value.

Phone sex companies are a good example of how the customer's service experience is enhanced to heights of orgasm. And their employees are mostly above 50years old!! Trust me.

Its wonderful to be able to speak to a human being.. this will enable companies to leave a positive impression on all callers.
How much does it cost?
How many customers will you loose?

Do not ignore the effects of 1st impression.

VS Lingam said...

A Malaysian retail bank with medium presence in sg has the flwg key selling point regarding their customer service:-

" Expect a surprise when you call us, a human voice.

When calling our customer service hotline, you will be greeted immediately by a service staff on the line and not automated messages. Because we understand the importance of immediate and personal service, we want to get you the information you need quickly without maze of voice messages and buttons."

Above text appears on their website. It has won several customer service awards. For the curious, its logo is in blue font and has a red diamond.

Now, why can't other organisations do this? This is the kind of service that customers expect.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why Tiger Airways customer service is still so bad after all that bad publicity. You would have thought that they would have spruced up after that. I called the hotline yesterday and no one picked up the phone. In the end, I had to call Tiger Australia. At least the customer service people there are working. Ours are sleeping here.

Anonymous said...

REX comments as follows,

one more point, i think the call centre concept does save a lot of money for a company with international operations. Since internet calls are cheap, in fact when you make a call enquiry on you visa bill, you could well be speaking to a staff member in the philippines. It does work for the benefit of all provided that the system is properly designed, as what is suggested by kinlian in his original article about reprogramming some of the functions.

rex

Customer Call Center Software said...

Software and hardware really helps us in different ways… Thanks for sharing with us... Good service...

BPO said...

Hello,
Thanks for sharing on how to handle automated messages when there are bulk of calls to receive and answer.

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