Don’t take your bad day out on a call centre worker
Everyone loves to hate call centres, but it’s time to give them a break because they generally provide a convenient and effective service.
If you’re foaming at the mouth right now thinking that the ten minutes you’ve just spent on hold being told “your call is important” was neither convenient nor effective, consider the alternative.
In many cases it’s a drive down to your local shops, a few minutes spent hunting for a parking spot and then a few more walking past shops before you get to the retail outlet where you want to conduct a transaction.
Once there, you’ll wait for a few minutes in a queue, then probably get sucked into a calorific impulse buy during the return journey.
Even if you get in and out as fast as possible you’re looking at 20 minutes to get something done at a local bank branch or Medicare office, plus the cost of petrol, parking and that snack you didn’t need.
Is that really so bad compared to a few minutes on hold?
But, I hear you saying, you are sometimes forced to drive to a retail shopfront because so many call centres these days use offshore worker and it is jolly hard to understand what they say.
Plenty of Australian companies recognise that the offshore call centre experience is not always great and they’re fighting back in two ways, one of which is bringing their call centres back to Australia because they recognise that while going offshore is cheap, they’ll make more money in the long term by providing good customer service.
Another is by working with offshore call centres to improve their workers’ accents, or moving work to countries where staff speak English that’s easier on the Australian ear.
Across the industry, meanwhile, the prevailing wisdom now suggests that if you want to save money, simple “offshoring” is great, but the way to customers’ hearts is great customer service.
This admission is typical of the call centre industry, which generally works very hard to provide good service.
I run a podcast for call centre managers and whenever I attend the conferences and seminars where they congregate, I’m amazed at how genuinely they care about doing a really good job and the big investments companies make to improve service. For example, I know of call centres that spend the winter making plans to cope with events like a deluge of calls after summer electrical storms.
Those plans use amazing technologies that can find anyone inside an organisation that has ever worked on the call centre and turn their desks in to an extra call centre extension during busy times.
I’ve also spoken to call centres that have devised new ways to improve the accuracy of predictions about when repair people will show up to repair problems that can’t be fixed over the phone. That creates better service on the phone and in the real world.
Another reason to appreciate call centres is that the industry is huge. I’m told by Dr. Catriona Wallace at analyst house Callcentres.net that more than 300,000 people work in the industry in Australia, and that growth outpaces the rest of the economy.
Plenty of those jobs are part time or work-from-home, so call centres offer a lot of flexible work for Australians.
Australia is also very good at providing call centre services, so much so that last year an Indian company acquired a local call centre company because it wanted its smarts. The Indian company now plans to more than double the workforce here in Australia – and some Aussies will probably end up taking calls from overseas as offshored call centre agents.
That’s a man-bites-dog story if ever there was one, but the mainstream media ignored it because call centres generally only get a run when the news is bad.
Not every call centre is excellent and not every interaction with the good ones ends well. But don’t let the bad apples and the occasional thorny problem make you think that the people running call centres don’t care.
It’s just not easy to take a few tens of thousands of calls a day and get everything right, every time. Most try as hard as they can to provide a service that’s more convenient – and cheaper - than the alternatives, and we should all appreciate that by being kinder to our call centres.
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