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Call Centre Culture

KK
Grafter
Posts: 109
Registered: 06-01-2014

Call Centre Culture

During one of the many ongoing ‘issues’ which I had during the many years I was with BT, I asked to be given an individual’s name and number so that I could avoid the pantomime of having start from ground zero every time I called.  I was told that the ‘Call Centre Culture’ makes such a thing impossible.
I don’t understand how the Call Centre Culture benefits the companies which adopt it.  So much of their ‘advisers’ time is spent going over stuff which has been gone over several times before, that surely it would be in their own interests to improve their systems to the point where it becomes normal for an issue to be sorted out at the first attempt.
I sometimes get the impression that Call Centre operatives themselves become so stressed by their own working environment (lack of thorough product knowledge, dissatisfied customers etc ) that they themselves lose the will to continue the struggle.
It can be done - I bank with First Direct and Nationwide, and I never have any problem at all getting a quick resolution of any issue which arises.
The call centre culture seems to be most apparent in the ‘utilities’ (energy, water, phones, broadband).  These are the industries which enjoy a captive market.
12 REPLIES
spickering
Grafter
Posts: 25
Registered: 27-03-2013

Re: Call Centre Culture

Hi KK
That certainly is an interesting thought but I am not too sure that it would be entirely feasible in this kind of industry.
There are a few factors in play, the agent you have the number of might not be trained in the type of issue you are calling about for example, a technical support agent might not be as strong at billing issues. Or for example there are 30 calls waiting at present, what if they were all calling for one agent?
We ensure that our agents place a note summarising the last call on the account, so when I pick up a call for example I know exactly what is happening and what your call is about, to prevent you having to get me up too speed on the problem at hand. Further to this our goal at present is actually to have as many issues as possible sorted on your first contact with us and that has always been the case. There have been some internal changes to certain processes that is helping a lot with this and it is only going to get better as time goes on.
Stuart
eblakeborough
Grafter
Posts: 38
Registered: 11-08-2012

Re: Call Centre Culture

There are times where an advisor will take personal ownership of a problem, however we would only usually do it on the technical department if there is something that could not be done by another advisor at all. These times as you can appreciate are few and far between unless it is something that is out of our usual support remit.
Due to the nature of our call centre (Mostly inbound calls) we are constantly taking calls so having someones name and wanting to speak to them about the problem is not feasible in most situations.
I know faults do operate a system where if a fault is unable to be solved in the first instance it is assigned to a dedicated person who deals with that fault until conclusion. The problem with the faults team is that they will contact you when they have an update about it. The faults agent that is assigned to any 1 fault with have lots of faults that they are dealing with. Because of that, most of the time transferring through is not possible. We can always request that they call you back if you want to speak to the same agent, however we cannot guarantee when that will be due to the nature of the environment.
How would you do it differently? We're always looking for feedback Smiley
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
Thanks: 12
Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Call Centre Culture

Quote from: Ed
How would you do it differently?

I think we customers can only answer part of that question, i.e. how would we like the interaction with us to work differently?
How you achieve that internally will be for you to resolve; there are plenty of call centres around and lots of expertise so I suspect in most cases it's down to management decisions on what they want to achieve.
I have worked for many years (no longer though) in call centre (both inbound and outbound, though admittedly more B2B than consumer) environments, generally as the manager responsible for the technical systems and infrastructure - IT, telephones etc. so I'm not talking from a position of ignorance, far from it!
The quoted example of First Direct is a good one and I am a customer of theirs, indeed I'm one of the very first and have had an account there for nearly 25 years.
(I have actually seen and worked inside their operation as a supplier as well, for several days, so have an unusual view of them from "both sides").
My only recent telephone interaction with PlusNet I commented on in my thread in the Feedback section.
Suffice it to say that a call with a single purpose, to a number given to me by PN staff as the correct one to call for what they already knew I wanted, required me to speak to 3 different people and each time to restate everything from scratch.
There were other difficulties as well, but they were not really directly related to the "call centre culture" question, though a rethink of how you deal with customers might have improved things there as well; they were eventually picked up and progressed via this forum when the Call Centre staff had said they were impossible to deal with.
KK
Grafter
Posts: 109
Registered: 06-01-2014

Re: Call Centre Culture

Here is the content of the latest post from the 'Lousy Service' thread - this customer is in urgent need of some kind of customer service.  It is up to you to decide how to provide it...
Thanks for your reply Adam..
I do appreciate the response on the ticket, however that response has ignored every point raised and simply said here's an appointment, for a date and time that isn't convenient to me,
The last time i spoke to Plusnet was at approx 7PM on the 30th, after waiting  7 hours for an engineer. This call took over an hour due to your hold times.
This member of staff assured me 3 times she would confirm what she had discussed by email and also contact me my phone once she had looked into the matter to rearrange an appointment.
This hasn't happened. She only assured me three times as, well i was doubtful she would do anything whatsoever. Seems i was right. I presume you can see who this member of staff was, what has happened here? You promised to ring to arrange the appointment, instead you've just gone ahead and made one for Tuesday when i'm not available. Its not like i haven't tried to ring you, i spent 2 hours on the phone on the 30th.
Do you really think its acceptable customers have to spend an hour each time they ring, to be promised things that never ever materialise?
When this fibre is eventually installed, no doubt there's an 18 month contract with it.  Do you honestly think that , not posting routers, forgetting about my order , constant half hour queues, staff who promise things but never follow up, staff who advise you incorrectly regarding contracts and new routers, 7 hour waits for engineers who never show...this is even half decent customer service?
And again, this does not seem to be a case where blame can be laid on Openreach. The last call i made to you, the lady stated there was never an engineer booked as no order had been placed. Despite me having all the emails of appointment times and order confirmations.
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 26,282
Thanks: 1,390
Fixes: 70
Registered: 14-04-2007

Re: Call Centre Culture

I have spoken to a government call centre where each person I spoke to needed refreshing on my details and issue....very frustrating.
I have spoken to an insurance call centre where the answers I gave to the first contact were available to subsequent support staff during the call.....very refreshing and saved a lot of my time and theirs.

Customer and Forum Moderator.

To argue with someone who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead - Thomas Paine
eblakeborough
Grafter
Posts: 38
Registered: 11-08-2012

Re: Call Centre Culture

@strat - Thats something we could do, something like Stuart said we should do after every call. The problem seems to be that we are reliant on the previous agents notes - training issue for us there.
I have a couple of ideas that I can pass up to managers about making the first info available which i will do when i'm in on Monday.

@KK - I agree that this thread shows some of the worst of us in the call centre, it's never nice for us seeing something go so wrong like that. Again I can't see the internal contacts  so I can't be certain however a couple of things from that we are trying to change and they will get better in time.
The wait times are being addressed and they are coming down week on week, the new provisioning system will take care of the error with the automatic re-booking of an appointment and ensure that routers are sent out  when they should be. Hopefully this will sort out the majority of issues on the provisioning side of things.
Answering that post directly - No it can't be all laid at Openreach's feet and I don't think we would do that - errors were made and I'm sorry they were. I can see that Adam updated the ticket when it was raised to DC on the forums.
@HPsauce - Passing you back and forth shouldn't have happened I agree, re-activating an old account is something in my personal opinion that should be easy enough to do. Our systems though just don't allow for it on a first line support basis - thats why you will have been passed around. It's something that we look at changing and I can pass this feedback on for you.though im assuming DC will have done that already given the amount of time they put into getting the account sorted for you.
Community Veteran
Posts: 6,735
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Registered: 02-02-2008

Re: Call Centre Culture

Ed, yes I didn't really want to raise the specifics as I know I'm in a rare situation and no need for you to add to that.
I was using it as an example of passing on without info vs with info (ref Strat's comments above)  or even better "taking ownership" as First Direct do.
It's my only recent phone interaction and it took (I think) about an hour with multiple restatements of information. Apart from the (anticipated TBH) frustration for me it's the sheer waste of time and resulting expense that is to be regretted.
Maybe occasionally that will happen, so my experience may be uncommon. Processes need to concentrate on being slick with the bulk of interactions. Cool
Presumably PN have some sort of systems in place to monitor and analyse how calls are dealt with, including surveys of callers to get feedback?
(In fact I vaguely recall getting one the other day, but wasn't 100% sure which interaction it referred to as I had spoken to 3 people on the phone and raised several tickets!)
KK
Grafter
Posts: 109
Registered: 06-01-2014

Re: Call Centre Culture

quote from Ed - "I agree that this thread shows some of the worst of us in the call centre, it's never nice for us seeing something go so wrong like that. Again I can't see the internal contacts  so I can't be certain however a couple of things from that we are trying to change and they will get better in time"
Ed - you don't need to 'see the internal contacts' - you just need to ask yourself why call centre operatives repeatedly get away with saying one thing and doing another.
This isn't just Plusnet, it's the Call Centre Culture... and utilities providers have no incentive to change, because their customers have no way of 'voting with their feet'.
Don't just look at the banks - look also at Ebay and Amazon - Ebay and Amazon are products of a 21st century way of doing business.  Utilities providers are still rooted in the pre-internet working practices of the nationalised monopolies which they are supposed to have replaced.
alanf
Aspiring Pro
Posts: 1,931
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Registered: 17-10-2007

Re: Call Centre Culture

In the past few years I have encountered surprisingly helpful practices from former nationalised monopolies. I don't know if these still happen.
When ringing customer services being told the estimated queueing time at the outset and being offered the option of having the organisation call me at a convenient time. (BT)
Having a named agent take ownership of an issue, calling me with progress and to check that issues were resolved to my satisfaction. (British Gas following a foul up re meter readings during transfer from EDF)
Neither of these organisations have reputations for excellent customer service but it shows that things can be done to improve customer experience.
eblakeborough
Grafter
Posts: 38
Registered: 11-08-2012

Re: Call Centre Culture

I fully agree with both of you, looking at it from your perspective I can fully see why customers in general aren't happy, like you said - it's something that needs to change.
Not to put you off it but it's something that we need to look into at a much higher level than from my perspective as an agent. I'll make sure that this is flagged up though as it raises some very valid points about our call centre in general.
Make no mistake though - we do want this to get better, it's just a transitionary period and unfortunately it's going to take a while to get it sorted.
KK
Grafter
Posts: 109
Registered: 06-01-2014

Re: Call Centre Culture

Quote from Ed - “I fully agree with both of you, looking at it from your perspective I can fully see why customers in general aren't happy, like you said - it's something that needs to change”
Ed - I would like to believe that you are also looking at this from your own perspective.  It is hard to believe that you have never been a victim of the Call Centre Culture…
Maybe the Call Centre has outlived its usefulness.  Call centres came into existence when telephony suddenly discovered computers and invented a huge range of call-handling possibilities.
But we now have t’internet, which is even better.
Ebay/PayPal/Amazon conduct their business entirely by e-message, and it works.  It sometimes takes a day or three to reach a final conclusion, but customers do not have to experience the cost and frustration of hanging on to a phone for extended periods of time.  Every ‘conversation’ is recorded in text for all to see, and company ‘advisers’ have the scope to make a considered reply, rather than being under the pressure of a heavily-breathing customer blowing into their ear.  There is always a response within a reasonable period of time.
Obviously, there would be times when a voice conversation would be the only way forward, in which case the company’s representative would make the call at a pre-arranged time.
(Ebay and Amazon would simply not tolerate BT Open Reach)
Community Veteran
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Registered: 23-09-2010

Re: Call Centre Culture

Quote from: KK
Ebay/PayPal/Amazon conduct their business entirely by e-message, and it works.

Personally I think you would be hard pressed to find many that think ebay's email help system works.
Endless copy and paste replies that go completely off the original question. Often repeating something as an answer even when that's already in your original email. Usually taking several emails to get something even remotely relevant back.
I take your point though that even if it is as useless as plusnets telephone service, that it's not as time consuming or wallet draining.