Response Design Corporation:Creating the Uncommon Call Center
Kathryn's Uncommon Call Center Blog
July 10, 2006 12:47 PM
Just one bad apple

Is there a bad apple in your contact center? I’m not talking about the agent who makes an honest mistake; I’m talking about the one who goes the extra mile to drive customers away from you. What harm could this one person be doing to your customer base? If a rotten apple is working in your center, could you find her?

I am not being extreme; I experienced that one bad apple today. As a loyal customer of a certain airline, I did not expect to encounter such problems. Because its Internet site was down, I called the airline to make a reservation. I asked the agent not to add the five-dollar reservation fee that accompanies phone orders to my total. “I tried to buy the ticket online,” I explained, but the Internet was down.”

The agent told me that I was mistaken—the Internet was not down. The call center notifies the agents when the site is down, and because she had received no such notification, the Internet was working. Because I still had the Web page up with the error codes staring me in the face, I told her I would give her the codes as evidence; but she insisted on tacking the $5 onto my bill. She said, "If you don't want to get charged the fee, then use the Internet. Thank you for calling (name of airline)." And then, SHE DISCONNECTED ME!!!!

This one ticket was for more than $700, and the agent risked it for $5. Even more astounding, she risked all future travel revenue from this loyal customer.

Hey, maybe this agent didn’t receive the proper training. And maybe she was having a really rough day. But all of us in the industry know that is no excuse for disconnecting a caller.

I reported the incident to the airline, but (according to research) I’m in the minority. Most of your customers do not report ill treatment; they simply walk away.

I didn’t have the agent’s name or location; she disconnected me before I could ask. How will the airline management team ever find her? How much more damage will she inflict on other customers before she is discovered?

I know that 99.99 percent of your agents are good eggs; they are talented, dedicated, and well-meaning. But what would happen if a rotten apple where hidden in your organization? Would he be able to operate undetected? What could you do to mitigate the damage he might be causing?

February 12, 2006 11:26 PM
The Secret of Success

John D. Rockefeller said, "The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well." What a strikingly simple concept! The expectation that companies provide customer service is common; how they provide it can make it uncommon. We don't need to create some big, expensive strategy that takes months (if not years) to implement, cost zillions of corporate dollars, and (according to research) will most likely never be completed or fail if it is. We can, however, dissect our routine customer service interactions and brainstorm one or two improvements that would make them uncommon. Once we have taken sufficient time to celebrate the success of these changes, we can brainstorm one or two more.

The first level of service is the minimum that you are required to provide. Make sure you are not missing an essential "table stakes" component of customer service. While customers typically have a difficult time defining this "must have" foundation, they eagerly admit, "I know it when I don't see it." When they are missing, these "common" customer service actions often cause our customers great dissatisfaction.

The second level is uncommon service. Consider how your customer service can become the competitive differentiator for you. Customers continually judge us against our competitors in the routine, every day interactions they have. What can you do uncommonly well within each of these interactions that will set you apart?

Of course the litmus test is the customer. Ask, "What are our customers currently saying we do uncommonly well? In what areas are we still just 'common'?"

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