Another kind of call centre

A blog that I have had a lot of reaction to was “The Joy of Call Centres”

The Joy of Call Centres

If you follow the link you will see a trail of similar bad experiences under the comments. Just to present the other side of the story, I will share with you how good a call centre can be when it is well run. Those of you who know me personally will be aware that I am more attached to my Tivo that most people are to their family pets. Tivo’s innovative technology was matched only by the ineptness of their UK marketing, which sadly means that you cannot buy a new Tivo in the UK, only in the US, though the product is still supported via a call centre in Edinburgh. A few days ago the event I have dreading for years came to pass: my Tivo passed away quietly in the night. It wasn’t immediately apparent that this was the case since my little darling still had its green light on, the equivalent of its eyes open staring into space. Anyway, the point of the story was to explain how incredibly un-BT like the Tivo helpdesk was. It actually took a fair bit of diagnosis to confirm that the Tivo hard drive had actually snuffed it, and the help-desk engineer (a gentleman called David Stoke) was extremely patient and helpful as I went through various steps of diagnosis. What was more impressive was what happened when we were sure that the box was dead. Instead of doing what any regular script-following helpdesk operative would do i.e. hang up, he went off to the internet and actually found me a Tivo for sale on eBay conveniently near where I lived and emailed me the link to it, so that I could quickly replace it. This worked out well and within four days I had a working Tivo up and running again. The attitude of David (and the other people I have spoken to on the Tivo help desk) could not be further from that of the procedure-driven “I’m just reading the script” approach that we have sadly become all to used to in the UK from the likes of BT.

It would seem that I am not unique in this view, and a number of UK companies like Abbey National and Powergen have had enough and are pulling their call centres back to the UK:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6353491.stm

I don’t think this is anything really to do with the call centre staff being in India rather than, say Scotland or Ireland (though obviously a shared culture and language skills matter to some extent). I am sure that BT would be capable of training ineffective, hostile call centre staff anywhere in the world given half a chance. However the key is that companies need to understand that a call centre is actually the primary (maybe the only) touch point that exists for most customers: the impression that the call centre staff leave reflects directly on the impression that the customer has of the company as a whole. In the case of BT’s shambolic Mumbai helpdesk I was left with the view that BT was, well, like it always used to be. By contrast the Tivo helpdesk left a very positive impression of caring, enthusiastic staf who were passionate about their customers and the company’s products.

All the marketing in the world means less than these individual real experiences, and it does seem absurd to spend a fortune on direct mail and advertising and then blow it all by having a lousy call centre. By contrast, investing in high quality front-line staff that care about customers would seem to me something that has a very real return on investment.

One thought on “Another kind of call centre”

  1. I think you may over-state BT’s indifference to its customers: an acquaintance of mine, newly employed by BT, tried to get a BT broadband line and phone package installed at home, authorised and paid for by the company itself.
    To cut a very long story short, he also had pretty much all the problems described here and in the comments. So he gave up.
    Which suggests that the problem with BT is not that it doesn’t really value customers; rather, it is “institutionally useless” – just completely incapable of providing competent professional service to anyone.

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