Call centres can kill your business

Before those of you who probably call yourselves my friends make any comments – there is such a thing as a Dutch comedian. This article is not about Dutch comedians but it does refer to one so I want to eliminate any rudeness here and now.

What is the issue? Well the issue is call centres. We all get terrorized by call centres and most of us have at least half a dozen stories up our sleeves about diabolical experiences with a call centre. The FSA could do more useful work regulating them than the banks – maybe they would be successful this time!

Well the same terror tactics were felt by …. you guessed it …. a Dutch comedian.

The comedian is called Youp van ‘t Hek – how did the Dutch ever manage to go global with these names? Youp has a son who has a telephone supplied by T-Mobile. I will not bore you with the whole story, but if you are interested click here. Said son spent about 3 months trying to get a problem solved with T-Mobile. The company acknowledged they were the cause of the problem, but, in true call centre form, could not help the young man.

Call centres are set up as organisational blockers. We used to have the receptionist who could keep every salesperson out of the company – now we have call centres to keep customers out. When you reach the call centre you have reached the end of the line – you have reached the ultimate low point in status. You are a customer.

Youp, ever the comedian and father, decided to call the T-Mobile himself. Sadly he fared no better. Even when he told the call centre who he was (and in Holland virtually everyone knows him) there was no response – at least not a helpful one. It is good to know they apply equal ops to customers. Youp may be a comedian, but he also gets angry. So he Tweeted his experience – 3 short Tweets. The (Dutch) world exploded!

The bad news for T-Mobile is that Youp has some 45,000 followers on Twitter. The Tweet went viral or something like that and Youp has had 90,000 reactions about call centres of every kind and the message is consistent.

T-Mobile was also quick. Within half an hour of the first Tweet somebody called Youp. “Problems are there to be solved” said Mr T in a dripping voice. “Sure” said Youp, “that is exactly what we have been trying for 3 months”. Youp junior’s problem has been resolved. T-Mobile’s has not. Youp is not giving up. He is going after call centres.

How does this apply to Enterprise Britain? Well, really it is quite simple. Listen and respond to your customers. When someone calls your company they either have something they need some help with or they have a problem. Otherwise they would not make the effort to call.

The problem starts with the menu system. Any customer who has gone through 12 levels of menu is getting pretty fed up by the time they talk to a human being. Even if you do not have a call centre limit your telephone menu to one level and no more than 3 choices.

The second is this data protection nonsense. If you want to know how to switch on your electric toothbrush or your mobile phone, where in the law does it say that you must first give 6 pieces of personal data? It does not. The same applies to your receptionist – if a customer calls and wants to speak to Mrs Jones, put the customer through. Asking what the call is about is rude and annoying and serves no purpose.

Give the customer the help they require or solve the problem, and even better, give your employees the authority to help the customer or solve the problem. This is much cheaper in the long run than trying to save a penny or two through a demotivated, over pressurised and underpaid call centre .

And the final lesson – find out why people call and manage those reasons away. Annoying callers until they walk is or worse, start blogs or tweets or whatever can kill your business – T-Mobile Holland may find this out the hard way.

Call-centre staff blow the whistle on bad practice

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