Call Centers

It is unlikely that many of the 4.8 million entrepreneurs and managers of Enterprise Britain will choose to provide backup service through a call center, but there may be some. One of my companies had to provide 24/7 support year round. Fortunately we seldom received calls at unsociable hours, so our call center was simply a telephone by the bed of one of the lucky staff.

If you do have to use a call center, make sure they can actually do what you want them to do. My recent experience with my broadband supplier is an example of how it should not work.

I have been with the same broadband supplier since I got my first internet connection in the mid nineties. I have been tempted to walk several times, but whenever I called an alternative it was universally pathetic, so I stayed.

Stupid? Maybe! Especially considering my latest experience and I can only hope I never run a company which gives this kind of service.

So what happened? A little over a year ago my broadband developed a feature that the line would drop at inconvenient times. I use Skype a lot and I have a VOIP telephone, both of which are dependent on the line staying up.

I would call the dreaded call center, get some reasonably pleasant person at the other end with an even stronger foreign accent than I have. After going through multiple menus, identifying myself for the ludicrous data protection rules in this country and then going through a fault menu (which never showed anything and never changed) I was often promised a call back from a senior person within 24 hours. This of course never happened.

I was even sent a new router at some point – black this time instead of white. Better looking but no change.

I got fed up, so I looked up the email address of the CEO. Keep in mind that this is a FTSE 100 company with a worldwide network, so I wondered what would happen.

Within half an hour I had a return email from one of his PAs. The CEO was out (surprise!) but would get back to me. In the meantime she had forwarded my email to the XYZ department. Oh well I thought – time for plan B.

But no! A couple of hours later Tony called. He immediately acknowledged I had a problem – no data protection, no fault menus, nothing – he could see it on the system. That was a first! He could not solve the problem, but I would get a call on Saturday. As predicted by Tony I did get a call, this time from David. No data protection, no fault menus, just a couple of simple questions. David arranged for an engineer who would come on Thursday between 1 and 6.

Said engineer, who’s name I don’t remember, arrived at ten past one. We talked about the problem and he vowed not to leave until the problem was sorted. An hour later my wiring, which must have been at least 10 years old, had been updated, various bits replaced and my broadband has not hesitated once since. Amazing!

On Saturday I called to change my call plan. Let me just say that clearly I can only get things done through the CEO. It was back to normal, but at least my broadband still works to perfection.

In my companies I have always kept a very close eye on complaints and have tried to deal with any personally. Even when taking over problematic companies, which were heaving with complaints, I focused on resolving them. Over time the number of complaints would virtually disappear and to be honest, those which remained were almost always very valid and helpful in improving our product or service.

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