Dedicated Customer Service Teams

September 16, 2008

Mark Fox’s Novator has dedicated customer service teams for each of his big clients. When the client calls, the same team picks up every time. In Novator’s case, this team might only work for the one client.

I want this for consumer call centres.

When I call today, I wait on hold, then someone in a call centre answers. The person who answers is the first among thousands to be available to take my call. They don’t know me and will never deal with me again. If I call back, I get someone else. They don’t care if I am unhappy.

Stupid.

Better:

When I call, I identify myself and leave a call-back number. When someone is ready to deal with me, I get a call. Innovation #1.*

The call centre is sliced into hundreds of small teams of two or three attendants. Each team of attendants has a portion of the customer base assigned to it. Every time I call, I get someone on the same tiny team. There is an infusion of accountability and humanity. Innovation #2.

(The disadvantage is the statistically higher likelihood of waiting on hold for longer. See Innovation #1.)

* Business idea: A for-pay service that waits on hold for you, and calls you when the other party picks up.

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One Response to “Dedicated Customer Service Teams”

  1. Richard D. Chang Says:

    “Virtual-hold” has been implemented in a few financial institutions. Bell also has it. If you call during busy hours, it will offer you the option of leaving your number, and either (a) holding your place in queue and calling you back asap, or (b) calling you back in a specified number of hours. It’s a neat bit of technology and not enough companies have it yet.

    Innovation #1:
    Virtual-hold is great, but overwhelmingly, customers still want/expect immediate attention. This is evidenced by the size of the “Email Response team” in any Contact Centre. In one leading Canadian Bank: compare a team of 20ish, to an army of 700 on the phones. Even with email response times coming down to mere hours (as few as 4 in some companies), people still want the immediate attention.

    Innovation #2:
    That would be a logistical nightmare. Scheduling (and optimizing) the number of agents for any given day/time is already an immensely difficult task. Banks and Telcos have the constant challenge of balancing a sufficient number of agents with minimal idle time (remember, Contact Centes are largely a cost centre, and there is the constant drive to reduce expenses, i.e. minimal waste). The entire business case for modern contact centres is the ability to have a very liquid workforce. You can staff up or down in a matter of minutes, and tailor your workforce to shifts in the daily demand (across the globe). Also factor in that people’s customer service needs are not consistent; they often come in spikes at certain times (tax season, for example). Assigning customers to agents/agent teams would loose the flexibility that a general queue offers, and result in unsatisfied customers (the average customer will be angry is waiting 1-3 minutes, after which they will either hang up or become a detractor). Also consider the massive turnover rates in most customer contact centres (the average is over 20% across the industry, and could be as high as 50-60% depending on company and dept) – you would still get a different person fairly often. And if you got stuck with a crappy rep, then you wouldn’t be able to just call back in and get someone better.


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