Call center usage has increased dramatically during the last ten years. McBainsey (a consultancy) estimates that 23% of the Indian sub-continent is now employed in call center work. Meanwhile, a Woodsner survey revealed almost 30% of all music consumption in Western countries comes from call center music-on-hold tracks. However, service representative skills and menu efficiency have both recently plummeted.
No wonder then that customer patience and satisfaction are suffering. A recent DayNovo Consulting customer focus group on the topic rapidly degenerated into verbal abuse and fisticuffs. (Fortunately a prompt and forceful Heimlich was able to dislodge the dry erase marker that had become lodged in the moderator's throat).
Companies are becoming desperate to resolve the twin issues of call center costs and customer dissatisfaction. Traditional approaches have typically provided only short-term relief; clearly a more radical solution is called for.
DayNovo recently completed a high profile call center innovation project for a large, Kansas-based mobile telephony vendor. The client has kindly agreed to share our overall recommendations with the Sneaky Business community.
Potential (de-prioritized) solutions:
- Mutating IVR: An increasingly complex IVR (interactive voice response) menu structure that changes during the customer service call ("Please listen extremely carefully – our menu options will change during this call")
- Call-de-sac: An IVR structure that results in multiple dead-ends for callers. Company assumes that reasonably high percentage of callers will give up on complaint without calling back.
- Customer data entry overload: Call initiates with requests for keypad entry of multiple alpha-numeric data-strings from the caller (SSN, phone number, customer account number etc). Requests are sufficiently tedious and time consuming that a high percentage of callers abandon their call before completion.
- Speech disabled call center: Customer is required to interact with call center through a highly inaccurate speech recognition system. Fidelity of recognition is so appalling that high percentage of callers will abandon their calls.
Highest priority concept: Psychologist-enhanced call center
- Identifies a team of unemployed, but highly motivated, psychologists to become call center representatives.
- Provide the psychologists with only minimal product training to reach a veneer of technical knowledge.
- Team employs a "self help" approach to resolving customer complaints and queries, relying upon a rich menu of insightful phrases including:
- "Why do you think you're feeling frustrated today?"
- "Why do you think the phone might not be working?"
- "How does your loss of mission critical data make you feel?"
- Ambient natural sounds play in background of call (birds singing, trickling water, whale songs etc) to make callers more receptive to advice
- Provide series of self-help steps on company web site to encourage customers to resolve issues rather than reaching out to customer service (similar to FAQs, but not providing any useful product information).
- Significant call center cost reduction through radically improved first call resolution, time to completion and improved customer mental health.
- Opportunity to monetize an extended relationship between the customer and call center representative if further psychological issues are uncovered during call ("Note, all subsequent calls will be billed at $10 per minute").
- Availability of unemployed psychologists limited in certain areas (e.g. LA, New York).
- Need to ensure consistent approach for repeat callers (e.g. maintain Jungian or Freudian technique).