When someone mentions call centers, what comes to mind?
Talking to someone named Ronnie
whose real name is Rajiv
Need customer service from a large company? Most of us dread the thought because it means dealing with a call center.
It means talking with a very polite person who may or may not fully understand the English language. And, just to make it more challenging, there's a fair chance they don't really know the product or service you're calling about. They may respond based on scripted answers, but if you need to go much beyond that, you could be in trouble.
According to Thomas Friedman's wonderful book The World is Flat, call center jobs in third world nations are considered very prestigious plums. I believe the people manning them are earnest in their desire to provide good customer service. Many times they succeed, but evidently not enough.
That's why offshore call centers have become the subject of jokes and parodies, like this short clip below that's currently circulating the email chains. It's funny because, unfortunately, it's true to a degree (RSS Readers: go here)
Companies see customer service as an overhead and, understandably, they want to keep overhead to a minimum. So they opt for calling centers in faraway places where the customer service reps are paid a fraction of what they'd earn here. But should a company think of customer service as an overhead expense?
Isn't good customer service really a marketing investment?
Give the customer good service and you'll likely have a loyal customer who will come back to buy more of what you sell, and who will tell his friends how wonderful your products and service are. And what form of advertising is more powerful than word-of-mouth?
It's really not about where the call centers are located. It's good that American companies are providing jobs for people around the world. But shouldn't business invest some of the money they save in lower wages by providing better training so the service reps know the products intimately. Wouldn't the savings be well spent if invested in better systems that reduce or eliminate the long waiting time for a service rep to come on the line? The ROI might far outstrip that of the ad campaign.
So why do so many companies skimp in this critical area?
I don't have the answer. But there's probably an 800 number you can call to find out... if you have a lot of time and a lot of patience. Good luck.
Thanks to Chuck Klein of Chuck Klein Productions for sending me the link to the video clip that inspired this.