Monday, June 06, 2005

Call Centres Lost to Disconnected Best Practice

Reading today's Observer newspaper, I came across a terrific article in the Management section titled "You call this 'best practice'?" by Simon Caulkin.

The article demonstrates the problems of call centres, both locally based and those outsourced to the far reaches of the globe. Apparently call centre staff in India are resigning in droves due to the abuse they receive from customers. But this also happens in the UK. Simon writes:

At bottom, companies are still producing to suit themselves rather than the customer. 'We don't care about the colour of the person we're talking to,' says Professor Harry Scarbrough, director of the Economic and Social Research Council's Evolution of Business Knowledge programme. 'But we do care about being fobbed off with people working to a script. Call centres don't have the knowledge available in a local bank branch or shop. What customers get is knowledge that is pre-packed, shallow, mass-produced and inflexible. People don't like that.'

Later on Simon also points our the disconnect between the vital role the call centre can play in the relationship with customers and the all too sad reality in most cases:

The problem starts with the distance of the call centre from the rest of the organisation, metaphorically as well as literally. It ought to be the company's window on the world, a vital and sensitive two-way connection with customers; instead, all too often it is a bolt-on cost centre, a lowest-cost sponge for mopping up the mess of the initial product inadequacy. As such, it has no influence on, and therefore precious little chance of changing, the conditions that caused the customer aggro in the first place.

I highly recommend a careful reading of this article. There is alot of food for thought for marketing management. We are putting our relationship with our customers in danger by focusing on our costs in key aspects of the relationship over the long term value of that relationship.

"You call this 'best practice'?" by Simon Caulkin.