I like India. I like the Philippines, too. But even though I have a warm place in my heart, I cringe when I get unsolicited calls from agents in those area.
So do many people, and the reason is clear: Many early outsourcing efforts went to foreign call centers where training and management were inadequate. As a result, a call from most of these call center agents resulted in a bad experience.
It wasn’t the actual agents who were the problem; it was bad training and call center structure. Every call center can learn from some of the mistakes that have been made by these atrociously bad foreign call centers.
There are four mistakes that really must be avoided at all cost when it comes to the call center.
First, don’t be rude to the customer. EVER. Regardless of whether or not the customer is wrong, regardless of the frustration that might come from language and cultural barriers, contact center agents can never, ever show disrespect of frustration while on the phone with customers.
It is true that often the customer is frustrated or rude to the agent, but agents themselves have to rise above it and stay professional or hurt the brand image of the organization they represent.
Second, a corollary to this first mistake is not giving the customer full attention during a call.
As a recent Five9 blog post noted, “it is a serious breach of customer service etiquette to focus on anything other than the customer when handling an issue. When a customer service associate is talking to a customer, people, process, and technology should all come together in support of an ideal customer experience and outcome.”
A third mistake that I’ve personally encountered far too often in the early days of the outsourced call center movement has been reps that don’t take responsibility. A caller has a reasonable expectation that when they are talking with an agent from a company on the phone, the agent has some power to solve the problem or provide some utility. If an agent does not take ownership and responsibility, customers will question the whole point of talking with the agent. And get frustrated in a hurry.
A fourth lesson in customer service that we can learn from bad outsourcing operations is that it is crucial to arm agents with proper knowledge and product information.
“Never put a customer service associate on the front lines if they are not ready,” wrote the Five9 (News - Alert) blog post, mirroring what every customer is thinking when they talk with agents who know less about a product than they do. “In many cases, your customer service team is the first contact customers have with your company outside of sales. If your customer service associates do not have a strong understanding of your product, the interaction could shatter the image your customers have of your company.”
Years of subpar customer service from outsourced agents have poisoned the perceptions of outsourced call centers. While that perception is hard to undo and unfair to the many hardworking agents in other countries, we can at least learn from those mistakes and ensure that our call centers don’t fall pray to the same issues.