Too Busy to Give Good Service?

It’s a common misconception that service performance on the phone gets better the more time you have on your hands. I was reminded of this by Maria’s post over at Customers Are Always. It seems natural to believe that the more time you have to spend with a customer on the phone the better your service performance. But data consistently proves otherwise.

We have been a third-party QA provider for several companies over a long period of time. This allows us to track service performance over a period of years, through the peaks and valleys of their business cycle. We have consistently found that QA scores rise as the call volumes increase and begin to slip as the number of calls drops.

Why? When CSRs are on the phone taking call after call it allows them to get into a rhythm. You’re sharp, you’re crankin’, you’re on your game as the calls keep coming. When things are slow, CSRs are often focused on other things. Some are working on non-call related work. Some are reading a novel. Others are sitting back joking around with their co-workers. When a call finally does come through – they aren’t in the groove. They’ve been sitting there distracted, focused on something else and their service will tend to reflect that.

  4 comments for “Too Busy to Give Good Service?

  1. May 26, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    This is an excellent point. It brings to mind my days of doing training with car dealers, who have the difficult job of sitting around all day and then, when a customer does walk in, of trying to be on their game without being too pushy.
    And it’s also true, too, that good customer service doesn’t take extra time, just a few extra listening skills.

  2. May 26, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    You went right where I was going to go with a post in the near future. People always think that “great service” requires a lot of time, but the difference between “good” and “great” is in the details. Those details, as you aptly pointed out, do not require extra time.
    Thanks for stopping by and for the excellent comment, Heidi. Have a great holiday weekend!

  3. May 26, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    This is a tough issue, Tom. I can see both sides very clearly. When you are in the groove, everything becomes more efficient and more streamlined and it makes the day fly by.
    You may work in a call center that has very repetitive tasks, where very few of the calls ever get really involved, it’s easy to get in the groove.
    But if you have customers asking for things like research on past transactions, or billing questions, or things that can’t be solved in less than five minutes, that is when it is hard to stay in the groove. Some of us work in call centers where there is more involved than just selling a widget.
    Then there will always be that dichotomy of keeping hold times low while getting all the information required to keep everyone happy.
    If you think about it too much it becomes maddening. I guess that must be the challenge that makes your work exciting-trying to find that sweet spot where hold times are down and quality is up-its like trying to adjust an old school carberator in the dark with a popsicle stick. It may be possible, but it certainly isn’t easy.
    AC

  4. May 27, 2006 at 7:01 am

    You know, AC, just the other night I was working on this carburetor in my garage and couldn’t find anything but an old popsicle stick! Wow! Talk about karma. (great simile, btw – actually I don’t know a caburetor from a thingy-ma-dealer-bob – sad but true)
    Actually, you make a great point. There IS a difference in call types. Certainly, it’s harder to get into that repetitive “groove” when you’re taking longer, non-repetitive call types. The call path could take you down any number of rabbit trails.
    However, the SQA data I referenced still bears out that service gets better during peak seasons when everyone is busy. In one client I could point to this included both the customer service queue where calls are quick, repetitive and routine (“What’s my pay-off?”) as well as the longer, more involved calls of an analyst who is making credit decisions, looking up credit bureau scores, juggling a labyrinth of incentives, programs, etc.
    Have a great holiday weekend, AC!

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