Your Customer Might be Monitoring the Call!

Comcast One of the things you can depend on in the blogosphere is Starbucker’s weekly "Sunday Paper" posts. Last Sunday he referred us all to an article in the NY Times. It seems that AOL customer, Vince Ferrari (does that sound like a guy from the Bronx, or what?), called to cancel his service. The call took an abhorrent 21 minutes and Ferrari recorded five minutes of it, then posted the recording on a blog. An AOL spokesman admitted that Mr. Ferrari said "cancel" 21 times in those five minutes as the CSR led him through multiple, scripted "save" attempts. For those who have the stomach for it, you can listen to the recording here.

Starbucker asked me for my thoughts. Here’s my two cents:

  • Welcome to what I do. Objectively analyzing calls like this and coaching CSRs on their service delivery is key to effective customer service. Calls like this are why companies need a good QA program. If your company isn’t monitoring these "moments of truth", then maybe it’s time to start.
  • A good idea gone horribly awry. Most subsription based services have a "retention" or "save" process designed to identify why customers want to cancel and retain them, if possible. It makes sense. We all know that it cost more to find new customers than it does to retain existing customers. However, this conversation is a great example of a CSR robotically following the script and refusing to listen to the customer. A script is only a conversation guide. When a customer retention call becomes a customer badgering call, no one wins.
  • Where was management? While it’s easy to blame this CSR (who was fired), I want to know where were his supervisors and managers? Why didn’t they know they had a problem? Was this one CSR going postal or is there a bigger issue in the call center? I would immediately monitor a sample of cancellation calls to get a valid, objective analysis of the retention process. I’ve personally witnessed Call center management slipping into a mode of pressuring CSRs to "stay on script" rather than training them to effectively engage the customer in a conversation designed to identify retention opportunities.
  • Warning: Customers can record calls, too! Perhaps the most interesting thing about this article is the fact that technology has now given customers an unprecedented opportunity to fight back. A customer with a simple voice recorder can post a call like this on-line and create an immediate buzz. When Ferrari posted his call, the blog’s server crashed under the weight of 300,000 visitors trying to access the site about the same time. The NY times article mentioned another example of this trend. An alert customer videotaped the Comcast cable guy, who fell asleep on his couch (see picture) while on hold for an hour with the parent company. Over half a million visitors have seen the video. You can join the throng by seeing it here.

If a customer records his or her call to your company today, what would you hear on the web tomorrow? Are you listening?

Related Posts:
Getting an Outside Perspective on Your QA
Generating Sales at the Expense of Customer Satisfaction
Who are You Satisfying with Your QA Scale?

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  4 comments for “Your Customer Might be Monitoring the Call!

  1. July 6, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Tom, thanks for taking this one on; I knew you would have a take on it from the perspective of someone who listens to a LOT of calls. I agree with you that retention queues do make sense (we do it in our call center), but only if they are managed properly and closely. I recall in this AOL case that they let the person who took the call go, but I wonder what action they took with the supervisor? Your last questions are true food for thought for anyone who has anything to do with a call center. Well done Tom, and thanks again.

  2. July 6, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    What a great article. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. It raised several great issues, and was great fodder for a post!
    Wouldn’t it have been great if AOL had been able to wave a file and say, “according to our internal Quality Assessment reports, this CSR has been struggling and was on warning for his behavior. Our repeated coaching attempts were not making a difference in his behavior. It’s unfortunate, but we can document that this is an isolated incident in our call center.”?

  3. July 6, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    The same thoughts ran through my mind – “Where was the supervisor during this call?” Does anybody ever listen to their reps? I knew that this had been going on long before Vincent came out with his video, so someone in AOL land must have known something. I experienced it myself a couple times. The second time I did it was a test to see if anything had changed. I blogged about it, but should have recorded it like Vincent did!
    Hopefully now they’ll start to care.

  4. July 7, 2006 at 8:24 am

    I will be interesting to see if anything changes, won’t it? It will also be interesting to see if customers recording calls becomes a trend. Thanks for the comment, Maria. Have a great weekend!

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