“Customer-Centered” or “Call-Centered”?

My wife and I had lunch with our sister-in-law yesterday. She and my wife’s brother have been in the medical field for a while. She was talking about how difficult it is not to "dehumanize" the patients that roll through their area of responsibility. Bring in another one, poke e’m, prod ’em, run ’em through the tests, mark the chart – NEXT!

I hear the same struggle in call centers. The fact that we tend to talk about "calls" instead of "customers" should say something. We focus a lot on "numbers" – which often leads to CSRs forgetting that they are talking to a real human with questions or issues that need resolution.

Companies who earn the customer’s satisfaction are typically the ones who are customer-centered:

  • They focus on customers through research that identifies what drives customer satisfaction, instead of focusing on what will make them better than brand x
  • They use the customer’s satisfaction as the foundation of their quality efforts, not what will drive numbers to reduce cost
  • They help the front-line CSRs connect to the customer in a myriad of ways – from making CSRs aware of research results, to finding ways to let them meet actual customers, to incenting CSRs who drive customer satisfaction

Is your company "customer-centered" or "call-centered"?

  3 comments for ““Customer-Centered” or “Call-Centered”?

  1. February 22, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Tom, once again, we are in agreement. For many years I have preached that “It’s not about the numbers…It’s about what makes up the numbers”. I’m pleased to report that I know of customer centered companies like Starbucks and Southwest Airlines that no longer talk about “calls” but instead talk about “experiences” with customers. I personally think they should change the “S” in CSR to an “E” Customer “Experience” Representative. One of the most powerful trends that I see in contact centers today is that CERs are empowered to share “the voice of the customer” with others throughout the enterprise. When a customer voices a concern, kudo or a suggestion CERs are taking note, passing on the call to someone that can improve the customer experience. Now there is an easy way for people to hear straight from the source, and to put a voice to the numbers and statistics that we see on our weekly reports.

  2. February 22, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Good post, Tom.
    The idea of dehumanizing that “mysterious other” as the source of our problems with the world is central to so many bad things that have occurred on the earth. How much oppression has come from turning others into less than ourselves?
    We have seen it in race relations, religion, management and labor, all over the world, throughout the ages and the ages to come.
    Great customer service comes when we look beyond the customer as just a bother we have to take care of in order to get paid and look at them as another person with the same feelings, needs and thoughts that we have.
    Nothing good ever comes from seeing others as simply manifestations of the problems, its when we look beyond our customers as opportunities for profit, or problems to overcome, and see them as persons we can help.
    It may sound overly dramatic, but I like that part of my job. I like the part where I help people who call my call center. Much of the time its messy, or they are not happy, or even my best is not good enough, but in the end, I still feel good about knowing I not only did my job, but I helped them.
    That kind of focus makes call center work almost rewarding. Now if I could just have an hour lunch and be allowed a siesta around two pm with warm cookies afterwards, things would be great…
    AC

  3. February 23, 2007 at 7:47 am

    “I like the part where I help people who call my call center. Much of the time its messy, or they are not happy, or even my best is not good enough, but in the end, I still feel good about knowing I not only did my job, but I helped them.”
    That’s why you’re good at what you do. It makes me feel good to know you’re out there, AC – along with countless other unsung customer service heroes who quietly make a difference one customer at a time.

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