Margaret Thatcher said, “Anyone who finds themselves on public transport after the age of 26 must consider themselves a failure." There’s probably some sort of corollary for anyone twice that age that spends part of every day writing to imaginary people on the web.

When I write I like to pick a side and stand by it instead of standing in the middle of the road where you can get run over by the traffic from both sides. Likewise, I don’t look for consensus around an idea. Consensus is the process of everyone abandoning their beliefs and principles and meeting in the middle. When was it decided that meeting in the middle is beneficial? So, achieving consensus about a problem is nothing more than that state of lukewarm affection one feels when one neither believes in nor objects to a proposition.

Having this approach to solving business problems tends to yield a high number of critics. I don’t mind critics; those are the same people who after seeing me walk across a swimming pool would say that my walking only proves that I can’t swim. I rather enjoy it when someone offers a decidedly personal attack on something I wrote if only because it means they can’t find a legitimate business principle on which to base their argument. I love the debate, and I don’t expect anyone to agree with me just because I say it is so.

In trying to promote a different way of looking at the customer/company relationship, I’ve learned that it’s not possible to lead from within the crowd. The as-is was created by history, by followers. The future will be created by someone who believes it can be done better. I believe firmly in the notion that trying to improve customer satisfaction by building call centers is like trying to cure a cold with leeches.

The approach that has been used to manage customers for the last twenty years is that the firm is responsible for everything. And yet, who is responsible for the firm? Who is accountable for the fact that the relationships don’t improve? A firm can’t be accountable. Neither can people—sooner or later, it must come down to an individual. Somebody made the determination to manage calls and callers instead of issues.

Sometimes it seems like somewhere in the bowels of every call center that has lost its way, someone has closed their eyes, spread their palms hopefully over the front covers of the trade journals, and directly sought guidance for their unanswered questions—like a Ouija board only more scary.

“Oh Call Center Magazine. Within your pages you hold the wisdom of the ages, or at least everyone’s best guess as to which end is up. We beseech thee with three questions.

1. Why does the annual increase in call volume coincide with the annual increase in my call center budget?

2. Would the call center implode if CSRs were allowed to talk as long as they needed?

3. When will the Cubs win the World Series?”

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