Thursday, November 02, 2006

Horror stories or honesty?

A report entitled "Call Centre Horror Stories" has been getting a bit of media attention here in Australia. It's published by an outfit called Global Reviews who apparently specialise in telling companies how well (or badly) they're performing in customer service. It caught my attention because I worked in call centres for years so I know how bad they get, plus who doesn't have their own horror story about how bad it can be when you're kept on hold for an eternity, transferred ten time only to end up talking to a moron?

But when I read the report, I was quite disappointed. I'm assuming this is the "highlights" of their research (which is to say the worst horror stories) and if that's the case, they didn't look very hard. Not only were the stories not particularly horrible, some of the responses from operators were refreshingly honest. If I got responses like these all the time I would certainly have a high opinion of call centres. For instance:

From calls made to internet service providers -

Caller: Can you tell me about some of your internet plans?

Operator: Well... if you don't change your home phone over too, our plans aren't really that good.

I call that some refreshing honesty.

Caller: What wireless options do you provide?

Operator: Wireless... very expensive modem for that one.

Some useful information that not all people realise

Caller: What time is your sales centre open to?

Operator: Aaaaaallllll the time. 24 hours. So if you want to call back at 3am, well, I won't be here but some other idiot will be.

A good answer - accurate information and I would've gotten a laugh out of it.

Caller: I wanted to find out about your wireless internet.

Operator: I have no idea about wireless. Why would you even want wireless? It's really slow. You could call another provider, they do it.

Refreshingly candid and some useful information. I'd be straight onto another provider.

Caller: Another provider is offering Broadband for $29.95 a month, what can you offer?

Operator: That sounds like a pretty good offer; I might switch to them myself.

I wish all responses were this bullshit-free.

I wasn't surprised when the stories they told about banks were worse, but most of the ones they listed came across as funny to me. Sure, it would be annoying if you were after useful information but annoying doesn't qualify as "horror story." I think people underestimate the power of comic relief. The operators in question may come across as idiots but at least they're honest idiots.

The Question:

How is the interest actually calculated on your credit cards?

The Responses:

It's calculated on the daily closing balance. That's about all I know to be honest but that's acceptable for me.

(What I want to know is this an acceptable process to them or is their own level of ignorance acceptable to them?)

It's all done automatically on our system, it's not done manually.

(You know, in case you were wondering if it was calculated by someone as stupid as me.)

I'll just talk and ramble on with whatever... if you have any questions at the end, let me know.

(At least you know where you stand with this one.)

The Question:

So what causes the interest rates to change with your high interest savings account?

The Responses:

Well... it depends on the bank and... well... I think they just change them whenever they feel like it. I'm really not feeling well today.

The bank... deciding... they might have a good year or something?

Oh well, it really depends on the environment and stuff like that.

(I had no idea this was such a hard question. But at least we now know it about, you know... stuff.)

And probably my favourite came from a call to a health insurance provider whose call centre is obviously in Australia:

The Question:

So what additional benefits do you offer?

The Response:

We don't really like to buy business like that. We're not into a lot of gimmicks and fads and stuff. Be wary of Indians bearing gift you know.

Truer words were never spoken. They'd have my business for sure.

Am I alone in thinking these are really lame horror stories? I actually like most of the operator responses in this collection. I'm sure everybody has way worse first-hand stories than these.

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