aside NUTTY CONSUMER’S 10TH RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTERS

THIS IS A CONTINUATION OF CASE STUDIES ABOUT COMPANIES WHICH ARE SUCCESSFULLY ACTING IN THE CUSTOMERS’ BEST INTERESTS WHILE TREATING EMPLOYEES WITH DIGNITY. images another planet customer serviceHow would you like your company to be able the advertise the following on the front pages of your website. “Zappos Insights is a department within the Zappos Family of Companies created simply to help share the Zappos Culture with the world. Yep, that means YOU!  We are humbled by the attention Zappos has received and all the questions we get about our zany culture and business. We hope to see a day when all organizations realize you CAN have a successful and profitable business where your employees love coming to work, are happy and engaged, and your customers are raving fans. We want to share with YOU how we created our core values, built our culture, and run our business based on them. We want to share this with you so that you can translate it to YOUR unique and amazing company to create a happier and more productive culture and workplace. Whether your business has been around for 100 years, or you are an entrepreneur just starting out, we offer tours of the Zappos Headquarters, Q&A sessions with Zappos leaders, a Zappos Insights membership, and a full Zappos culture immersion with our 3-Day Boot Camp event. We can even create a custom event for YOU if you’d like. Just let us know. “ “At Zappos, we believe that work should be fun. Check us out and learn how we foster an employee-centric culture and have been named to the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For 5 years in a row!”

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Could your call center imagine the following description of a job coach? Zappos has coaches that are life coaches. They brag about one favorite coach, Augusta. As per a Forbes article published on 2/4/2014 by John Greathouse, this is the Zappos specifications of their coaching practices:

“While CEOs and other executives routinely have access to personal coaches, such coaching remains a rarity for the average worker in Corporate America. When such programs do exist, they often focus on making workers more productive, efficient and skilled in their job performance. These programs often indirectly benefit the workers, but their primary goal is the betterment of the company.”

Zappos is renowned for its focus on its customers and employees. The company realizes that fostering personal growth is not only good for each employee, it benefits the entire company. As such, employees are encouraged to pursue goals, irrespective of whether they will have any impact on their ability to excel at their jobs.

For instance, Zappos team members can support Augusta to lose weight, stop smoking or even get into college.

At Zappos, the Coach’s primary responsibility is to make employees better people, not necessarily better workers. Augusta is rightfully proud of this emphasis, stressing that, “The program wasn’t designed around (job) performance or metrics. It was designed around our culture. How can we assist our employees with whatever it is they want to do. What’s going to make them happy? What are they passionate about? And a lot of times it is within their personal lives. We know that a happy employee in their personal life obviously is going to be a happy employee, even at  work.” 

 yx1862e customer service lack ethics                                                                                                                                                    Look at what a call center critic writes about Zappos in comparison to others as in the case of Best Buy. This article was syndicated from the 8/14/14 Business 2 Community, titled, ” How are Call Centers Bullying Their Employees With Bad Scripts by Aurelie Chazal. She writes the following: ” The number 1 reason why employees actually stick to nonsense scripts isn’t because they find them useful. It’s because it could get them fired if they didn’t! A Best Buy employee complained  few years ago about the fact that failure to adhere to the script could result in termination of employment. Guess what Best Buy replied?

 

As is common with large corporations such as Best Buy, we do have guidelines for our customer support teams to follow to ensure that our customers receive the highest quality care,” „We have not heard from any of our customers (directly) on this topic and if we did we would of course address each concern individually.” This author continues: “No one wants to loose their job, especially when you need the money to survive. So employees just comply with the rules, complain about them during breaks and go on doing what they’re told because why would they fight the system anyway? I mean, no one makes them feel like their opinion matter. On the contrary, everything is made to make them feel like they DON’T matter and are not so hard to replace.”

This same author goes on to endow compliments to the company Zappos by stating: “I recently chatted with Zappos and it is clear that their customer service representatives are part of the family. The chat I had felt 100% genuine and it allowed me to connect with the person on the other side of the computer. But one thing that struck me with Zappos is that employees are encouraged to go “off-script” (not that they actually use scripts). What I mean is that the employee I spoke to started to tell me about her trip to Paris and we exhanged few thoughts about the city. This might seem highly unprofessional but it was the best customer experience I ever had. Why? Because Zappos gives their employees the opportunity to really connect with customers. In that particular case, the rep couldn’t solve my problem but I still left happier than ever, and I can promise you I will be a loyal Zappos customer if they ever start shipping to Europe.”

She encourages companies to copy those practices exhibited by employees who work at Zappos:

-” Customer service employees are an important part of the company and are treated as such. Zappos CEO even regularly answers the phones himself!

– They are trained to be friendly and make the customer happy, not to read a script.

– They are allowed to give their personal opinion and that’s how they connect with customers

– They are regularly rewarded and are given lots of reasons to be proud of their job”

She explains: “No one said it was easy to provide excellent  customer service but it’s attainable. It just requires a big change in the way companies think. It’s time they see the value of good customer care and start building an organization.”

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Let’s take a look at another company, Jackson National Life Insurance Company as depicted in a NY Times article, dated March 16, 2014 and titled, “Jackson Customer Service Achieves “Call Center World Class Call Certification” for 2013. This is what the article states: “The Service Quality Measurement Group, Inc. (SQM) has again awarded Jackson National Life Insurance Company® (Jackson®) with “Call Center World Class Call Certification” for 2013. Jackson also received the “Highest Customer Service by Industry” award, achieving the top rating for the financial industry.1 The awards mark the ninth year Jackson has been recognized for its customer service performance in both of these categories.”

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“According to SQM, to achieve Call Center World Class Call Certification, 80 percent or more of the calls must be at the “world class level” for at least three months. SQM’s criteria are based on the customer’s satisfaction with his or her service experience and customer service representative, as well as the resolution of the call. While the financial services industry averages 76 percent of calls receiving the highest possible score, Jackson far exceeded the minimum with 90 percent. Additionally, Jackson’s service representatives were able to resolve 87 percent of issues in one call, which is markedly higher than the industry average of 74 percent.”

“With more than 4 million customers, our Service Center is a critical part of the Jackson experience,” said James Sopha, chief operating officer of Jackson. “Jackson is proud to be recognized for its proven commitment to serving the diverse needs of contract-holders and financial professionals. We are able to answer questions quickly and thoroughly utilizing Jackson’s Genius System — our proprietary technology — which enables our associates to filter in real time through the tens of thousands of different policies, features and benefit combinations we offer.”

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For the companies out there whose executives are not aware of other options besides the “cookie cutter” call center operations, I have presented three outstanding examples of how a company can break away from this constrictive culture and experience tremendous success while treating both their customers and employees with great care.  Ask yourself this question. If you are an outstanding college graduate and a potential exceptional employee, which type of company would you prefer to solicit a job?

If you are a company still mired in the “cookie cutter” call center environment, please consider successfully breaking away by following in the steps of these three companies to ensure your company’s viability for the future. As in the case of the  Zappos, why not consider designating your companies’ coaching duties to being more supportive of the frontline employees. If you have business analytics which objectively measure  performance such as tracking the number of sales and monies closed by the sale agents, then your company is in a better position to identify and reward your stars. Please remember that your stars are not the ones who will be dealing with your customers on a daily basis for years. All your frontline workers require great care.

Here are some of the better companies that are not managed as typical “cookie cutter” call center companies. I reviewed many consumer type ranking companies such as JD Power; Consumer Reports; CNN Money; Forbes and MSN Money to compile this data. The best online banking company is Ally Bank; the best mortgage company is Quicken Loans;  the best financial advice firm is Edward Jones; and the best property and casualty company is Amica.

USAA insurance for the military, ex military and their families is rated better than or equal to Amica by most rating companies; however in 2014, Consumer Reports ranked USAA behind Amica in homeowner’s insurance. Still, USAA has been rated # 1 for many years. The USAA brokerage division received the highest rating for customer satisfaction.  USAA offers many outstanding products including online banking and free financial advice. For anyone who intends to carry a balance over months, the USAA World MasterCard ( plus chip or signature enabled) and their American Express card  offer the best interest rates starting at 9.9% along with no annual fees, a flexible reward program and limited travel insurance of up to $1,500. However, you will be charged 1% for any foreign money conversion exchanges.

According to NerdWallet.com, the best credit cards for travel which offer great rewards with no foreign money exchange transaction fees plus chip or signature enabled are the Chase Saphire Preferred card and the Barclay Arrival card. The Barclay Arrival MasterCard has been named a best travel rewards credit card by most travel bloggers and “Best for Travel Rewards” by MONEY Magazine in Oct. 2013. The rewards are great. This no-annual fee card features no foreign transaction fees and pays 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on everything else.  Also, you get 10 percent of your miles back when redeemed for travel.  However both these credit cards charge annual fees which are waived for the first year of usage, higher interest rates starting from 14.99 to 15.99 %. My friends who have done some research state that the Capital One travel credit cards charge lower interest rates. For anyone who has not served in the military and who intends to carry a balance over months,  the Citi Preferred card offers a competitive interest rate starting at 12.99% which is waived for the first year and it charges no annual fees. The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has the best benefit of free travel insurance. I looked up this credit card enhancement on their website which advertises, the “TRIP CANCELLATION/TRIP INTERRUPTION INSURANCE,” if your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness, severe weather and other covered situations, you can be reimbursed up to $10,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses, including passenger fares, tours, and hotels. See the footnote below for a comparison table of various credit cards valid as of 2/2015.

The best free resource to assist military families (this includes ex military) in their retirement planning is the USAA Financial Planning Department.

The best free resource to assist military families in their budgeting can be downloaded from the internet under the title of “Operation Money,” published by NBC on August 25, 2014 by Jene Chatzky. The advertisement states:

“Jean Chatzky, financial editor for NBC’s Today show, is here to help with Operation Money, a mission-based guide that provides detailed resources to prevent money problems before they happen; gives you the tools to manage through a tough situation if you’re already facing one; and empowers you to figure out how best to plan for your future—either in or out of the military—and then assists you in doing so. The chapters throughout focus on saving, debt, credit, buying and financing a home, buying and financing a car, paying for college, protecting the ones you love with insurance and an estate plan, dealing with a relocation, managing money through a deployment, handling a furlough, retirement, divorce, and the financial aspects of caregiving.”

This blog has been updated on 2/11/15.

 RELATED ARTICLES:

1.)Zappos Insights – Culture Training – Customer Service Training www.zapposinsights.com/

2.)How Zappos‘ CEO Turned Las Vegas Into a Startup Wired-Jan 2014

3.)What Happens in Brooklyn Moves to Vegas The New York times-Oct 2012

4.)From Call Center Agent To ZapposLife Coach: This Woman http://www.forbes.com/…/johngreathouse/…/from-callcenteragent-to-z

5.) Jackson Customer Service Achieves “Call Center World  markets.on.nytimes.com/…/press_release.asp?…

6.) Compare credit cards’ trip cancellation, trip interruption …http://www.creditcards.com › Credit Card News Oct 14, 2014 – Are you covered if you have to cut your vacation short or cancel it all together? Before taking out travel insurance, check your credit card …

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