aside NUTTY CONSUMER’S 4TH RANT AGAINST “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTER

images customer service re somone being a number

I can’t help but wonder how the employee’s morale would be for any employee who had to work under the conditions as described in my prior blog. I’m saddened at the thought that employees at GM would be expected to compromise their moral compass by being party to practices like not being up front with their customers about a design problem, known for years which cost a significant number of clients, their lives. Many of the employees who worked for Wells Fargo had to experience reticence in falsifying customer foreclosure documents. I’m betting that a few at the VA Hospital felt sick over falsifying the appointment records of their patients. While I was watching a recent U.S. Congressional hearing regarding the Secret Service, I kept hearing comments along the lines that Congress  had to rely on information from whistle blowers and that the front line professionals seemed to feel safer talking to congressional members versus their direct managers or even upper management.

cartoon-94 lady customer service

I have been trying to figure out why  management would allow this. My best guess is that these “cookie cutter” call centers were originally conceptualized, so those selling them could legitimately promise their customers and businesses significant increase in profits, efficiencies, productivity by streamlining operational activities between the frontline professionals and customers. The thinking of those marketing these systems was that not only could they help a company to earn more revenues but they could easily win the support and buy in of middle management by painting the picture of how much easier it would be to manage the sales force. The call center sales people explained that by measuring standards such as calls per hour and average handling times by agents and by assisting them with standard type sales pitches with tweaks here and there, the sales would follow. The frontline agents would be randomly listened to, audited and coached. Thus, the “cookie cutter” call center marketers almost guaranteed middle managers easily achievable goals of increase in profits as well as the resulting raises, bonuses, and promotions. The “cookie cutter” call center is designed to measure more transactional type of activities versus detailing actual results which means the frontline managers would not be accountable for hard numbers like the quantity of products sold and the amount of revenues produced within a team or department. Altering this status quo would be strongly resisted by middle and frontline management. Over time, supervisors can become complacent and some how they come to justify the steps they take even when they are not acting in a manner consistent with the company’s mission statement which probably includes words like honesty and integrity. These marketers convinced buyers that with their support, training and other assistance, that the customer service satisfaction surveys and the sales results would continue to do well. Now, welcome to planet earth!

great customer service cartoonI can only guess as to how these employees felt about being so micromanaged. I cannot fathom how a reputable company would not feel mortified at creating this type company culture. My guess is that this “cookie cutter call center syndrome” culture has probably evolved over enough time, so that top management may not be aware of how the decrease in employee satisfaction survey ratings; the increase in employee turnover; increase in employee non planned absenteeism; employees out on disability leave due to mental health issues could be associated with the implementation of the typical call center prototype. The employee is not about to step forward to complain even about any serious integrity issue concerns during this current job market downturn. In addition the employees would be so fearful of retaliation; not being assigned plum jobs; not receiving raises; bonuses and decent performance evaluations. In this environment, the employees who do not rock the boat are highly valued as middle management would not want their boat rocked. Those who dare to question or suggest a better way to be productive, will not last. The methods used to accomplish this are discussed extensively in my other blogs. In this culture, any training designed to encourage employees to value the diversity, different thinking styles and the creative input of others is a waste of money as this would be counter to the interests of middle management which would be very much aligned in keeping the status quo. A significant percentage of these employees have to be suffering from work related stress and mental health issues.

imagesLWJQRJLZBully Online is the world’s leading web site on bullying in the workplace and related issues including stress, PTSD and bullying-related suicide. When this web site was started in the United Kingdom, it was inundated with complaints from call center employees. The “cookie cutter” call center is a huge industry in the United Kingdom and Ireland. One of  it’s articles refers to David Oliver, a researcher in Newcastle, northeast England, who reports the following; “the hi-tech software used by most modern call centres allows supervisors to directly compare call length and amount per hour. He states that although this is a useful management tool, it is used by supervisors on the floor of the call center to discuss which staff are better than others. This is discussed openly and meant to induce competitiveness but in reality often leads to undue competition which makes people more stressed when they deal with customers. In many centres there is a poor structure whereby the management (who are mostly competent and well respected) put pressure on the supervisors to increase performance. These supervisors are not professionals; all they do is increase the pressure on the call takers. This increases the stress on the call takers who, due to this stress, underperform. This underperformance is picked up by the managers who again pile on the pressure. It’s this cycle of pressure, David suggests, which leads to unhappiness at all levels and is thus the cause of the high turnover rate.” The site indicates that the turnover rate of these call centers for inbound calls is at a minimum is close to 50%.

THIS IS ALSO HOW THE
THIS IS ALSO HOW THE “COOKIE CUTTER” CALL CENTER CULTURE EVOLVES OVER TIME

As per a Harvard Business Review article, published in May, 2014, titled “Blue Ocean Leadership, the authors describe what future leadership roles in a competitive world  looks like. In one of their leadership programs, they detail the actions of some in the position of frontline leaders.  “In their program study, the future frontline leaders study team called themselves “Cut Through the Crap” which was changed to “Cut Through to Serve Customers.”  “In this profile, frontline leaders did not defer the vast majority of customer queries to middle management and spent less time jumping through procedural hoops. Their time was directed to training frontline personnel to deliver on company promises on the spot, resolve customer problems, quickly help customers in distress, and make meaningful cross sales- leadership acts and activities that fired up the frontline workers, were sure to excite customers, and would have a direct  impact on the company’s bottom line. …Liberate, Coach and Empower” was the tagline for middle management’s to be profile. Here leaders’ time and attention shifted from controlling to supporting employees. This involved eliminating and reducing a range of oversight activities.” This model will make it essential for the competitive successful companies of the future to be able to attract creative, top notch managers and frontline agents. These folks are not likely to be excited about working in the “cookie cutter” call center company which definitely will never be mistaken for the “Blue Ocean Leadership Model of the Future.”

untitled lady screaming

The succumbing to the quick increase in profits by companies implementing the “cookie cutter” call system without any modification is all fools gold.  As soon as the job market significantly improves, the company’s star employees will leave in droves.  Top rated college students and professionals look at certain websites such as “Glass door” and “Indeed.com” to help them in their decisions as to which companies they would have some interest in pursuing for a job. These websites keep track of how current and previous employees feel about their work environment. Most sites are set up so that employees cannot give a lot of positive input to increase the ratings of a company. For example, there is a provision that allows other readers to agree or disagree with any comments. If a positive comment gets one agree and twenty disagrees, this is telling. I did check these websites for a couple of insurance companies that operate a call center as described above and overall the positive comments had a few agrees but the negative comments had many agrees. There is no way that any company who emulates this “call center cookie cutter syndrome” will receive great ratings which means you will not have top notch potential employees knocking on your door.

This is an example from glassdoor.com: “Not the same company, now cookie cutter just like rest of the call center financial firms in Phoenix.

Comp & Benefits -Work/Life Balance- Senior Management-

Culture & Values-Career Opportunities

Former Employee – Anonymous Employee in Phoenix, AZ 

I worked at Charles Schwab full-time (more than 10 years)
Pros

Their insatiable appetite to make decisions based on the bottom line and low level managers being low level across the board forced me to find myself and find a much better way.      CONS                                                                                                                                                                                        Too many to list if you have a soul. Any time spent here will certainly compromise anything positive that you believe in.

Advice to Management

Get a clue….bunch of clowns….people are not stupid or stuck. Leveraging poor job market scare tactics to have their way and think they can make all the rules. Stop hiring people to post all the positive comments on Glassdoor. I’ve been on the inside, I know the truth….it’s a joke but only funny in hindsight. Very sad for the many people that I know still there.                                                                                                                                                                               Doesn’t recommend  Helpful (6)

 imagesN6N5X0WW process issue ..why more customers leaving

In addition, you will not have an inkling as to which agents consistently give out accurate and complete information or who  takes the time required to satisfactorily resolve any issues whenever possible during the initial call. You will not have tracking to be able to detail which agents return promised follow up calls. All of the above examples cost your companies real monies via dissatisfied customers who decide not to purchase your products; start doubting the integrity and branding of the company; start checking out competitors  instead of solely being loyal to your company. Please do not allow your company to be a lemming by continuing to enable these call center marketers without requesting some customization and adjustments as to their business analytics to account for the above described activities.

RELATED ARTICLES:

1.)Does corporate culture drive financial performance? – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/does-corporateculture-drive-financial-perfor…

2.)Stupefying Statements from the CRM Call CenterForbes www.forbes.com/…/5-stupefying-statements-from-the-crm-callce

3.)From Call Center Agent To Zappos’ Life Coach Forbes www.forbes.com/…/from-callcenter-agent-to-zappos-executive-th…

4.)A Story Of Poor Customer Service And How To Fix It – Forbes www.forbes.com/…/a-common-problem-a-story-of-poor-custome

5.)How American Express Transformed Its Call CentersHarvard blogs.hbr.org/…/american-express-how-we-tran…

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