$700 Billion can
buy a lot of Call Center Time
David Butler, Executive
Director, National Association of Call Centers,
I believe the proposed
$700 billion US government financial bailout plan has
specific implications for the call center industry. Many
large financial firms within the United States have
bundled mortgages on their books. Because the mortgages
are bundled, it is unclear what percent of these loans
are good, which are borderline and which are bad. This
plan would have the US government purchase these bundled
mortgagees from the financial services companies to
clean up their books, and start to make money available
again. In short, take away the bad; leave them with the
good, so they can start to write good loans again to
people like you and me.
So what does the government do with all of these bundled
mortgages they bought? Well, they hire management
companies, many of which are existing financial services
companies, to find out what is good, borderline, and bad
in the purchase. Each mortgage will have to be examined
independently, and there are millions of these things
all bundled into various groups. Once unbundled, the
good assets will be resold and the others will have to
go through a process known as "loan workout" where the
new owner (US federal government) will contact the
mortgage holder and try to work out a deal. This deal
may include refinancing the loan or changing the loan to
new terms. These loan "workouts" will take one-on-one
interaction with many of the mortgage holders. What
would be the most efficient means to contacting millions
of customers with these mortgages and working with them
on their loans? Hmmm, let's see, maybe a centralized
location with a bunch of agents who are trained and
educated on these workout programs? Maybe a few large
call centers around the country? Yep, that is my best
guess. When all of the high level negotiations are over
and the rhetoric has died down, some companies are going
to contract with the US federal government to manage and
workout these loans, put them in good standing, for
later auction back to financial institutions. They will
use call centers primarily to accomplish this contact
and negotiation task.
So, call centers will be at the center of this process;
that is my bet. One of the challenges is that bad
decisions by key people helped to create this crisis to
begin with. How does the government avoid hiring
financial services companies that may make the same bad
decisions again? Accountability and oversight is the
answer, or at least the current answer that is being
talked about. The industry has shown poor
decision-making in the past, and this cannot be
replicated when the US government acquires the assets
since this would just multiply the problems. So, we at
the National Association of Call Centers would like to
offer our services, expertise, and advice to all the
companies seeking a part of what will be large
management contracts for the loan workouts. We would
like to partner with you to help you become the leading
company with accountability, best practices, and
assurance that the American taxpayer's money will be
used wisely in attempting to extract as much value for
the $700 Billion possible. Our knowledge, research,
non-profit status and connection with the Call Center
Research Laboratory makes us the perfect independent
partner to help you succeed in securing one of these
Artists Fool Americans
David Butler, Executive
Director, National Association of Call Centers,
"Telephone scammers in
Canada love Americans. They also have found that some of
us are incredibly easy to fool" is how the news story
starts out. It appears that some con artists in Canada
have found a way to call grandparents in the US and
pretend they are a grandchild in trouble in Canada.
After talking as the grandchild for a minute or so, they
then hand the phone to the "bailiff" who tells them how
to wire the money to the grandchild in Canada so they
can be released from jail and come home. These con
artists have earned from $1000-$6500 per set of
grandparents the article says. By the time the
grandparents follow up with the grandchild to be sure
they have made it home safely, the con artists have
taken the wired money and are long gone.
To add insult to
injury, those that pay up are often called back and
asked for more money to pay for hospital bills or a car
wreck using the same technique. Since this is an
international crime it is very hard to track.
Interestingly, the Canadians have an Anti-Fraud Call
Centre, known as PhoneBusters, to handle such
At present no one knows
how these scammers are getting the name and contact
information for the grandparents and grandchildren in
order to succeed in their ill gotten gains.
Art Coombs, CEO, KomBea
Many companies offer
scripting tools for call-center agents and the use of
these tools is expanding. This is a positive step for
our industry, but it is not the "end" solution. We must
guard against thinking scripts alone are going to fix
process adherence, call resolution, C-Sat or handle time
problems. This essay is a script.as in prescription.for
leveraging scripting tools.
The collection of improvement methodologies known as the
Toyota Production System is the driving force behind the
staggering improvements witnessed globally in
manufacturing. A Harvard Business Review article
entitled, "Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production
System (TPS)", outlined the four key rules that were
critical to the success of TPS. The first rule was, "All
work shall be highly specified as to content, sequence,
timing and outcome." The degree of specificity in
manufacturing can be analyzed at a level of exactly how
many turns should be used to tighten a screw.
This level of specificity is not the case in call
centers. not by a long shot. The between-agent
variability in call metrics is jaw-dropping. Just pick a
single call type and ask agents, monitors, and trainers
how exactly it should be done and often you will find
alarming disagreements in how they each think the call
should be handled. Knowing this alone, is there really
any wonder why we see the variability in output measures
we currently observe in our call centers?
Scripting what the agents are supposed to do and say on
a call is a step in the right direction. But once you
have the script, you have to make sure agents follow it
and that the scripting is continuously improved. And
this is often where scripts fall short.
Here are some of the reasons agents don't follow the
scripts they have been given.
.The scripts are wrong or outdated, so the agents
rightly ignore them.
.Agents often believe they know how to handle a given
situation better than the scripts.
.Agents eventually memorize the scripts, so they don't
notice additions or changes.
.Agents that memorize often believe getting it "idea"
perfect is good enough.
.Agents are under pressure to lower AHT, so they skip
key parts of the scripts.
.Agents struggle with desktop limitations, so they don't
open scripting tools to free up more RAM and desktop
real estate for other applications.
When agents do not follow the script, process
consistency and accuracy quickly evaporate.
Here are three suggestions for driving up script
1) Show agents the performance link between following
the scripts and call metrics. If you have built the
scripts correctly, agents who follow them should have
better C-Sat, FCR, cross-sells, quality compliance and
AHT. If they understand this linkage and you reward for
output measure performance, script usage and adherence
will increase. If sticking to the script does not lead
to higher metrics, the script needs rewriting.
2) Pre-record sections of the call that you want the
agents to get exactly right and allow them to play the
recordings during the call. This helps in multiple ways:
.The customer gets a clear voice and accent issues are
dramatically reduced or eliminated
.You know what the customer is hearing is exactly
.You can instantly know whether the agents are playing
the required recordings on the required calls.
.You can control the words spoken, the order spoken, and
3)Establish a Conversational Process-engineering
function. Call center leaders need a new role on their
team responsible for the performance of every call type
the center undertakes. This role is focused on improving
the process, not the agents. If call performance is not
at the desired level, it is up to the process
engineering team to study, engineer, and continuously
improve the call flow until the metrics are where they
need to be.
While the industry has made positive strides in
improving call quality with the use of scripting tools,
we can not stop our quest for continuous conversational
improvement. Scripting tools are only a first step-
applying tried and tested Continuous Process Improvement
(CPI) methodologies are the steps which will lead us to
the next level of providing better service for our
customers and shareholders.
Call Center Comics
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Copyright 2008 National Association of Call Centers