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Friday, 7 May 2010

Poorly equipped agents: wasting my time

Just took a call from my phone provider that reinforced how giving agents the tools to do their job can make a massive difference. The conversation went something like this

Agent Hello, I’m just calling to make sure you are on the right tariff. Can I ask, what time of day do you make most calls, do you phone mobiles or overseas?
Me (not really concentrating) Mainly call in the evenings, weekends. Phone Australia every few weeks, some mobile calls.
Agent How much do you spend roughly per month?
Me I don’t know off-hand. Hang on, shouldn’t you know all this? Do you have access to your billing system?
Agent Yes – I can see you are on tariff X.
Me (surprised) But can’t you see how much I spend or what on?
Agent No, I don’t have access to that part of the system. But can I tell you what tariffs we have?
Me (lost interest) Don’t have time now – can you email something to me, or point me at them on the web site?
Agent Sorry sir we are a phone only call centre.
Me I don’t have time for this at the moment. I’ll look on line.
[mental note to self – check out their tariffs and consider that move you were thinking about].

So ... I was initially well disposed to getting a call to check I wasn’t paying too much. But because the agent was put in the position of not having the right information or to be able to deal with me in the way I wanted, the net result was to encourage me to consider switching provider.
Because I spend a lot of my time talking to people in and around call centres, I can imagine there were lots of reasons for this that made “sense” at the time – such as that this team of agents can’t have access to the billing system because if contains sensitive information, or that agents generally don’t have email provided to them for all sorts of sensible concerns about managing channels of communication. However, the presumably unintended consequence is that the call to me had a pretty negative impact. This is unfortunate as it wouldn’t have been that much effort to mash up the solution the agent needed, giving them easy, safe access to suitably cut down applications and relevant information at the right point in the call
I’m sure there are better examples out there – would be good to hear about them.

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