Vivaldi: bad for business

... but not as bad as poor call centre management, says Alexander McNabb.

  • E-Mail
By  Alexander McNabb Published  March 29, 2007

My bank plays snatches of Vivaldi's Four Seasons while its phone banking service skips from menu to menu.

So you get to "Press one for account balance"... "laaaalaalaalalalaa"... "Press two to make a payment"... "laaaalaalaalalalaa"... "Press three to confirm you're slowly being driven mad"...

They also play Abba's ‘The Winner Takes It All' when they put you on hold. This is usually when the guy you're talking to is confused about your complaint that they've lost your money, burned your house down, shredded your birth certificate or done one of those other amusing things that banks here tend to do. You really need to hear ‘The Winner Takes it All' right then.

I've pointed this out to them, but they just laugh lightly as if I'm their most amusing customer.

Here's an example of a popular peeve with many call management systems: "We're sorry to keep you waiting, your call is important to us, but we are busy helping other customers right now."

Does that get your goat? It certainly gets mine - I want access to someone now. And if my call was truly important, you'd have it answered. The very fact this announcement is playing at all is, surely, a potent message of dismissal to the customer. That message, a slice of white noise because the radio tuner's gone off station and a long list of irrelevant menu choices being read out later, followed by a few minutes on hold listening to how wonderful the company that's making you wait is, you might just be getting through to a human.

It's funny how the game of consequences can sometimes provide the solution to these things. A high staff turnover in the call centre can be cured by analysing things like the way in which customer calls are treated, for instance. You see, if you shake up every upset customer like a wasp in a bottle, chances are your staff are spending 60% of each day placating bitterly angry people. And that's not a nice thing to have to do.

As customers we don't actually want to have to call up and shout at someone, as a bank or a telephone company (or any other customer facing organisation) you really don't want to be constantly annoying your customers and losing good staff because the job of dealing with those customers sucks. So why continue with the daft practises?

It is, as Toyah Wilcox so sagely tells us, a mystery.

Smart call centre management, clear communication and well planned 'interactive voice response' systems can really produce great results: cost reductions, faster time to response in the majority of cases and the focusing of smart, empowered resources on those nasty 5% of responses where it isn't simple and straightforward.

There's also a strong and growing case for companies to invest not just money but skill and competence in these things. And perhaps, just perhaps, call centre managers might take up the salutary practice of actually calling their own services to see what it's like for the customer.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code