Bad Call Centers – What’s the Real Problem?

I just read an article on about the decline of quality in call centers over the last 10 years.

Why is this the case? I mean, if CRM products are getting simpler to use, and less expensive, the call center numbers should be on the upswing right?

Not necessarily.

As we all know, a CRM system is NOT a magic bullet. And many call center use “CRM” for simple things like call routing, screen pops, etc. They may know who they are talking to, but nothing else about that customer. Also, with outsourcing and other disconnects, a deep understanding of the customer history at first point of contact becomes difficult.

I would like to think that wikis and other knowledgebase tools are getting more prevalent, which allow even the novice call center agent to access great support and resolution information.

Also, i think the true era of customer self-service is just beginning. Not a lot of companies have fully operational portals up and running. Once we see more portal-based self-service scenarios, instead of forcing every customer with a question or issue to the phone, numbers in call centers will improve.

I think we’ll also see how the whole web 2.0 model helps this scenario – with a much greater preference for finding information from peers and online – self-service scenarios should be more prevalent as well.

I think that apart form the technology side, a cultural issue is at the heart of these poor numbers. So many times,support agents are considered low level employees and do not feel like valuable contributors to the organization in the grand scheme of things. This is a mistake. Companies need to do two things better with call center agents: Let them know they are very important “front line” members of a team that are responsible for customer loyalty and overall profitability; and also equip these agents with the right tools to create loyal, happy customers.

A CRM system can do a lot of things, working magic to push an amazing amount of data and intelligence to a call center user. But if the origins of CRM – service with a smile – do not come across in a call agent’s voice, all the technology in the world cannot salvage the potential damage of that interaction.