Don't you believe it: 'Your call is important to us'

I've used all the hours I've spent on hold over the past few years to deduce the design principles of the typical call centre.

by Alastair Dryburgh
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Here they are - if I'd been Mozart I could have written several symphonies and a concerto in the same amount of time.

Minimise call duration. That's why Dell once sent out an engineer five times and still didn't fix my PC. The operator couldn't admit it was really a software issue because it would have taken him too long to sort it out on the phone, so he offloaded it onto someone else. Five visits costs the firm a lot more, but that's not his problem.

Hyperspecialisation. Management's assumption is that operators are so dumb that if they learn how to do a change of address on the system they can't possibly be expected to handle a billing query too. I don't believe this for a moment, and it adds to the work. Now staff spend lots of time transferring calls which have come through to the wrong section, rather than sorting the issue out themselves.

Pare cost to the bone, to hell with the customer. This misses the point that loyal, happy customers are a business's key asset. Annoying them with dysfunctional call centres is a good way of vaporising that asset. Worst of all, customers know you're giving lousy service because you want to. You have sophisticated IT to tell you how many people are waiting more than five minutes, or who rings off in despair. You have queuing theory to tell you how to plan staff levels.

Why use all this clever stuff to create what amounts to a huge 'We Don't Care' sign and destroy value in the business?

- Alastair Dryburgh is chief contrarian at Akenhurst Consultants. Read more at

Strategy Misc

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