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Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, February 23, 2005 9:28 AM
Why Can't They Get This Right?
Kevin Salwen on Business

I called the credit-card payment center of a major department store this morning to check on an account balance. Before putting me on hold -- for 18 minutes -- several recorded messages cautioned me:
-- 'Due to high call volume, you may experience significant delays.' (Translation: Because we understaff our call center, you should wait.)
-- 'For best service, you should consider calling Wednesday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.' (I was calling, um, this morning, Wednesday, at 10 minutes after 9.)

My favorite (I'm not making this up): The music on the recording was Billy Joel's 'Honesty.' ('Honesty, is such a lonely word; everyone is so untrue...')

Is it that hard to get a call center right? Maybe start with the recordings.


Curt Rosengren - 2/25/2005 1:36:32 AM
The thing that gets my goat more than any of the bad music or stupid messages is when I get put on hold and they start subjecting me to ads for the company. Makes me want to scream. I hold the phone away from my ear, but I keep having to check to make sure the voice on the phone isn't somebody FINALLY on the line to help me.
genevieve - 2/25/2005 1:11:49 AM
Honesty for 18 minutes! is pretty rough, isn't it.
Randy - 2/24/2005 12:44:25 PM
The practically ubiquitous call center problem is symptomatic of a larger malaise within the corporate world: no one has actually bothered to think about the user's experience. And that's becoming increasingly unacceptable, because the user is the one who ultimately keeps the company in business (or not). The call center powers-that-be are too lazy or uncreative to actually make a call and see what it's like themselves. Instead, they just do what they've always done, which involves installing a series of inane, disembodied and soulless voice messages, usually accompanied by oldies or some awful new age smooth jazz, that have little or nothing to do with the reality that the caller is experiencing (as Kevin Salwen and many of us can attest). Sitting on hold and being forced to listen to those stupid voice messages--not to mention the insipid music--is almost enough to make one question the long-term viability of capitalism. For crying out loud, America, let's do something creative about the growing disconnect between your call centers and your customers! In this experience-oriented economy, driving users toward substance abuse with your phone scenarios is not a good business move.
Kevin - 2/23/2005 4:53:20 PM
Oooh, we're getting marvelously metaphysical here!
Mindwalker - 2/23/2005 4:45:07 PM

I once heard there was a software company that actually had a live DJ playing tunes while you waited on hold. You'd hear him/her say, 'We have 3 people on hold today for XYZ Department and 2 on hold for the ABC Department. To make their wait a little easier, we're going to go back to the 60's with this tune from Frankie Valli...'

I apologize that I don't recall the name of the firm. It sounds like an amazing and wonderful way to make the wait a little easier.

p.s. I like the guided meditation bit. 'Let go of your preconceptions that it's your fault ... or our fault. When your computer endures a virus, the universe sighs and endures with it.'
kate - 2/23/2005 3:41:34 PM
A few hold options I think would be vastly superior to 'Honesty' or Muzak (think these are both inhumane):

-Collection of jokes (perhaps the 100 best 'walked into a bar's?)
-'Book of Questions' style queries ('If you could only take three things to a desert island would one of them be the item you're calling about?')
-Guided meditation ('You are entering a state of tranquility...your computer is still broken, but it doesn't really matter.')

Seriously, someone has to be doing this right, or at least creatively. It's such a huge part of the user experience and could potentially reap a lot of benefits at a minimal cost.
kurt - 2/23/2005 11:47:44 AM
recently i setup dsl for my mom and dad, i've been a longtime earthlink user, and tried sbc yahoo because of their location.

i was amazed how quickly i spoke with a competent live human, SBC was incredible. the experience memorable, they're service perfect.

Earthlink's performance is at best spotty.

10 minutes of mandatory IVR prompting and queue wait time,

when a live individual contacts you (contact center, sounds like football) the quality and competency you get can vary greatly.

i've had incompetent 1st line, in india and the philipines, and amazing super techs.... but i still have to wade through 10 minutes of wasted time before anything happens. and whenever i need call, i'm always hestitant cause the experience is so inconsistent.

and the kernel essense is earthlinks service and service model seems set at a much lower bar.
time to vote with the feet.
Laura Bergells - 2/23/2005 11:20:05 AM
Ooooh, you struck a nerve.

My pet peeve this year was 'Please listen carefully, as our menu items have changed.'

If their message had truly changed, then why was I experiencing the same old run-around? Starting out a customer service relationship with a lie is bad marketing.

And worse, the company has trained me not to listen to them. How's that for messaging & branding?


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