The Monument Part 2

I wrote about monuments.

Perhaps a 500 seat call centre is a monument. We have them to optimise efficiency (occupancy and productivity), they are hugely expensive to own and because of their scale they become inflexible.

It isn’t easy to change agent training or the front end telephony for a 500 seat call centre.

Does all the efficiency get in the way of effectiveness?

Comments

  1. Jason Morris says:

    I don’t know about this one. Having all your reps in one place can be a lot easier to manage than having them fragmented in multiple locations. With one location you have the opportunity for everyone to get the same training, whereas with multiple branches, each one will naturally tend to develop its own local culture and processes, which then fragments the customer experience and could lead to power struggles between branches regarding which ‘culture’ should become the official one.

    Another advantage to a single center is the sense of affiliation. I recently noticed this at my company. We have two primary offices in the U.S.; a national headquarters and a national customer service center. Recently there was a visit by the president of the company (complete w/ town hall meetings) to the national headquarters, but not the customer service center. I won’t ascribe motivations or reasons as to why, just sufficient to note that it would have been a non-issue were we all in the same location.

    Now, consolidation has its costs as well; larger offices require larger buildings, and larger buildings are typically found in larger cities and in pricier real estate districts. And any time you move, you always shed employees who aren’t willing to relocate, and you have no control over whether your best or worst employees will be the ones left behind.

    • James Lawther says:

      Thanks for the comment Jason, I think you make some very valid points (and I sincerely hope your president isn’t still your president)

      The issue I was trying to raise was this:

      Do you have a large call centre because your customers want one, or do you have a large call centre because it is the most “efficient” way of dealing with your customers, and if so in who’s eyes is it efficient? Your general managers or your customers?

      Then, once you have made such a huge investment how does it modify your future activities (e.g. do you drive spurious sales calls into it to keep agents occupied?)

      t is just a question of what an organisation is optimising around.

      Having said all of that the company I work for has 10 different operations centres and I do spend most of my life travelling.

      JL

  2. Jason Morris says:

    Good question about what to do when workload falls and reps aren’t fully utilized.

    I’m sure that each industry has its own unique circumstances, but for our Customer Service Center, where we service primarily customers who have existing service contracts with us, I’m trying to advocate (not sure though if anyone’s actually listening…) for a transition from being a “receiving department” for problems to more of a relationship management role. The idea would be for reps to check in on customers, answer questions, teach customers tricks to be more productive when working with us and our systems, solicit business, etc. It’s not a true/pure ‘Sales’ role, and it’s not a true/pure Customer Service role either, but something of a hybrid that’s maybe more akin to a concierge? Under this model, it seems to me that Customer Service could stop being a cost and actually generate income.

    If you have a Cust Svc. Center doing the traditional model of service, and you’re caught unprepared for a drop in calls, you have basically 3 options, right? 1) Pay employees to sit idle, 2) Scramble to switch roles and turn them into temporary call outbound to try to make sales (customers will wonder why you’re suddenly being so friendly, and reps will not be prepared for the role shift), or 3) Lay off employees – losing trained agents (and training $) in the process.

    It seems to me the hybrid role should be much more stable. Instead of idleness, layoffs or dramatic role shifts, you just shift resources a little (from the inbound side to the outbound side). With the processors they use in computers, when they talk about utilization they talk in terms of clock cycles. The basic idea of a clock cycle is that its sort of like the work that the processor can do in one work shift (though technically the processor may be doing millions of ‘work shifts’ per second). Unused clock cycles, so to speak, are kind of a wasted resource. With a hybrid role, you minimize wasted ‘clock cycles’, since there is not much waiting around for calls to come in, and not much waiting around for someone to call.

    One difficulty in implementing something like this is that Sales and Customer Service are traditionally in separate silos, with sometimes minimal crossover and interaction. There isn’t an existing dept. that thinks along the lines of a hybrid role, so the danger would be that Sales would try to make it a Sales position, and that Customer Service would try to make it a Customer Service position. In this case, its not black or white you’re looking for, but a particular shade of grey. You might have to work really hard to keep people at higher levels from screwing things up, because the ruts that people think in are pretty well worn, and the space between not very well explored.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.

  3. James Lawther says:

    Either way (and I think we agree) the best place to be is where you are meeting your customers needs (be that CRM, call mitigation or sales) rather than trying to optimise the occupancy of an expensive call centre.

    Thank you very much for your thoughts, I appreciate them

    JL

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