Do you know how your customers are being treated?

Meeting with a potential client last week for a customer service improvement project, I asked if they monitored their staff’s phone calls. The response was what I hear from 95% of my clients.

“No.”

When I asked why not, there was some stumbling and fumbling and the bottom line was they hadn’t thought of it.

If you aren’t periodically monitoring your people’s customer service calls, here’s a compelling story for why you should.

phone disconnectA Des Moines Register article recently revealed that Nationwide Mutual Insurance fired five customer service reps who routinely hung up on policyholders trying to file claims after fires, traffic accidents or other events covered by their insurance policies.

One of the workers was found to have hung up on 34 percent of her callers. Another hung up on 8 percent of callers; one hung up on about 50 policyholders over a two-week period.

Why did these reps do this?

1) Feeling put upon. One felt justified in routinely hanging up on policyholders other company representatives transferred to her. “I didn’t think it was fair that they could keep transferring all of their work over to us,” she stated. “So when I would see on the phone that it was a transfer from them, I would just hang up.”

2) Bump job stats. Another hung up to boost her job-performance statistics.

3) Selfish thinking. “I didn’t think about the fact that it could be someone that was needing help right then and there, that their daughter may have just got in an accident and was in the hospital and they were needing help. I wasn’t really thinking about the customer. I was thinking about myself and my stats.”

How could this happen?

1) Little accountability. Although the Nationwide spokeswoman said the company regularly monitors workers’ performance, obviously not enough.

2) Measuring the wrong things. Reps reported they hung up to increase their job stats. So number of calls taken and average talk time were probably part of what they monitored. It appears no one had the job of listening in periodically to the calls to see what was happening. Which would be especially important if you saw a lot of the talk times were in seconds. You’d scratch your head and wonder why that was. Then you’d listen in and hear “click, click, click.” You’d then know something was amiss.

3) No feedback. If you don’t know that your folks are doing anything wrong, how can you coach them? You can’t. Someone was asleep at the wheel.

4) Hiring the wrong people. Part of the hiring process is ensuring you get people who care about other people. That’s also why you have a probationary period. While someone can be on their best behavior in an interview and for a few months, their true nature often comes out before the end of the sixth month. I’m betting these reps showed their true colors before they became permanent employees. Or if they were transferred from within the company, best to monitor them as if they are a new employee. And one would think that with these attitudes, they’d be complaining to others. Where were their supervisors to hear their comments and step up their supervision?

The question for you: Are you paying close enough attention to how your customers are being treated? If not, why not? Excuses like, “We’d get complaints if they did that,” or “We don’t have enough time to monitor,” or “We trust our reps.” These make sense on the surface. And I bet Nationwide said them all at one time.

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One Comment on “Do you know how your customers are being treated?”


  1. Rebecca, You struck upon such a critical issue. By monitoring the customer experience businesses will avoid the unintended consequences AND the customer service providers receive the feedback they need to increase their professional development. Thanks for this great article!


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