Having lived in Asia continuously for the past eight years, I have learnt much about the respective cultures of this unique part of the world. In particular, I have learnt the ancient and treasured South East Asian virtue of patience. Indonesians, for example, are seemingly and comparatively patient by design, whereas I’ve never truly regarded patience as virtuous. In my mind, “hurry the heck up” should be awarded more prestige and honor. So, you can imagine this has been a journey of self-discovery and learning for me, especially as a life-long self-diagnosed sufferer of ADD. Now, what I was talking about?
Oh yeah, Asia. It only takes a single phone call to an Indonesian, Vietnamese, or Thai contact center, for one to realize, like Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy, that you are no longer in Kansas anymore. Take for example this morning’s follow up call to the Indonesian branch of my international bank. After providing the customer service officer (CSO) with my mother’s maiden name, my date of birth, my cell phone number, my Zodiac sign, and whether or not I preferred pina coladas indoors or exposed to inclement weather, I was placed on hold for the ensuing five minutes. When she returned, she asked how it was she could help me. Before answering that, however, I asked her why I had been placed on hold and for that duration. She replied apologetically, “Oh, I had to answer another call. Many of our staff came in late because World Cup keeps them up to the early hours.” I laughed out loud. But inside, another piece of me died.
I told her the reason I was calling – to follow up on an earlier query which related to a suspicious transaction on my last card statement. Normally, a charge of $22.95 would slip my attention, but the debit was for a pair of Crocs. Therefore, I knew it to be fraudulent.
The CSO sounded attentive, repeating everything I had told her and upon reminding her that this was my second call on the matter, she placed me on hold again. Seven minutes later she returned saying that she’d have to transfer me to their Card Protection Division.
“I just want to know where things are since I reported this to you two days ago” I said, but she assured me that the Card Protection Division was handling the case.
Slightly irritated, I thanked her for her help and was once again forced to listen to the elevator music that had tortured me now for the last 12 minutes.
The repetitive melody was broken by a conscientious lady who introduced herself as a member of the Card Protection team – and then, to my shock and dismay, she proceeded to ask me for the ‘precise’ reason for my call.
When I asked if her colleague had not inform her of the reason of my call she replied that she was aware that I had some concerns around a card transaction, but she wanted to know the specifics… “You know, when did it happen? – the date, the time, the place, the amount…”
“This is actually my second call about this matter” I said.
“Oh really?” she exclaimed “…Who did you speak to before? …actually, can you give me your full name and account number again…”
In the end, I just hung up – preferring to be the benefactor of some fraudsters footwear purchase, rather than endure more Indonesian on-hold pop music. Sure, I am now $23 worst off but at least I’m not the one sporting a pair of canary yellow Crocs. A small victory to me, at least in my mind!
Now, I could pass off today’s customer experience with the time old apology of ‘that’s just the way it is around here’, and it would be easy to do so. But the bank in question is not just a local company; it’s one of the biggest global financial institutions in the world. So, the question becomes why should I expect lower service standards with the same company in Jakarta than I would in London?
Surprisingly, the answer to that has nothing to do with cross cultural behaviors and norms, but everything to do with technological investment, or a lack thereof. If the CSO in question was adequately equipped with just three readily available technologies, she’d have handled my call efficiently and I’d be feeling validated for making my original decision to choose this bank. Here’s what this bank’s contact center is missing:
1. Intelligent desktop
There are a couple ways of describing an intelligent desktop. One concept is purely driven by efficiency: reducing the number of screens that agents must navigate. From the desktop, agents should be able to access a range of features including work lists, performance FAQs and search facilities.
A common source of inefficiency in the contact center is when agents are faced with an enforced navigation through different systems and multiple screens in order to fulfill a customer request. Naturally, this has a negative effect on agent productivity, which in turn affects the customer, who is forced to experience a longer interaction than necessary. Moreover, performing repetitive or duplicate tasks on multiple screens increases process errors, leads to low agent motivation and ultimately, employee attrition.
2. Case Handling
A significant portion of the work within any contact center is dedicated to handling the tasks that need to be done to complete a customer enquiry that cannot be completed at the first point of contact. Often, tasks require collaboration between several people, including specialist resources within different part of an organization.
The use of advanced case-handling software ultimately benefits customers by providing them with the satisfaction of having their specific cases dealt with more swiftly and by increasing first contact resolution. Further, it improves customer experience by ensuring the contact center has greater access to detailed information about the status of a case, rather than simply stating “It’s being processed.”
3. Work Management
Contact centers are environments where activity ebbs and flows. When agents aren’t on the phone, dealing directly with an impatient customer such as myself, they are usually needed to manage e-mails, documents, or outbound marketing campaigns. The challenge lies in orchestrating such activities in such a dynamic environment, and this is again an area where technology makes the difference.
A work management tool will help an organization to effectively manage these offline requests and thus truly integrate a company’s end-to-end customer-facing processes all the way from its frontline staff to its back-office specialists.
Don’t ever let it be said again, that things are just done different around here.
This blog was also featured on 121media’s Think Customers Blog on July 13, 2010