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Staggering incompetence in the call centre – a case study in poor CEM

It’s not often that we refer to bad experiences by naming the offending party, but since customer experience management (CEM) is attracting so much attention these days, it’s worth highlighting a recent encounter with Vodafone.

We’re Vodafone customers and have been for years. Recently, I called Vodafone to try to set up another couple of new accounts. To do this, I used the short-cut code and reached the call centre. Evidently, it was a busy time, so the IVR system told me that there was a lengthy queue and invited me to use a callback facility. To access this, I had to enter my security code and confirm the number on which I wanted to be called. So far so good.

But when the callback arrived, I was connected to someone who immediately asked me for my Vodafone number. I wondered why he couldn’t see it, having been connected to me through the ACD making an outbound call. In order for this to have happened, the system must have known the number to dial and, in the event that I had used a different number from that of my mobile, surely the CRM would have checked first and found that I was using the same number? Evidently not. He couldn’t see my number, nor could he see the CRM. This meant I had to revalidate myself – and explain the nature of my enquiry, despite having selected relevant options in the original IVR menu. Then, having run through a couple of questions, I was forwarded to someone else, who could, apparently, handle the enquiry.

On being connected, this agent immediately asked me a question. To my surprise, she asked me, once again, for the phone number for this account. Her next question? “Can you tell me the second and third digits of your security pin?”

Gah! This is wrong in so many ways. First, I had already validated myself on the initial call. Perhaps they might confirm this, but in any event, there should be a CRM that enables agents to correlate data to avoid repeating the same steps. Second, why on earth isn’t data passed between agents? When they handover calls, surely the screens in front of them should be updated with details of the call in progress? Third, the callback system is nice, but it sets expectations. You don’t expect to have to repeat processes, pass on details for calls that have already been logged by choices in the IVR menus, and so on. Needless to say, I didn’t complete the transaction.

Doesn’t Vodafone associate data? Doesn’t it care about presenting information between agents and matching it with accounts? What a shower. We know how easy it is to make this kind of thing work easily. For a tier one provider to have such a disjointed, infuriating system is really quite shocking. CEM is a big term. It refers to many practices and processes that affect customers – from when you buy a service to when you close it, and all points in between. Operators, such as Vodafone, need to really think about this, because it’s so easy to annoy customers by failing to get the basics right.

We talk a great deal about network quality. This is a huge factor, of course, but so too are less frequent encounters, such as when you call a service centre. Here, CEM really matters – whether, like me, you were trying to buy something or not. I’m looking at other providers for the new accounts now, but this is not rocket science. In fact, it’s much easier to address these kind of service issues than it is to build a network. All Vodafone needs is a decent CRM and an ACD that ensures information is presented, correlated and associated with relevant business processes. Mind you, what really got my goat was the text I received shortly after finishing the call, asking me to complete a customer satisfaction survey. Friends on Facebook will have seen my response.

CEM may be flavour of the month and will likely be a key theme in 2015, but it’s time operators started to think about things from a customer’s perspective. Network and handset performance is one thing, but poor service in the call centre is just as important. Operators must not forget that there are multiple touch points in the customer experience. They need to understand how to tune each of them, so that customers are not inconvenienced, are not frustrated and are able to complete the enquiries they make successfully.