Failed Escalation

In a call centre, as in many institutions, there is a gap between policy and practice. This gap is called “logic”. It is what separates them from the animal kingdom. 

A simplified Call Centre Transfer Policy might look something like this:

Transfer policy - fairly simple, right?

Until a few years ago, the implementation of this policy looked something like this:

A historic look at call centre transfer policy

Thanks to the fine people at Microsoft, Dell and the guy who invented the abacus, technology intervened. Policy implementation now looks like this:

It has bells, whistles, automated voices and questionable hold music to boot. Unfortunately, what it lacks is a way to get the caller from the 1-800 number to the department they need to be speaking with.

If it is really as bad as all this, one may wonder why have call centres at all? Why can’t companies answer their own gosh-darn telephones. After doing some research, I reached the obvious answer: with the amount of escalated calls (call centre lingo for “passing the buck”), somewhere along the line, an actual flesh-and-blood manager may have to pick up the phone. We can’t have that, can we? We need our managers and CEO’s out there where they belong – on the putting greens.

Let me quickly loosen my tongue from my cheek. Ah, that’s better. Actually, the sad truth is that some companies just don’t know how to resolve customer issues over the phone.  It’s not so much that they lack the people skills (although this is sometimes the case), it’s that answering the phone is just one aspect of their job, and one that is not exactly welcomed.  Here is one such example:

Reception: ABC Company. Marg speaking.
Kash:     Yes, I would like to speak to someone about a repair that was done yesterday.
Reception: Just a moment, I’ll put you through to our repairs desk.
Accounts:  Accounts, Debra speaking.
Kash:      Accounts? Hmmm. Can you please put me through to the repairs desk?
Accounts:  One moment, please.
Reception: ABC Company. Marg speaking
Kash:  Me again. You put me through to accounting. Please transfer me to your repair desk.
Reception: Oh, sorry, our repair person must be on lunch.
Kash:      It’s 10:30!
Reception: Oh, I mean tea break.
Kash:  Can I speak to the manager, please.
Reception: One moment, please.
Accounts:  Accounts, Debra speaking.
Kash:      Debra, please put me through to your manager.
Accounts:  One moment, please.
Manager’s Office: Hello?
Kash:      Hi, is this the manager?
Manager’s Office: No, this is Moses. I am dusting the phone.

And so Alexander Graham Bell turns in his grave.

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