Call Centers: Are They Your Firm’s Commitment To Failure?

At one time the single word Lubyanka was enough to bring normal Russians to their knees in terror.  Lubyanka is known best for being the headquarters of the Soviet secret police.  The basement of Lubyanka housed a prison which contained one hundred and eleven cells, cells used to hold and interrogate political prisoners during Russia’s purge.

Tea was provided to the prisoners twice each day.  Each prisoner would place their teapot outside the cell. A prisoner, carrying a pail filled with tea, would pour tea from the pail into the teapot.

Tea spilled on to the floor.  The prisoner who poured the tea would clean the spilt tea with a rag.

Lubyanka’s prison operated for twenty-seven years.  Tea was served to the one hundred and eleven cells and spilled in front of each cell twice a day, seven hundred and thirty times a year.

Two million, one hundred eighty eight thousand spills.  The same number of cleanups.

Someone somewhere made the decision that it was easier or cheaper to spill the tea and sop it up 2,188,000 times than it was to make pails with spouts on them.

What are the pails in your company?  What dumb, wasteful, redundant activities and processes have been left unchanged?

The most obvious one for most companies is call centers.

People must believe it easier to take 2,188,000 calls each year about its bills than it is to fix the bills.  It is easier to take 2,188,000 calls each year about the bills than it is to eliminate bills.  The same argument can be applied to most of the other broken business processes that cause customers to call.

And do you know where the fallacy in the argument is?  The fallacy comes from the erroneous belief that by having a call center, by answering calls you are actually providing your customers a service.  Most customers never want to call any company they do business with.  Simply being forced to call means one of every four callers considers finding a new company to call.

Answering customer calls can hardly be described as offering a service. All you are doing is wiping up spilt tea.  If you want to really provide your customers with a service, fix whatever is making them call.

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