Call Center Mistakes
Call Center Mistakes Back to Letters

Please read this if you have a call center or if you work in one.

If you don't understand this, your call center is doomed to failure, whether or not it looks successful in the short term.

For several years, part of my job included working several hours per week in a "Sales Support Call Center."

Then, one day, an interesting thing happened to me.

I got a call from a sales rep, asking for reliability (MTBF) numbers for one of our products.

"Why," I asked him, "did the customer want this information?" ...

"To calculate failure rates so that they'd know how many spare parts they'd need for a critical application" he replied.

"What's the application?" I asked.

After the Sales Rep described the application, I explained to him that the customer didn't need our [proprietary, anyway] reliability statistics.

What did i learn? The application was on a transoceanic telecom cable-laying ship. The computer controlled the rate that the cables were spooled off the ship. If the computer controlling the cables failed, cable could get tangled by excessive slack or pulled too taut and snap from inadequate slack before the captain could bring the ship to a full stop.!

What they needed was a redundant computer installation with automatic cutover to a standby computer so that, if one computer failed, the on-board maintenance technician could repair the downed computer without having to tell the captain to stop the ship during repairs!

The call took about 45 minutes to complete -- a bit longer than the target "3 minutes."

But instead of selling just some spare parts, the Sales Rep got to sell the customer two computers instead of one, plus some valuable [and expensive] redundancy hardware and software, plus some spare parts!

I, of course, was called to task for taking so long for the call, thus ruining my average call time as well as the statistics for the call center for that day or week.

At that point, I suggested to the call center manager's supervisor that "more calls faster" just might be a poor way [ ie, the wrong way,] to measure the call center, and that growing her empire by handling more calls might be the worst possible goal for the organizations we were working with.

(Soon after that, the call center manager stopped emailing everyone the latest statistics, and also found herself another position. Unfortunately, it was in a marketing department for our company, and not for one of our competitors. Even worse stories about her are available, too.)

So, if you manage a call center, take note:

But you knew that, right?

First rev: 12.08.2003