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5 Reasons Customers Hate Call Centers

5 Reasons Customers Hate Call Centers

Industry experts explain the five ways your Customer Service Reps might be annoying callers and ruining customer loyalty.

Stacey Oliver-Knappe spoke to four agents at her insurance company’s call center, none of whom could cancel her policy. After wasting nearly two hours on the phone, she took to Twitter to complain – only to be told the only way to cancel her insurance coverage was to send a fax.

“There is a real cost for a business when a customer waits that long with no resolution,” she said. “My one phone called probably cost the organization thousands of dollars, and it certainly cost them my future business.”

That brand of shabby service is what motivated Oliver-Knappe, a former call center agent, to open her own training firm in an attempt to quell a growing disdain for call centers. According to Oliver-Knappe and other industry experts, there are five ways your Customer Service Reps (CSRs) could be annoying callers and ruining customer loyalty.

There are a few industry "best practices" that CSRs follow to keep customers happy. Learn more about them here

1. "Assembly Line" Call Centers

It’s expensive to train call center staff on every foreseeable issue a customer may have. You can save money by only training certain staff to deal with certain issues – but that forces customers to navigate through a series of automated prompts and bounce between call reps before they find someone who can actually help.

“It’s like an assembly line,” says Shoplet.com CEO Tony Ellison. “The cost of maintaining that kind of [single-issue] person is less than one who is extremely well trained.”

But Ellison says he’d rather sacrifice his operational efficiency than waste a customer’s time.

2. Unexpected Transfers

Asking a customer for their mother’s maiden name more than once is a sign that the call center has “no respect for the customer’s time,” says Oliver-Knappe, who runs the training firm Customer Service Gurus.

When callers are transferred, call centers should have the ability to transfer all information along with them.  But some continue to frustrate customers by insisting they repeat the tedious process of punching in an account number or confirmation code.

3. Micromanaged CSRs

If a customer feels they aren’t being listened to, it’s likely because the agent is under pressure from management, says Oliver-Knappe. Call center reps often must adhere to “average handle times” (AHT) – a standard that forces them to pay more attention to the clock than the customer’s issue.

Agents trained on customer care techniques tend to overuse them, often coming off as “sleazy.” Sales coach Barry Maher claims agents are “truly annoying…[when] they’ve learned a bit about active listening and mirror the caller’s statements back to them.” Maher cited extreme cases when reps will ask for a name, then ask if they heard the name correctly, then ask if they heard the following response correctly.

But Oliver-Knappe, who trains call centers on active listening, says asking smart questions will show they care and cause a customer to give the company more leeway during the complaint management process.

“Customers get frustrated when they feel an agent isn’t genuine,” she says. “It is a fine line between patronizing...and problem-solving.”

4. Automatic Hang-Ups

Call centers can program their Interactive Voice Response menus (IVR) to drop calls during high-volume periods, specifically when customers take too long to choose one of the options from the menu, says Oliver-Knappe.

When customers need to think hard about what menu option best suits their need, it’s usually a symptom of a poorly-created menu — and “proactively” dropping the call will only further aggravate the caller.

5. “I Think So” But Never, “I’m Certain.”

Starting sentences with disclaimers like “I think” and “I believe” is a sure-fire sign that the agent has limited knowledge of company products and policies, Oliver-Knappe said. The impulse to answer a customer’s question, regardless of whether the answer is correct, inevitably wastes the caller’s time and leads to confusion in the future.