In Support of the Wrong Outcome

After my posting on call centers, I received an email from a reader submitting his own recent experience with a call center.  The story is so funny – and such a classic example of lack of alignment – that, with the reader’s permission, I decided to share it with you. I edited the email for length and anonymity but mostly this is in his own words…

My organization frequently does on-line seminars for our customers and prospects using [vendor name deleted]. Recently, I was asked to host one of the sessions because the person who normally does it was on vacation. Because it had been a while since I had hosted, I went to [vendor name deleted] Web site and downloaded the latest version of the software. The Web seminar went well and, as was the plan, I recorded it for future playback.

Here’s where the story gets interesting: I sent the recording to one of my colleagues so she could test the sound on the playback. It wouldn’t work for her at all. No picture, no sound. Same thing happens when several other people try it. It works fine on my machine but no one else’s. I check with Ned in our IT department who notices that I have version 2.7 while everyone else has 2.4. Easy fix, right?

Ned contacts [vendor name deleted] support line to get the latest version for everyone in our company but the agent tell him that version 2.7 is unreleased – only their own internal developers have access to it. She quizzes Ned for 20 mins on how we got access to unreleased software. Ned doesn’t know or care; he just wants to convert the 2.7 file to something we can use. The support person can’t (or won’t) do that; she is laser-locked on the unreleased version. As far as she is concerned, that’s the real problem.

Ned gets the problem escalated to a support manager who still wants to focus on their issue – where did the new version of software come from? The support manager suggests contacting sales (!). As if we need to buy something to solve this problem.

Finally, Ned is able to escalate the problem to someone who explains [vendor name deleted] upgraded the download on their Web site to 2.7 but forgot to tell their own internal technical support, let alone customers. In fact, they only upgraded the download for those people who record Web seminars, not for those that play them back. And, of course, the two versions are incompatible.

Not only is this a silly way to conduct a product launch but also it’s a pretty lousy way to run a support organization.

Both funny and sad, isn’t it?  While I don’t know what the objectives for this call center are, it sure seems like that they are emphasizing an internal product/process perspective over the external customer perspective. And while it doesn’t appear that this call center incents agents to have shorter calls, whatever outcome metrics they are using for performance pay don’t seem to be working.

If you’re involved with a call center, I encourage you to avoid the trap this company fell into and think about your mission. Is it to provide product support or customer support?

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