Remember the film Stepford Wives, in which a young woman begins to suspect that the wooden-acting housewives in her new neighborhood are robots programmed by their husbands? Turns out this doesn’t just happen in the movies. It goes on all the time in call centres.

I found a mysterious large withdrawal on my bank statement. Attempting to preserve a veneer of calm, I asked the ‘personal banker’ at the call centre to tell me where my money had gone. She replied “I’m sorry it doesn’t tell me.” I asked her to check again, and after a delay, got the same result. The veneer started to crack and I began to feel a rising sense of panic.

After a pause, she cheerfully continued “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” (“..anything ELSE?!”).

Taken aback, I managed a distracted “uh, I don’t think so..”, to which she quickly responded, robotically following the script, but still Stepford-cheerful: “Thank you for calling XXX Bank.”

Whenever I have recounted the story, there have been nods, wry laughs and winces of recognition, followed by “I can top that!” tales in return. One of the most striking common denominators of great managers in my experience is their ability to see their business from the outside-in. Don’t call centre managers ring up their own operations and find out what it’s like? I don’t think they do, but if that ever changes here’s how we will know: we will never hear the words “your call is important to us” ever again.

© 2012. Andrew Bass. All Rights Reserved.

 

 


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