Call Centers: Time To Learn From Toyota

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I listened to a programme on BBC World Service about call centres on the way to a client today. The programme talked about a world-wide survey of over 100 call centres, and a call centre industry conference that discussed the findings and what to do about them. It should come as no surprise to anyone that customers around the world are not at all happy about the service (not) delivered by many call centres. And that goes for customers in India and other countries where many western call centres have been outsourced to too.

A spokeswoman for the UK Call Centre Management Association was also interviewed on the programme. What disappointed me was her proposal to address the rotten service many of her members deliver. The proposal revolved around collaboration between call centres to share best practices. Not around understanding the shifting needs of customers and working out how to deliver them at a competitive cost.

Benchmarking and best practice are useful tools if you are way behind the leaders in your industry, but they are not useful tools if the whole industry is in need of a radical makeover. Call centres will not be served best by looking further inside themselves. Nor will their customers. It is long overdue for the industry to start to think outside the call centre box: to look at what customers really need, at how they can use lean service thinking to deliver it, and at how the likes of Toyota continuously improves its business practices and lowers its costs at the same time.

What do you think? Why can’t the the call centre industry see the wood for the trees? Or are things not really that bad?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

(Disclosure: I work part-time as an Interim CRM Manager at Toyota Financial Services)

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