Article by Ceri Wheeldon
I have long been highlighting the value ‘older’ employees can bring to customer services roles. This was absolutely the case in a call I had with the call centre of a well known communications company today to resolve a billing issue.
It took three calls to resolve an ongoing problem – the first two calls were unable to fully sort – it took a third call to get everything sorted – and the third person in this chain of calls just happened to be a woman in her 50s!
I have had ongoing issues for quite some time, with all sorts of errors including at one point having two accounts allocated for the same service with the direct debit somehow being lost between the two.
When the latest billing issue raised its head last week I spent 45 minutes on a help line talking to a representative . My call had been routed to a non -uk centre . It sounded as though he was talking through a voice altering filter, (and introduced himself as Mark Anthony- a possible reincarnation?) The representative I believe was working to a script, which was frustrating, and it took quite some time to get to partially resolve the issue. I was promised a call back the next working at specific time to complete as they required 24 hours for their system to update before we could proceed further.
Needless to say, the return call didn’t come through.
I called again. This time I was put through to a UK call centre. The individual was pretty abrupt – it appeared that the awaited update to the system hadn’t happened (although they could see by the logged call what should have been done) . He advised that we couldn’t resolve the final part of the problem over the phone and he would have to send me paperwork to complete which I could return by post. Completing online did not appear to be an option.
When I received the paperwork via email there was an issue ( the email address it was sent from was a ‘no reply’) which required me to place yet another call to customer services.
Age and experience working for the customer
This time I spoke to a very professional woman (in the UK) who, while she was sorting things out ( I was in possession of one letter saying my service was being terminated and another saying that I had a credit on my account!) asked what I did (based on my Fab after Fifty email address). She said that she was at the top end of being Fab after Fifty and was looking forward to celebrating her 60th birthday next year. She sorted out all of the problems without having to send out paperwork to complete, was able to activate an online account for me ( which her colleagues had been unable to do) and resolved the billing issue and direct debit. All in the one call in a way that made you feel confident that this time things would actually be sorted.
During the call she created a rapport, empathised with the issue, liaised with another department to get items corrected at their end) and appeared to know what she was talking about, and stayed on the call while setting me up online to make sure that everything was OK. She was pleasant and sounded as though she enjoyed her job and genuinely wanted to help.
The previous two calls had been a waste of my time – and did not make business sense for the company to have people working for them that seemed to have no interest in customer service who presumably had access to the same systems that the third representative had. They did not present a positive image of the company at all . The business had to fund the costs associated with having three people taking the time to resolve a problem which should have been sorted in just one call.
The value a mature , confident individual in a customer services role who has the ability to communicate well and solve problems cannot be measured simply in financial terms. Often it is only when there is a problem that a customer will contact a company. How that call is handled is key in respect to retaining that individual as a customer moving forward.
I hope more companies recognise this. Age and experience can offer a competitive advantage.