Thursday, 6 March 2008

Call Centres - Don't you just love 'em?

I've just been watching Channel 4's Cutting Edge 'Phone Rage'. The producers have managed to gain amazing access. First Direct bank obviously think so too - because they've paid for ads in the break around their section to advertise that they'll give you a £100 to switch your bank account to them. As you'll know from my previous post about Abbey's dwindling customer service I'm in the market for a new bank. £100 is quite a tempting offer. I've heard great things about First Direct - and they did come top in the BBC Watchdog poll. However I was a bit unconvinced by the sight of the team members (no bank managers at First Direct - just team leaders. Paddy's team is called 'Paddy's Power House') 'sumo wrestling' in a paddling pool filled with coloured balls, to one side of the call-centre. It may be an effective way to promote team bonding but looked more like an unruly kids' birthday party - not quite what I had in mind for my cash.

Incidentally I'm no great fan of South African call centres after my recent Madasafish experience (see previous post) and some of The Cutting Edge film's cruel cuts between UK and offshore did highlight real cultural communication problems - but having recently visited Cape Town I can testify that workers are friendly and ambitious - and not quite as world apart as protrayed in the film. That's editing for you.

Call centres have a bad image, often deservedly so. Some of them are terrible - British Gas is probably my all time worst. Energywatch say so too. British Gas has the worst customer service record. After endless menu options I found it took up to 20 minutes to speak to a person and they couldn't often help. Every year BG say they'll improve, every year (so far) they've failed. I closed all my accounts with them - and wrote to the chief executive to explain why. I didn't recieve a reply - but that was the year they lost a million customers. Corresponding with an average of 4000 departing customers every working day would be beyond the means of even the most communicative of chief execs. I switched to Southern Electricity. It's free to phone them and they answer right away. I will remain loyal while they keep it up. The other call centre I'm impressed with is O2. That's one of the main reasons I signed up for their Broadband. So well run call centres can help grow the business.

On the subject of O2 - this is a late post. My new O2 broadband connection only went live at 7pm tonight. A full report next time.

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