Call Centers

Call centers outside the US are now an accepted way of life in the country – try contacting customer service on weekends at odd hours and the chances are you will be greeted by a call center representative in Asia with a carefully trained accent and routine (at most times). Many hospitality majors have moved call centers off-shore and even if the locale is as close to home as Canada, the changed dynamic has implications for customers, companies and, most importantly, to employees.

USA today in May reported on American travelers’ experiences with foreign call centers and predictably touched off a torrent of response! Like all things outsourced, foreign call centers have met with a mixed response from the public who complain about the strange accents, canned “solutions” , long hold times & lack of service. The companies, however have benefited from the cost-savings (perhaps savings that lead to more local jobs and a more satisfying fulfilment experience for customers).

Call centers present a challenging experience both for the customer and the call-center! A customer who calls for a refund only to be greeted by an intransigent representative is unlikely to be happy either way, whether the call center is in India or China. However, a satisfied customer is unlikely to spread positive word-of-mouth!

Here are some basic tips for companies looking to improve the quality of service at call centers (based on real experience).

– Cut out the excessive pleasantries – Devote the body of the call to solving the customers’ problem or addressing their queries (NOT looking up the customers’s background info for the past 5 years!)
– Get straight to the point. Cut down the time that a customer is forced to hold the line while the rep “checks something with the supervisor, looks up the file or seeks more info”
– Cut down repetitions – call centers give you all sorts of call-tracking info (rep ID, transaction #, confirmation # etc etc) but STILL ask a dozen questions if you call again. Why record the conversation/contact if you need to ask the same questions anyway everytime?
– Cut down on the the aggressive sales spiel. Call centers are especially persistent in getting customers enrolled for 30-day free trials of everything! Definitely ask for cancellation #s and hidden terms and conditions!
– Finally, efficiency. Call centres should be trained to use multiple media for a seamless experience, example – following up on a phone call with an email. It’s not unsurprising to hear the call center rep say that he/she is not “authorized” to send an email or make a phone call! (something they would never say if they were in the US!)

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.