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Hanging on the telephone

When a client&#39s request for information celebrated its first birthday recently it felt wrong not to call the call centre and invite them round.

After all, without them we could have finished this “simple” scheme wind-up in a matter of weeks.

I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that call centres are OK for simple matters but for all other issues, they are not suitable.

To restrict my comments to call centres would be unfair as it is the automated switchboards that really take the proverbial biscuit.

Recently I called a certain provider (by the way Scottish Amicable holds the record for the longest period on hold at 54 minutes) and had keyed: # 13 5 2 6 4 3 5 only to be cut off.

When I had cooled down and called them back, I was answered in breakneck speed – well under 15 minutes. On being asked what I wanted, I said: “1 3 5 2 6 4 3 5”. The response was silence but then that is what call centres are best at.

The providers regularly preach the importance of IFA firms ensuring that their offering to the public carries added value. Despite this the providers persevere with a broken business model which relies on call centres and automated exchanges.

It does not take complex research to determine that IFA and client alike find this method of client contact inappropriate.

What call centres lack in their process is “anyone taking ownership”. Few centres employ staff with anything other than a cursory knowledge of the matters they will field calls on.

If my memory serves me well, I recall that Volvo used to build its cars in teams where a set of employees took the car from its parts to the final drive off after completion.

This meant that the employees understood all the parts and features of the car and understood each part or processes importance in delivering a quality car.

I know that some IFAs, for example, Advisory & Brokerage, already operate on a team basis where the clients are serviced by the team and not just one individual. This leads to clients regarding the firm and not the individual as their source of advice this has the effect of not only building a brand but reducing the numbers of client who move away when an adviser leaves the firm.

Operating in a team environment delivers ownership so that on receiving an enquiry or a complaint the person taking the call is directly involved in delivering its solution.

To date, the providers from the ABI camp have shown little recognition that the key to customer service is someone taking ownership especially when “the wheels come off”.

The longer-term solution is to use e-commerce to its fullest extent but many IFAs remain ignorant regarding the services currently live and those coming through in the short term.

For the rest of 2003, Origo will be doing its best to find out what the blockages are and how they can be moved to one side or simply overcome. When the opportunity comes to take part, do not leave it to someone else to get involved unless you are you happy to continue to press your # key and hold for at least four hours a week.

IFAs must make it clear that the current approach of deskilled call centres has no future and a solution needs to be found fast.

As the advert says, there is another way and if the traditional providers do not take the hint then the tumbleweed could soon be blowing through their call centres.

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