Call centres and the death of customer service

Recently I was forced to break one of my principles and ring a call centre, because the Department for Home Affairs do not respond to correspondence or accept visitors. Initially call centres were a good idea, offering flexibility for customers to solve queries outside of office hours. Then organisations realised the cost savings and began closing local offices, to the detriment of customers with hearing difficulties, different first languages or a preference for face-to-face contact. Experienced staff were replaced by those with no knowledge and no plans to stay. To assist them organisations provided manuals to answer frequently asked customer questions.

As the internet developed organisations put the manuals online. That was a good idea, to save time for customers. Then they cut the number of call centre staff. If you don’t have internet access or your question isn’t answered by the manuals, as mine wasn’t, you have to ring and wait for someone to read the manual to you. When you point out that it doesn’t answer your question, they are unable to help. Most organisations risk losing customers to rivals with better guidance or local offices. Government departments are safe because the people who need them cannot take their business elsewhere.

MP are ultimately responsible for this fiasco. They should order the Department for Home Affairs, and others, to provide contact choices to the people who fund it. Unfortunately like the call centres, their knowledge and procedures are out of touch with the modern world.

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