The Elephant in the Call Center


While administrative concerns are obviously important to any business, nothing compares in importance to a company's product. The product call centers produce for public consumption is verbal conversations.


Customers and patients are not interested in hiring practices, software, or other administrative issues. Their only concern is how they are treated during each second of their telephone call.


From the customer or patient perspective, that call is the company's product, and in today's call center industry that product's quality can often find itself at the bottom of management priority lists.


Some cite attention to things such as talk time and call routing as prioritizing the call, but these are not the call. The call is the emotionally complex conversational back-and-forth that takes place between the agent and the customer in each second of the verbal exchange that is a telephone call.


Managing these conversations is one of the more challenging aspects of managing a call center, and with a void of industry experts able to offer effective solutions, and with a lack of C-level executive interest, it is understandable how call quality can easily find its way to the bottom of management priority lists.


In other fields, managers can turn to various professions for help with their product, but in the call center field, there are no professions focused solely on managing conversations, and it cannot be managed with software.


If such an occupation did exist it would likely be filled with English major types passionate and knowledgeable about the power and complexities of verbal communication. As it is, verbal communication is often seen as an inconvenient stranger who merits attention only in the context of a customer complaint or problem.


Listening to a discussion at a 2019 healthcare call center conference round table, I said, "What you are discussing is customer service so why is no one here calling it that?" and someone answered, "Because that term is like a dirty word in our field," and many nodded in agreement and the subject was quickly changed.


At the same conference, a speaker placed the way his agents talk with patients at number 9 of 10 on his management priority list and no one seemed to notice.


I later mentioned this in astonishment with one of the conference principals and she whispered, "I agree with you, but frankly I think many do not understand how to manage it and this is why it becomes such a low priority."


And reading articles by consultants and software executives in call center magazines rarely does anyone mention verbal skills, word choice, specific phone manners, etc. as if none of it matters when these are the most critical components of the very product call centers produce.


The Cambridge Dictionary defines the elephant in the room as an obvious problem or difficult situation no one wants to talk about. In the call center industry, the call center product is ironically often that elephant.


BCI is not only talking about the elephant, but we also embrace it and we teach every agent we train to master it. BCI is a company of specialists focused solely on managing our clients' conversations with their customers or patients.