Customer Service Calls

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Your Customer Service Calls May be Monitored

by Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

Having just spent twenty five minutes on hold, being bounced between four different people, and being told every fifteen seconds that my call was very important to them, I felt compelled to make a few comments about customer service. Needless to say, this experience, like similar ones I have had recently, did not make me happy. Did it affect my willingness to do business with the company in the future? Possibly. Will it influence how I work with this organization in the future? Most definitely. How effective are your customer service calls?

Monitoring Customer Service Calls

In the past fifteen or so years, the use of automated attendants to funnel our customer service calls to the proper person (or automated attendant) has become more and more commonplace. Personally, I’d rather speak to a real person. In an effort to reduce costs and improve profits however, many companies have made real people harder to find over the phone lines. At the same time, these same companies love to tout their exceptional help desk services. They are even telling you at the start of each call that your call may be monitored in order to improve customer service levels. These companies really care about us, don’t they? Your answer depends on whether you believe their words or actually look at the products, services, and systems they use in an attempt to satisfy you.Angry customer service calls

I’ve spent a good percentage of my career working with, or sitting next to, customer service call center employees, internal salespeople, and collections department employees. I used to think it was wrong to monitor someone’s work over the phone. It seemed like eavesdropping to me. Such actions reflected a lack of trust in those people. I felt that if we trained them well up front and gave them good systems to work with, we should be able to trust that they would treat our external customers appropriately. After all, we don’t monitor our other employees who use the phone to communicate with their internal customers. Should we?

Do You Provide Customer Service Call Feedback?

Like most people, my opinion has shifted somewhat over the years. Now, when I am told at the start of a call that my call may be monitored, I talk back. I actually say “I hope it is” back into the phone, even though I know that no one will probably hear that response. In fact, I take this possible call monitoring seriously.

I continue to make comments into the phone when I am on hold. My goal is to try to be helpful. I try to let them know that time is money to people. They need to learn that putting someone on hold for an extended period of time is not a good way to develop a positive customer relationship. I warn them when they have reached the breaking point with me and are about to experience a dropped call. The goal is to give them meaningful feedback in the hope that they will use this feedback to improve their customer service systems.

EXPLORE More: Process Improvement Strategies


Whose Customer Service Calls Should be Monitored?

Do I think that my comments will really make a difference? No, I am a bit too cynical at this point in my life to believe that much will really change as a result of what I say while an Air Supply tune plays in the background. I realize that the main reason our calls are monitored is to ensure that the call center people are treating their customers properly. We want to make sure that they are effectively cooling down those customers that our telephone system, along with our product or service shortcoming that prompted the call in the first place, has upset. We want to be able to take corrective action if someone fails to work a customer in the prescribed manner.

It is for this reason that I say that my opinion about call monitoring has only shifted somewhat, as opposed to totally, over the years. I think that all too often our corrective actions fail to actually improve customer service. All too often we fail to fix the products, services, and phone systems that are causing customer dissatisfaction. Instead, we try to fix those people who are attempting to help alleviate this dissatisfaction by counseling them, writing them up, or letting them go. Even worse, we tend to be a bit single minded when it comes to monitoring customer service calls in order to improve customer service.

Most organizations monitor the telephone performance of their call center personnel. How often do they monitor the calls of other employees who are using the phone to address internal customer concerns? Do we monitor the advice that our Human Resources people give to others in the company when employee concerns arise? Do we monitor and review the performance of our managers as they lead counseling sessions to make that our people are being counseled correctly? Who really needs to have their calls monitored?

DISCOVER More: How Great are Your Customer Amazement Systems?


Improving Through Customer Service Calls

When it comes to moving towards higher levels of customer service performance, we tend to have two cultural shortcomings. First and foremost, we tend to blame our people for our service failures instead of looking at our work systems. Secondly, we focus primarily on the external customer, and often forget our internal customers altogether. Combined, these two behavioral attributes tend to make our service problems worse instead of better. At best, our performance hovers around the current process average.

If you doubt my perspective, take a look at what your organization measures to gauge its customer service performance. After all, don’t we measure those things that are most important to us? I’d be willing to bet that sales trends and throughput rates are regularly monitored in most departments across your company. I would also be willing to bet that internal customer satisfaction levels are gauged only once or twice a year. In those cases where they are, they are rarely broken down by work group. We tend to be very selective when it comes to deciding which customers we want to listen to. When we do listen to them, we often fail to hear what they are really saying.

I expect to become an even bigger advocate of customer service call monitoring in the coming years. Hopefully, someone actually listens to the comments I make while I am on hold. I hope that they really try to take some system changing corrective actions. I long for the day when all customer service calls are monitored. Service excellence goes way beyond our front line call center or sales people who are talking with the external customer. I know that I won’t stop talking, even though I also know that they might not be listening to me that much. Without feedback, there is little motivation to change. What do your customers think of the service you provide? Should someone monitor your customer service calls?

by Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

If you would like more information about the improvement tools and systems I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at

By | 2017-04-10T08:23:39+00:00 March 18th, 2016|Customer Amazement, Process Improvement|Comments Off on Customer Service Calls

About the Author:

Kevin McManus serves as Chief Excellence Officer for Great Systems! and as an international trainer for the TapRooT® root cause analysis process. During his thirty five plus years in the business world, he has served as an Industrial Engineer, Training Manager, Production Manager, Plant Manager, and Director of Quality. He holds an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and a MBA. He has served as an Examiner and Senior Examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Performance Excellence Award for eighteen years. Kevin also writes the monthly performance improvement column for Industrial and Systems Engineering magazine, and he has published a new book entitled “Vital Signs, Scorecards, and Goals – the Power of Meaningful Measurement."
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