Friday, October 24, 2008

CSRs as system integrators

I've written sympathetically about customer service representatives (CSR) in the past. They have a tough job. While trying to serve customers they often have to use multiple software systems, all with a different look-and-feel to the interfaces. Worse, the systems often can't talk to one another, so CSRs spend a lot of time retyping or copy-and-pasting identifying information from one interface to another in order to pull customer records. In this sense, the CSRs are system integrators, often doing repetitive data entry tasks that a well-integrated system would be able to do without human intervention.

So why not furnish the CSRs with well integrated systems that allow them to focus on customers' needs instead of repetitive data entry tasks? One reason is that a lot of new stuff gets thrown at CSRs very quickly. A new system to support a new service gets dropped on their desktop, they take a little training, and the calls start to roll in. Other services get dropped. System integration takes time, and even in the best circumstances would run well behind service changes in the call center.

Another reason is that call center directors would like to spend the money elsewhere, namely, on self service IVR applications that would allow the company to serve customers without speaking to CSRs. That's good for people like me, who design self service IVRs, not as good for the CSRs who are stuck with unintegrated systems.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that employee satisfaction is a major driver of customer satisfaction. Happy CSRs produce happy customers. Something to consider when planning upgrades to call center technology.

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