January 2, 2016

Yellow Smiley Balloons & Laminated Cards: Cutting Edge Call Center Quality Improvement Strategies

I wish this story wasn't true, but you can't make this stuff up.

We were at an outsourcer's offshore location recently, where they had tied yellow, smiley-faced balloons to the agents' cubes.

When we asked them why, they said they believe the customers get better service when the agents are happy and these balloons make their day a bit brighter. There were also laminated cards hanging in the cubes that said, "Reminder:  English Only Please." 

Please don't tell me this is how call centers improve quality? Balloons and laminated cards? I wonder what the next quality initiative will be...ordering a lucky rabbit's foot for agents to put in their pockets? 

(By the way, if you don't think laminated cards are a common quality improvement strategy in call centers, check out the photo in this NYTimes article:  The Long Distance Journey of a Fast Food Order ) 

Can you imagine if they had signs saying "check your welds" or tied yellow balloons to tool benches in jet engine manufacturing plants and told you this is our quality improvement strategy for planes flying 350 miles per hour at 35,000 feet?

Is it just me, or is anyone else getting tired of these hope-based strategies?  (I might add that when the smiley balloon outsourcer's client listened to phone calls, on ten out of ten of the monitored calls, the agent gave the old price for a service, not the recently updated one.)

Let's see: hang balloons and laminated cards and hope the agents do what you want them to or get process focused and use software to make it easy for the agents to execute the call correctly so that it is right every time without any monitoring or coaching or hoping? 

Guess which strategy is most often deployed in call centers? I'll give you a smiley balloon if you get it right.

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