Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
month we interviewed longtime NACC volunteer member Jim Lavery, who is
Vice President of Contact Center Operations at Desert Schools Federal
Credit Union in Phoenix, AZ. For any of you that may be on the
fence about joining us as a volunteer member, take a look at Jim’s
comments regarding the NACC in this article.
NACC: When did you begin your customer service career?
It seems as though I have always worked in customer service in one way
or another. It must just be something that I have always been
interested in. Although many of my early jobs were customer
service related, I would say I began my true career when working in the
call center for a software company back in the early nineties. It
was there I learned more about how to best serve customers and help
them solve their problems. Over the years, I have had many
opportunities to refine my understanding of what customers want, how
they want it and the best way to present the options available to
them. One of the greatest advantages about working in customer
service is that the skill is transferable between industries. I
have been able to take what I have learned in the software industry and
apply it in other areas such as telecommunications, travel and now
NACC: What is your role at Desert Schools?
As the Vice President of Contact Center Operations, I have the
opportunity to lead a group of departments that directly impact the
service our members (customers) receive. The largest department
is our Member Assistance Center. This team helps answer inbound
members calls and email inquiries on such things as what is the members
current balance, how to dispute a transaction or resetting their online
banking password. Another department I oversee is a group of
experts who help our Member Assistance Center and all of our branches
with any questions they have but cannot find the answer. I like
to think of it as the “bat phone” within our organization. Our
employees only need to remember one number to call to get help.
My team will then track down the answer either by using their own tools
or reaching out to another different department if needed.
Additionally, I have teams that conduct Quality Assurance, Training,
Project Support, Workforce Management, and Training specifically for
the contact centers.
NACC: Are there any particular challenges running a contact center organization within the financial services industry?
The financial services (banking) industry has seen a lot of changes
throughout the last decade. Most of these changes have come
strictly for the desire to further enhance the member’s
experience. For example, Mobile Banking now allows members to
access their account history at a touch of a button. The growth
of social media has provided a new forum for members to use to learn
more about our company and get answers to their questions.
Overall, members are able to be more in tune with their finances if
they want. This can be challenging for our contact center as the
team needs to know how to respond to members regardless of which
channel they wish to utilize to reach us. Another challenge is
managing the unforeseen situations that directly impact our members and
may cause them to call or email us. For example, in situations
like the recent Target data breach, members will contact us to find out
what they should do. It can be tough to staff quickly to a level
to maintain adequate service levels for our members during those
NACC: Is there a career best or worst customer experience that comes to mind?
Throughout my years, as a consumer I have had so many good and bad
customer service experiences that it is tough to narrow down just
one. However, one that comes to mind is with a local utility
company. The issue was regarding a service outage and the broken
promises made by that company as to when my service would be
restored. In the end, I had to escalate my issue to someone that
was finally willing to put themselves in my shoes, offering some
reassurance, and had the authority to reschedule their technicians to
get close to meeting the promise they made. Needless to say, I
did not stay with that company very long and have never gone
back. Unfortunately for them, I have also had the opportunity to
share the full details of that story to literally hundreds of people as
an example of how not to provide good customer service.
NACC: What sparked your interest in the NACC?
Being a “data” person, I truly appreciate the work done at the NACC to
help develop materials that are relevant, accurate and useful to those
of us in the call center profession. Over the years, the industry
has evolved significantly and the insights I get from the information
provided by the NACC helps me ensure I am on the right track and headed
in the correct direction.
NACC: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Good question. Although I spend a lot of time at work, even while
at home, I attempt to balance it as well as possible. I enjoy
spending time with my wife and teenage kids as often as I can. We
like to go to movies, watch old series on Netflix, play board games,
and sharing in activities the kids are in to these days. It is
really fun to see the “kids” grow into young adults and develop their
own customer service skills. Additionally, I love skiing,
bowling, playing most outdoor sports, and reading.
NACC: Since you mentioned you like to read, what are you reading right now?
Right now, I am reading a book called Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell
where he explains the way Disney leads their teams. I am a big
fan of Disney and their leadership philosophies. I often quote
some of the stories I have heard about how Walt Disney would ensure
their guests (customers) would have a magical experience when attending
a park or any other Disney-related activity. Another great book I
read years ago was called “Moments of Trust” by Jan Carlzon. In
it, he explains how his airline inspected every step a customer took to
take a flight (Jan was the president of an airline) and how each
interaction with an employee was a moment of truth as it relates to
customer service and creating a positive memorable experience.
NACC: Any advice for people just starting their customer service career?
Reflect on those places where you are most loyal, whether it is a
specific gas station, phone company, or financial institution.
Now think about what makes you loyal to that company? More than
likely one of the biggest reasons is because of the people that you
interact with when you have to reach out to them. What can you do
to be like them? To excel in customer service, especially in call
centers, you have to like working with people on a daily basis, be
willing to put yourself in their situation, and have an inherent desire
to want to help them resolve their concern. I often have to
remind myself that most people do not “want” to contact a call center
of a company; they do so because they have an issue to
tackle. I want my team to be a resource to help our members to
resolve their problems quickly and efficiently. I also want them
to deliver that “Wow” experience so they can brag about us to their
friends and family. Lastly, I would encourage someone new to
customer service to become an avid reader, focusing on people or
companies they admire and would want to emulate.
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
before Christmas, I was contacted by a gentleman named Richard
McDonough who runs an organization called America Responds with Love (www.respondwithlove.org).
His organization provides housing and other services to Americans that
find themselves in need. Founded in 1982, America Responds has
helped over 103,000 people find emergency housing and has responded to
thousands of others in need. They have recently begun building
permanent housing for handicapped veterans, the first of which is in
northeastern Pennsylvania. These 1,053 square foot homes provide
handicapped-accessible features such as wider doorways, lower knobs on
doors, lower countertops, etc.
Particularly moving was the story Richard told me about how America
Responds stepped in following the Newtown, CT tragedy. Following
the school shooting, Newtown received donations of thousands of stuffed
animals and comfort blankets from Americans all over the country.
Clearly more than could be used by those affected by the school
shooting, the Town of Newtown contacted America Responds with Love for
help with utilizing the stuffed animals and comfort blankets not needed
with Newtown and the state of Connecticut.
In March of 2013 America Responds with Love arranged for a tractor
trailer to pick up 21 pallets of stuffed animals and comfort
blankets. In the months since the pickup America Responds has
distributed over 5,000 stuffed animals and blankets to children, adults
and families in schools, shelters, mental health programs, crime victim
programs, hospitals, police departments and other social service
agencies that help those in need.
Now it’s our turn to help.
Mr. McDonough called me to let me know about America Responds’ efforts
to create learning centers throughout the country that help those in
need to re-enter the workforce with new skills and capabilities.
These learning centers need furniture and what better place to look
than the contact center? Rather than throwing away that old
furniture when the time comes to update the center, donate it to
America Responds with Love. Not only will you be helping those in
need, the donation is entirely tax deductible.
According to Mr. McDonough, “We would welcome call centers donating
furniture, computers, office equipment, and other products that they no
longer need. We can utilize most products used within the call
center industry to help people truly in need throughout the United
Companies such as CBSi in Tuscaloosa, AL, for example, donated tables,
cubicles, chairs and file cabinets when they got new furniture.
The furniture was delivered to an America Responds educational facility
in the nearby community of Holt, AL.
America Responds with Love is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit
organization. As Mr. McDonough explained, “Donations to America
Responds with Love are tax deductible. For some companies, the
value of the tax deductions can be up to twice the cost of the donated
So before you throw out your old office and furniture and equipment,
contact America Responds with Love and donate it. Richard
McDonough can be reached at telephone 321-263-7422 or via e-mail at [email protected]. Let’s show the country that the contact center industry can also respond to those in need with love.
working, remote working, and working from home is on the rise, as
evidenced by the results of our ongoing research and detailed in our
At-Home Agent report available to NACC members as a download at www.nationalcallcenters.org.
Aetna, Amazon, American Express, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Teleflora and
others are speaking at the 2014 Remote Working Summit in Dallas
The conference is a terrific fit for organizations that need to
understand what others are doing as they reset for continuous
improvement and expansion of existing programs, and a must for
companies who are just getting started with remote working. The
key here is in the depth and scope of speakers and the innovative
topics they’ll be covering.
for our e-mail this week with more information about this innovative
conference. If you’ve already decided that you will attend this
conference, visit http://www.customercontactstrategies.com/latest-events/2014-remote-working-summit/ for registration details.
adoption of social media as a customer contact channel continues to
grow. Preliminary results from our annual survey shows nearly 46
percent of U.S. contact centers have adopted some sort of social media
Next week we’ll be e-mailing you a link to a brief recorded webinar
offered by Bright Pattern that details, among other things, what you’ll
need to implement social media customer service, how to prepare your
contact center for social media and, perhaps most important, how to
avoid the Social Media Hall of Shame.
We encourage you to take a few minutes to listen to this webinar when
we e-mail you the link. To learn more about Bright Pattern, visit
Walt Tetschner, Tern Systems and ASR News, [email protected]
Double authentication is becoming the norm. The IVR requests
information for authentication and when you reach a CSR, you need to
provide it all over again. This isn’t a CTI infrastructure
problem, as some in the industry believe. The CSR has the
authentication information that you provided. They are being
instructed to perform this redundant verification of identity.
I recently called the Wall Street Journal to have my weekend delivery
switched from Maine to Massachusetts for the winter. They utilize
Caller ID and the IVR verified that it was me calling up front. The IVR
system couldn’t handle what I was trying to do. It lets you stop
or start your delivery, but not change the delivery location.
When I got to a CSR (located in Manila), he forced me to provide ID
information again, although he already had it. I was informed
that this was being done for security. The worst thing that could
happen if someone were really stealing my identity would be for me to
have my paper delivered to the wrong address. It would be
corrected pretty rapidly after I did not receive my paper. The
motivation for someone to do this is extremely low. The best that
they could get out of it would a couple days of free WSJ delivery.
With all the concern about fraud and HIPPA compliance, the call
center/IT folks are reacting by insisting on this double-verification
process. It is an irrational response, but this is what is
happening. I dislike having to provide information multiple
times, but we need to get over it. It is here to stay. You
can argue that it is totally irrational, wasteful and irritates the
caller. A lot of good that is likely to do. Look at all of
the IVR prompts that everyone agrees are just flat out
wrong. Then look at how prevalent they
A user rebellion is one possibility. Callers finally understand
that they are simply having their time wasted by having to provide
information redundantly. They will simply refuse to provide
the validated information to the automated system and only provide it
to the CSR. Unfortunately, this will further aggravate the fraud
via the CSR. As amazing as it seems, callers will unhesitatingly
provide their most private information to a CSR that is a total
stranger that is often a relatively low paid worker in a distant
country. A far superior approach, that actually increases the
security of telephone transactions, is to automate the transaction in a
manner that isolates the CSR from the private information of the caller.
Including CSR in authentication process is increasing security breach liability
Even in applications in which serious fraud could occur if someone were
to have their identity stolen, adding the CSR into the loop invariably
is the wrong thing to do. You have no idea who the CSR is that is
asking you for your credit card information. The CSR could be
stealing it and selling it. Rather than improving security, just
the opposite is occurring. The caller is providing their
personal information to a third party whose integrity is a relative
unknown. An IVR that provides PCI level security is a much lower
risk approach. Personal information should never be provided to a
CSR. This should be obtained only via a secure IVR.
In addition to removing the CSR from any process that involves caller
personal information, mechanisms should be added to eliminate the
possibility of the CSR obtaining access to the caller’s personal
information. The caller’s conversation with the
CSR should be monitored to assure that the CSR is not ever requesting
private information from the caller.
The challenge that the industry faces is that the enterprise simply
does not identify their CSRs as potential security breach points.
They appear oblivious to it. Most of the media is happily telling
the enterprise folks what they want to hear and this does not include
informing them that their own CSRs are potential security breach points.
The argument that this is a risk that is worth taking is wrong.
It is irresponsible and a severe price will ultimately be paid for this.
Call Center Comics!
If you like this comic and would like to see more, write Ozzie at [email protected] and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm
or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The NACC
appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.
To view past issues of In Queue, please click here.
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