When I was in high school and college, I got to work both as a customer service and as technical service rep for Tracfone and Verizon. I broke a lot of rules in that time. Stupid rules like reading the script. Back then, over a decade ago, it was a common practice to read a script to the customer before digging into “the reason they are calling”. On the Tracfone account, for example, we had a specific metric we had to comply with: the dreaded “Time on Call”.
And, we had a number, over 12 minutes, that we had to reach. Anything less than that was bad business.
Why that was so boggled my mind. I didn’t understand why you would have someone listen to you read through a script, and then try to keep them on the line for as long as that number was required. So, as any good renegade would do, I never read the script, and instead jumped straight to understanding the reason the customer was calling.
Because I was going against the rules, my TOC rating was always lower than 4 minutes. But that metric was deceiving, because the one metric that mattered to me, my own way of defining success, was a meaningful thank you at the end of every call. My objective was to solve the customer’s problem as fast as possible. I wanted to eliminate the stress of having to “ask for help and not know what to expect”. My goal, was to get a “feel for a smile and meaningful thank you at the end of every call”.
If you’ve worked in customer service through the phone, you know you can tell when someone is genuinely happy and satisfied.
Anyway, jumping the script, as well as the fact that I always showed up #1 on the leader board screen where your stats were shown, got me into a lot of trouble with supervisors. Since they sporadically got to listen in on my calls, the would always point out that I never read the script, or simply made up my own.
They never listened to the end of the call…
So, after growing more irritated about getting pulled into the office, I brought up the end of the calls to the supervisors. I specifically asked one of them: Marcelo, as a person who also calls for help, not as a supervisor of a call center account, do you think that making the customer happy is wrong? Do you think that what I’m doing is wrong for the customer?
Of course not!, he responded. Then that is what matters. Let’s stop discussing this!, I responded.
That was not the end of that, because then the higher-ups at Tracfone and TelVista got involved.
This was my first tour at TelVista, and I didn’t stay very long because I didn’t like those stupid rules. And, what is funny about this story, is that a buddy of mine who stayed at TelVista for about 5 years, and who was with me on that Tracfone account, told me that my practice of ignoring the script was then made a common practice two years later throughout most accounts. The reason: they figured out that customers didn’t want to hear a bunch a rhetoric at the beginning of every call. They grew more frustrated.
He also told me that my avatar was still shown on most leader boards, simply because nobody could crack my TOC metric, much less understand why it was so low. Another interesting comment, and the one that mattered to me, was that there were customers who would call in and ask for me. They remembered their previous interaction with me. And that, is cool!
So, what is the moral of the story?
Existing metrics for measuring progress/impact, most of the time depend on something the company wants, not what the customer wants. It is similar to how executives measure innovation these days: if it’s innovative to them, not the customer.
So, innovator’s use different metrics to measure their impact. I didn’t follow the TOC metric because it wasn’t meaningful to me. And, didn’t believe it was meaningful to the customer either. So, I came up with my own metric for success: a smile and thank you at the end of every call.
That is what I aimed for every time I received a call. And anything that was an obstacle for me to achieve that outcome, was quickly discarded.
The point is that when you are blazing your own trail, current solutions are not enough. So, you come up with your own strategies, tactics and metrics that fit your approach. This is always a great indicator that you are on the road to innovation.
Unexpected ideas have less competitors, and they usually come from challenging the status quo. Do as I did, challenge the rules, and you will see a different path forward.