Leadership, CRM, and Warning LettersThis past week…

Leadership, CRM, and Warning Letters

This past week ended on a down note for me. I was “written up” for failure to contact a customer to notify him of a cancelled appointment. A written warning at the place where I work is a very serious punative strategy that can eventually result in separation if a second such written warning has to be issued. In this post, I’m not going to present my defense of why I think the warning was inappropriate in my case. I’ll pursue that at work where it rightly should be discussed. However, the event prompts me to write about an underlying issue that I want to explore in this post.

Our company is in the business of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). We have a client, and that client has customers with whom we interact. Our job is to manage the relationship with that client’s customers so as to ensure that the customers are not just satisfied with the client’s services but delighted with them. Our main role, as I see it, is to guarantee that we manage the customer’s experience with the client whom we represent. Yet, sometimes, because our client has specified guidelines to make sure we do this and they grade us by how well we follow those guidelines, we get focused on the scores we receive on the evaluation our client gives us, the so-called CPAT scores. In focusing on those scores, we lose sight of why we are being graded. We make sure we do what the client specified, even if it doesn’t guarantee the primary objective of the guideline which is customer satisfaction.

Some details of my offense are required for this discussion. An agent before me cancelled the appointment the customer had because the line wasn’t ready for installation, which is what the appointment was for. That agent didn’t call to inform the customer of the delay because we also have a rule, imposed by the FCC, that we can’t call a customer before 9:00 AM where the customer lives (in this case in Central Daylight Savings Time). I was the second agent to touch the account, three days later and two days before the appointment, but I too couldn’t call the customer because when I got the account it was also before 9:00 AM in the customer’s time zone. I noted the customer’s account with the fact that it was too early for me to call and with this entry — “**NEXT AGENT: PLEASE MAKE SURE THE CUSTOMER IS NOTIFIED OF THE CANCELLED APPOINTMENT**.” In the written warning I received, I was admonished for not sending a letter to notify the customer of the delay (because the customer didn’t have an email address listed in the record). That letter would not be received by the time of the appointment, but it would have met the client’s guidelines for handling such situations (I am told).

This morning I received Bruce Schneier’s Cryptogram newsletter which contains the following quote: Counterpane: Crypto-Gram: I’d rather see the discussion center on how to improve things for next time, rather than on who gets the blame for this time.

In my response to the warning letter I received, I made the following proposal. “I believe it makes sense to amend our guidelines for calling customers to specify that when it is too early to call to inform them of a cancelled appointment, the person canceling the appointment must flag the account and make the call later that same day. That way the customer is informed of the change on the day the appointment is cancelled. This clarification would eliminate the ambiguity about who is responsible if such a thing should occur again. Making the agent who cancels the appointment responsible for the call would increase the chances the customer will be notified in a timely manner. And this modification of our guidelines will help to improve our relationship with customers and even the relationship between management and agents because second guessing will become unnecessary.”

Whether my proposal will be accepted is not yet clear. It depends upon whether the leadership of my team is more concerned about “doing the right thing or doing things right.” They can continue to insist that we send a letter which won’t arrive in time, just so we can pass the CPAT audits, or they can adopt a new strategy that increases the chances the customer will be notified in a timely way about changes that affect him.

A fellow has to accept the fact that he isn’t perfect and may in fact do things that aren’t according to guidelines. I will learn from this experience and will be a better agent because of that learning. I hope the company will also consider adopting my suggested revision to our procedures in addition to following the guilelines specified by the client for their CPAT audits. We’ll see which approach they take and whether our leadership team values most the primary goal of customer relationship management or is more concerned with passing the audits.

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