Attitude Book Series by John R. Patrick

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View Of Staff In Busy Customer Service Department

In 2001, I wrote Net Attitude: What It Is, How to Get It, and
Why Your Company Can’t Survive Without It
. The focus was to share with organizational
leaders how they could use a “net attitude” to make their organization more
successful by using the web to be more responsive to customers and
constituents. The classic example of a poor net attitude is often one of the many
call centers, which I wrote about almost 20 years ago, and many have still not
improved. The pre-recorded voice greeting begins with, “Please pay attention
because our menus have recently changed.” How is it the menus of all call
centers have recently changed. If you press “0”, you often get a response
saying, “You have pressed an invalid key”. “Please enter your 16-digit account
number” is often followed by a person in the call center, right after you
entered the 16-digit number, asking, “What is your account number?” These
annoying, often repetitive responses are not due to a technical problem. They
are due to a lack of net attitude.

Smartphone vendors
and online retailers strive to outdo each other. The top tier of them have
customer satisfaction percentages in the range of 75 to 90. On the other hand,
the leading cable companies hover in the range of 55 to 60.[i]  One of the key elements in the difference is
the call centers.

In early 2019, I had
a question to ask Comcast technical support. I tried my best but eventually
gave up trying to reach them. It wasn’t the hold time; it was the attitude they
deploy. I called the main number. The first prompt said to press 1 if the call
was about USC. I have no idea what USC means. University of Southern
California? I was next prompted for my reason in calling. I said “technical
support”. I then listened to 15 seconds of clicking sounds which I was supposed
to think was an agent typing my request on a keyboard. Do they think anyone
would believe that? Next, I was asked to press 1 for Slow Internet, 2 for
Connection Problems, 3 for Wi-Fi Password, or 4 for Email trouble. There was no
other choice. If I did not select one of those four choices, I could not
proceed. I pressed “0” hoping to get to a person, and the call center hung up.
Cable companies face a number of issues related to pricing and contractual
terms but I belive annoying call centers contribute to the frustration and poor

According to Site
Selection Group, a Dallas, TX, and Greenville, SC provider of global location
advice, there are 7,400 call centers in the U.S. employing more than three
million people.[ii]
John McCormick at the Wall Street Journal, described how Cogito, a Boston based
augmented intelligence company, is using voice AI to make call centers more
effective. McCormick explained,  

As calls come into a center, they are
streamed to Cogito’s system, which evaluates hundreds of data points including speech
rate, tone and more. If agents are pausing before answering questions, it could
indicate they’re distracted. If customers raise their voices, it could be a
sign of frustration. When the Cogito system detects a possible issue with a
call, it sends a notification in the form of an icon or short message to the
staffer’s screen. It is a suggestion that the agent recognize and acknowledge
the caller’s feelings.[iii]

The Cogito system in effect coaches the call
center agents
to help them become more confident, engaged, and empathetic. McCormick quoted
the Cogito CEO as saying, “Learning to speak to different customers is a real
skill. You’re not born with it. You have to learn it.”[iv]

Some insurance companies have found the
Cogito AI helpful in improving first call problem resolution as much as 10% and
customer satisfaction, but it clearly has a long way to go. I believe, over the
next few years, we will find an AI will be able to learn how to satisfy
customers better and faster than human agents. By applying machine learning to a
very large number of customer calls and matching the nature of the problems
with solutions which solved problems in the past will enable much higher
accuracy than a human can achieve. We can look forward to AI-created voices
which sound like a human and an AI which can understand the questions we ask
without asking us to press 1 for this and 2 for that. 

[i] “Benchmarks by Company,”  American Customer Satisfaction Index

[ii] “Strategic Locations Solutions,” 
Site Selection Group (2019),

[iii] McCormick, “What Ai Can Tell from Listening to You”.

[iv] Ibid.

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