You’ve probably seen this article by now, it’s been all over Twitter   Whilst I applaud Apple’s efforts to improve customer service, there are a number of things that concern me about this.

1) It perpetuates the myth that all contact centres offer such a poor service that a long hold time is a regular occurence.  The graphics in the patent indicate a 15 minute hold time for example. I’m not convinced that this low level of service exists any more on a regular basis.  With every industry becoming more competitive, and switching between suppliers becoming ever easier, then poor service like this gets punished very quickly with customers defecting.  When your customers vote with their wallets, you learn very quickly to change. 

From an internal view, there are many workforce optimisation packages out there now that help company’s plan their service delivery for the contact centre.  Yes there will be times when unforeseeable events disrupt your patterns, but in general, demand from customers should be stable and built from predictable patterns.

2) Why wouldn’t a company with a track record of being  innovative focus on solving the problem correctly rather than hiding it?  Create applications that help improve the service that the company offers rather than just disguise them. Fonolo have put together a good service that helps companies work with customers to visually navigate IVR systems.  This is great because it benefits both the customer and the company offering the service. Why couldn’t Apple create a simple app to show wait times to contact cente managers?  Or an app that pushes increasing wait times to remote agents and enables them to come online quickly to improve service levels.

We’ve still got a long way to go to improve contact centres, but we can’t start until we start to believe in them and the value of the service they offer.

Richard, 7 December 2010