Sunday, January 22, 2006

Retention Detention

So, as I mentioned I've escaped the lay-off grim reaper for the time being. I've been laid-off twice from call center jobs - Once in '91 and again in 2001. The last time it happend I was managing an inbound center with about 90 agents. The company was comprised of about 20 or so centers around the US and they decided to close mine and shift the projects to other places. I didn't really care at the time. We were an outsourcer with several clients - one project in particular was exceptionally miserable. That project was for a company that provided a certain service to a customers of a certain credit card company. Our job was to taking the calls from people who wanted to cancel the added-on service and try to convince them to keep it. That's called "retention". I can think of a couple of other words to describe it, but they're not polite. But basically, "retention" is when someone says "I don't want this service anymore, please cancel it now," and the call center rep is supposed to offer a "rebuttal" - that is, they cheefully inform the customer that they certainly can cancel that service but "Do you mind if I ask why you want to cancel today?" Then begins the parry and thrust of trying to get the customer to see the error of their cancelling ways and to keep the service. We had a script tree that the agents would follow based on the customer's reason to cancel. Sort of like opening moves on a chess game. Most of the reps hated this project - basically because it felt antithetical to the idea of customer service to them - i.e. the customer calls up with a request and it's your job to try to thwart that request. We had a certain "save" rate that we were supposed to hit. As I recall, I think we did OK, but a retention specialist from one of our other call center locations came in for a week to coach the reps to improve the save rate. She would sit with a rep for an hour or so and the rep's rate would go up. The specialist would cheerfully point out her success with the rep. The next day the rep's rate would drop and they'd complain to a supervisor that the project sucked, that the specialist sucked and stank of stale cigarettes, and beg to be taken off the project. We even had $ incentive in place. The reps didn't care. I hated it as well. Luckily, as this project was reaching a fevered pitch in terms of call volume and the reps' hatred for "retention", our office was closed, the project was dumped on some poor CSRs in the mid-west, and we all walked off into the sunset swearing we'd never come near anything close to "retention" ever again.


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