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Your customers hate it, your staff hate it

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Home » Blog » Your customers hate it, your staff hate it

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Non value demand

You make your customers do something that has no real value for them. Your call center staff have to deal with unhappy customers and they also know that their time is being wasted and that makes them more hacked off which then filters through to the customers.   Here are some examples of Non Value Demand (work created because we failed to do something) vs Value Demand.

Non Value Demand

  • report a fault or error
  • confirm or acknowledge a change of contract/details
  • update personal details

Value Demand

  • ask for an increase in credit limit
  • cancel a product or service
  • order a product or service
  • give feedback

And then you compound it with poor processes to make the experience even worse for everybody.  So the customer leaves the call really hacked off, no matter how good, positive or cheerful your call center person is.

A couple of UK examples

Here are a couple of recent examples:

SKY (cable TV, internet, phone provider)

We are moving to the USA and renting our house. So we called Sky the prerequisite 30 days in advance to cancel our TV/phone/broadband service (Value Demand). The person on the call center was very helpful. A letter arrived in the post confirming the cancellation of the TV. The letter read:

“Sorry to hear you decided to cancel SkyTV. Your viewing will stop on dd/mm/yyyy. (date was wrong: requiring Non Value Demand call)

We are delighted that you want to continue your Sky Talk service etc etc etc (NO…..   requiring Non Value Demand call).

Just call us on xxx and we’ll be pleased to get you up and running within 24 hours. (But when we asked how long to get new tenant up and running with Sky they said 30 days, even using the kit/set up already installed. I can get a new credit card in just 10 mins with online credit checking)

So we make Non Value Demand call. A very helpful and friendly call centre person said that we would be receiving separate letters from each department cancelling their service.  Each, presumably, saying the other services would continue – confusing us – or prompting a Non Value Demand call.   WHAT!!!!

Citigroup vs AN Other bank

A new Citigroup credit card arrives in the post. On it is a sticker that tells me the phone number to call to activate (Non Value Demand).  However, the number is just for activations and very effective electronic touchtone system requires me to enter the card details and my date of birth and the card is activated. Voila.

A new credit card arrives from AN Other bank with a phone number to call to activate. The number takes me to a menu option where I choose 1 of 8 options, then 1 of 4 options, and then I am asked enter my card details “to route my call more efficiently”. I wait in a queue and I am then put through to a call center operator who asks me for my card details AGAIN, a series of security questions and the card is activated.

HM Revenue & Customs (equivalent to IRS)

Get a coffee and a biscuit. This is a longer story.

I received a letter a few days ago from HM Revenue & Customs, the UK equivalent of the IRS. A largish organisation with some 100,000 employees dotted all over the UK.

The letter explained in 7 very wordy paragraphs:
–    During my online Tax Return on their website I had checked the  box “Do you want any over/under payment of tax adjusted via my tax code”.  I had said ‘Yes’.
–    As I had replied after 1 December, that check box should not have been available.  But it was.
–    As I had checked the box, could I access their website and to establish the phone number of my local tax office.
–    Could I call the tax office to confirm that I wanted any over/under tax adjusted.  BUT WASN’T THAT WHY I CHECKED THE BOX IN THE FIRST PLACE?

So, with a heavy heart anticipating a long wait in a call centre queue for a Non Value Demand call, followed their instructions:
–    I hit their website and needed to enter some tax information to be able to find the local tax office phone number – rather than just list the offices by county or city.  Luckily I remember my NINO.  Why not allow search by zipcode?
–    I phoned the tax office and followed the automated menu system and reached a human being, who was in a call centre in Scotland.
–    The operator was polite but asked me to redial the number and select a menu option which was not the obvious one, to get to the local office. No, she couldn’t redirect my call.
–    I phoned the number again (another Non value Demand call) and was eventually connected to my local tax office
–    Again a polite operator took me through slightly more security questions than my bank or credit card company ever does.
–    I was asked that confirm that I wanted any over/under tax adjusted ie that I checked the box and wanted it to stay checked!!!
–    She said that she would make a note of my request and send it through to the right person.  So she makes (Non value Demand call/email)
–    Finally, I mentioned this waste of everyone’s time to the operator who was equally exasperated and embarrassed about HMRC

So how much of that wild goose chase was Value Added for me or HMRC?  Answer NONE

How much made be or the operators feel good about HMRC and the use of tax payers money? Answer NONE

So one small process error (not testing the application correctly has spawned:
–    A badly letter written, proofed, printed and sent to 10,000+ of people
–    A spike in hits on website to get phone details
–    Calls to call centres and local offices
–    Back office process to log and action my confirmation

What were the alternatives?   In order of effort spent by me and by HMRC:
–    Have a robust test process on the original web-based application
Effort – 1 hour
Accept the error and do nothing, but possibly fix a system calculation internally
Effort – 4 hours
If so some reason they need additional confirmation, create an additional page on the HMRC website and reference the link in the letter and I can go to it
Effort – 8 hours (website), 4 hours (letter), £15,000 (print and post x 10,000 letters), 1,666 hours (process  the results assuming 10 mins per entry)
–    If creating a new webpage is too difficult, create a new website with a form filling app
Effort – 16 hours (website), 4 hours (letter), £15,000 (print and post x 10,000 letters), 1,666 hours (process  the results assuming 10 mins per entry)
–    If they really want me to phone, then set up a dedicated phone number with an automated system like credit card companies have for validating new cards
Effort – 24 hours (phone number system), 4 hours (letter), £15,000 (print and post x 10,000 letters), 1,666 hours (process  the results assuming 10 mins per entry)

–    If they REALLY want to drive me to phone a local office, then create a letter with the phone number I need to call in the letter and the correct options to select from the menu system eliminating effort on my part
Effort – 24 hours (phone number), 4 hours (letter), £15,000 (print and post x 10,000 letters), 833 hours (answering calls to call centre), 1,666 hours (process  the results assuming 10 mins per entry)

– What they actually made me do
Effort – 4 hours (letter), £15,000 (print and post x 10,000 letters), 1666 hours (answering twice as many calls to call centre), 1,666 hours (process  the results assuming 10 mins per entry)

Assuming a salary of £10,000 and 200 days worked per year the loaded cost is £55 per day.
So the original process cost of £6.88 vs the option HMRC selected which is £37,935
How many little process issues cause internal problems and then have a convoluted, wasteful and ill thought-through processes to correct them.

And the people best placed to identify the problems and recommend the best solutions are those at the sharp end, on the shop floor, at the grass roots. You know.  The ones are the lowest paid people in the company.

Actually, we believe that the number of letters sent out is closer to 1.5 million.  That makes the cost to the taxpayer £5,690,250


The people who design operation processes should think about how it feels from a customer perspective and then the demand put on staff in call centers. Then how the effective use of technology can enhance the experience for everyone.

Ahhh.  I feel better now.  Who should I call to tell?

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