Yesterday my bride was attempting to book a hotel room at a specific Hilton Garden Inn near the Sacramento airport. She got bounced to Hilton’s intergalactic call center, and then spent 15 minutes trying to get a person – likely in another country – to reserve a room at that specific property at a rate they’d advertised.
My wife is a very patient person (she’s still married to me after 26 years…) but even she had to finally end the call after it became abundantly clear that the customer service agent had no idea where the airport was, what the rate should be, or why we didn’t want to consider another less expensive property located somewhere within a fifty mile radius.
Hilton lost a guest, and all because they decided it is more “cost-effective” to outsource customer service. At the same time, the chain is working diligently to monitor and improve guests’ experiences on-site; I get a survey request for pretty much every hotel stay these days.
This makes NO SENSE.
Customers are the core of any business. Without them, you’ve got a big bag of nothing. Yet many companies – including some in this space – outsource the absolutely-critical business of talking with customers to some outfit on the basis of how cheaply they can get calls answered, how many calls can get answered how fast and other “metrics’.
Where’s the metric for “pissed off customers”?
There are processes and workflows that are not core, or central to a managed care business – maybe telecommunications, real estate management, accounting/auditing (perhaps). But talking to your customers? How is that not the most important thing your company does? And why would you not want to have absolute, complete, 100% control over that at all times?
My sense is the reason we see outsourcing of call centers in managed care services is the ops folks are focused on keeping costs down. That’s fine, but it ignores the overall importance of customer interactions. It is very, very hard to acquire new customers, and very expensive to boot. Cost of sales is escalating in this business, making customer retention critically important.
I’m aware of a couple firms that went to outsourced call centers only to reverse that decision and internalize the function. My guess is the cost per call went up, and customer satisfaction went waaaay up. Kudos to those companies for recognizing a problem and fixing it quickly.
What does this mean for you?
Figure out what’s important, and do it yourself.