Let’s face it…most agents want to be great agents. They want to keep their customers happy and that’s what we managers want too.

Unfortunately some companies find ways to create negatives and obstacles that make it impossible for an agent to be successful in creating the best experience for their customers.

One story I heard recently illustrates this perfectly. Due to confidentiality I can’t go into great detail on the process itself but I wanted to share the essence of what happened since this is not a rare example of process disconnect.

An agent working for a major insurance company told me about a poorly designed process that had been in place for several years despite agent feedback about it. All agents were told that the customer service system processes needed to be followed or the agent risked getting a low quality score.  To complicate things more, she admitted that despite the quality warnings she knew were possible, she had recently done an over-ride of it in the system with her supervisor’s blessing in order to help the customer with a long standing service issue.

The agent received a call from a customer who complained that they had been dealing with billing errors for the past 3 months and had called and emailed other agents about it to no avail. She looked at the customer history and could see clearly that the customer had indeed been in contact multiple times and that several agents had promised to take care of the problem but had later noted that the system would not allow it to be fixed and the problem had been noted for management to review.

Apparently because of the dreaded procedure that caused these issues and required a manual “over-ride,” the other agents just let it drop after simply updating the customer file with useless notes. No one took responsibility to follow-up directly with management on this continued customer issue and the poor process that clearly didn’t work for all customer situations.

The agent telling me about the process said she decided to do what was right for the customer and informed her supervisor of the need for an “over-ride.” The supervisor questioned the need to do this but finally agreed.

A few days later, a member of the quality team emailed the agent saying that she (the agent) had made an error and referenced the customer over-ride. The agent emailed back and explained why she had done so. The next day, a manager at the home office emailed the agent and her supervisor stating, “This is clearly not the process. So what do you want us to do about this?”

The agent emailed back copying all of the parties involved (other than the customer) saying that she stood by her “over-ride” and wanted it to stand as she had done for the best interest of the customer. She added that the customer had done nothing wrong but was caught in the process problem because the situation didn’t fit the process.

A week later the VP, who was informed somehow of the process over-rides being done, emails the supervisor, the quality manager and the agent telling them to “Just follow the process.”

The agent was disheartened by this and told her supervisor that she would not call back the poor customer who thought this was finally resolved. The supervisor agreed to call the customer on her behalf.  The customer was upset as expected and said they would be taking their business elsewhere in the future.

It makes no sense but there are many in VP roles and higher who are so rigid about the procedures and rules that they refuse to admit when one is failing more often than not.

How do we make sure our processes are working?

Be the customer: Take off your C-suite hat and put on a customer one.  Go through the steps a customer has to take in order to complete orders, service requests and billing processes post sale.  If you run into problems completing things or understanding how they work, how can your customers be successful?

Be an agent:  When is the last time you opened up the systems your agents are using and looked at how the processes work alone or with other systems?  Sit with an agent side by side as they go through screens, enter information, problem solve using processes and give process information to customers.  If something is failing your agents, it will fail your customers too.

Be open:  It’s easy to become complacent about processes that have been in place a long time.  You can’t quote the process and procedures as “absolutely must do” unless they have been thoroughly reviewed and tested on a regular basis and are successful for users and customers.  Ask agents and customers what is working and what isn’t working.  They are dealing with the real life day-to-day customer processes and procedures more than those at the corporate top.