In most sales-oriented businesses, especially financial, it is commonly known that 80% of the business comes from 20% of the customers, using about 20% of your resources. This means that 80% of your customers, still using 80% of your resources, provide only 20% of your business. In this day and age of customers leaving for better offers, basically firing their businesses, isn’t it time for BUSINESSES to leave their customers – for better ones?

I believe that I was part of the first business to leave a customer to get better customers. In 1990, I was working for Rockwell Telecommunications providing software support for their Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) solution. I was onsite at a very large financial organization and was called over by one of the contact center supervisors to look at some reports.

The reporting solution, in 1990, was not as advanced as some of the reporting tools in the 21st century, but the reports did show exactly what was needed by the business. The reports (call log) showed that one person was calling into their contact center every day at 10:30 a.m. This person would talk to an agent for up to 20 minutes. This was a bit odd as the firm’s best customer called once a week or less and only spoke to an agent for less than two minutes.

After further investigation, and speaking with a few of the agents that spoke to this customer, it was found that the caller was an older gentleman that had an account with the financial institution and when he called, all he talked about was the weather and his grandchildren. The contact center agents didn’t want to hang up on this person, because he was a nice old man. In addition, they got a little break (20 minutes of talk time was still 20 minutes of talk time and this time still counted for the agents).

But what was an elderly gentleman just wanting to talk to someone and a 20-minute break for the agent, was actually 20 minutes of unproductive time for the contact center agent and 20 minutes of talk time on their incoming trunks. This customer was costing this contact center money. This contact center needed to find a better customer and they asked me to help them do just that.

Typically, finding better customers (or firing customers) is done in the financial verticals. If customers with very little value to the company call into your contact center and talk to an agent, then that call probably costs more than their value to your company. But before you can find a new customer, the business has to find a way to get rid of (or fire) the customer that is costing them too much money.

And before you can find a new customer or fire this one, you have to determine whether their value, now or in the future, makes the customer worth hanging on to? That’s when customer demographics and a good customer database come into place. (But that is another topic of discussion.

Now let’s get back to this older gentleman. After I heard about the situation, I made some suggestions. My first suggestion was to “push” this caller into their Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and based on the account number that was entered, not give him an option to get out of IVR “heck.” The company set up the IVR so that when this gentleman called and inputted his phone number, the call would be routed to a special menu that would keep him pressing digits for a while with no way to zero out. Eventually, the customer would get frustrated and take his business elsewhere.

The contact center supervisor pulled detailed call reports using the Automatic Number Identification (ANI) of the caller every couple of days, and it was found to work, until about two weeks later when this older gentleman got through to a “live” agent. This was quite a shock to the contact center people, but the gentleman had missed the time to input his phone number and was default routed to a live agent (rotary phone default).

I had one final suggestion, which was to route this gentleman to a busy tone (based on the customer’s ANI). Now, as it was possible for this caller to have a real question or need to access his account, two weeks later, after the gentlemen stopped calling, the IVR and routing for all customers was put back to normal. If the gentleman did call with a question about his account, he would be able to get an agent.

Fine tuning a contact center is a tedious task, but the latest reporting tools can help you. In addition, these tools can help you leave customers to find better customers, which can be the key to the success of a contact center and business, especially when a customer costs more than their value to the organization.

So, the next time you call into a business and you get busy tone or get routed to an IVR with no way out, did the business leave you to find a better customer?

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