It was 6:53p exactly--I remember this because I rolled my eyes and saw the clock after answering my phone and hearing the person on the other end fumble my name and begin walking through their scripted pleasantries.
At that moment I had my daughter's food on a plate, ready to serve--I had my dinner cooking on the stove, and my better half had just walked in the door after a long day and begun the download. (Sure, maybe I shouldn't have answered my phone at that moment, but that is not what this post is about.)
He said he was calling from my insurance agent's office. He spoke very slowly, not picking up on my hurried responses, nor asking if this was a good time for his call. I impatiently waited through his methodical homage to the process he was instructed to perform, to find out his main reason for calling was to know if I had the pleasure of logging into the insurance company's website and create an account there. (For real!?)
My answer was "No" since I have never had a reason to, so he proceeded to inform me that he would be happy to send me some links via email that would help me through signing up for an online account.
"Can I have your email address sir?" he asked. "I have been a customer for over a year now, and I exchange emails several times a month with my agent and the office, you should have it on file," I replied.
"I am sorry sir, I don't see any email attahed to this file." Hurriedly I give him a reply, "Firstname.email@example.com"
"Ok, so, First name dot last name at gmail dot com," he repeats. I confirm, "that's right, frederick dot mendler."
"Oh....wait..." Now I realize that he is confused. He thought that my email address was literally firstname.lastname so the additional information of my real name just threw him off.
Now, at this very moment--I am not sure if my frustration and impatience possibly created some sort of radiation that transferred externally affecting the already low signal of my ATT phone, but the called suddently dropped. I hoped he didn't think that I hung up on him, but not enough to where I was going to call him back. He didn't return my call.
Here is the rub. My agent is a small office of a top national insurance chain. She employs five, which I know all of their names, and his was not one. I have been consolidating many policies with her and even was in their office just a week ago. Via email immediately after the call, I confirmed with her that the parent company has hired an outside vendor to make "Thank You calls" as part of a customer retention program. This was a big fail in my mind.
1.) I left a call-center driven large insurance agent (and likely now pay a bit more) so that I could have a personal relationship with a local agent to take care of me and my family. I have her cell number, her email address and her office is nearby. I like that.
2.) When I have needed something, I call her office and the team jumps to it and is incredibly quick and thorough. I like that.
3.) The outside vendor was disconnected from this relationship by not having any history of our relationship, and by not even having what should be basic contact info in my file. I DO NOT like that.
4.) The outside vendor calls at a very inconvenient hour to discuss something very trival and low priorty to me. I DO NOT like that.
5.) The agent's personal brand, something she has worked for many years to build, was now put in the hands of a part-time hourly employee working for an outside company.
If you are big, try to act small so customer's don't feel like a number. If you are small, be okay being small--especially if that is one of the value propositions that drives your business. You can act big by leveraging the right systems, having a large suite of products, benefitting from marketing, etc.
In my mind, if you MUST use an outside service to contact customers en masse, then YOU must ensure that they are well equipped, up to your standards, and put in the best position to succeed. Would you want that call at 7p? Would you want a representative calling you from a small office that you pay a premium for service with that doesn't know who you are?
The agent, who has two kids and a husband at home, told me in her email, "I know what 7p is like with little ones, so sorry for the inconvenience!" It's a good idea to think through that detail when initiating an outsourced campaign. They are YOUR customers!