Call Center Disciplines Reps If You're Not Happy With Your Collections Call

You’ve most likely seen those surveys you receive on your receipt, or after a chat session or phone call. Most people ignore them unless they get something in return, or service was exceptionally bad or exceptionally good. According to our source R., though, not answering that survey could help the rep you’ve just talked to lose his or her job.

R. is familiar with the operations of one of Dish Network‘s US-based but outsourced call centers, and how their employees are treated and evaluated. He wrote to Consumerist:

Unsurprisingly Dish Network (wholly owned by Echostar) outsources much of its support to US based call centers. Although I have to applaud Dish for choosing a US based call center, the management within that call center leaves much to be desired. I’m going to provide everyone that cares to read it a brief list of the things wrong with Dish Network’s call center located in upstate New York. First, allow me to explain exactly what this call center does and the kind of calls that they handle.

This particular call center’s primary purpose is to handle “soft collections“. The soft collections agents receive in-bound calls from Dish Network subscribers who have an outstanding balance and are attempting to contact Dish Network support. The subscriber may be calling for any of a variety of reasons such as to order pay-per-view or to change the plan to which they are subscribed. Instead of receiving the standard customer support representative they receive a soft collections agent who must attempt to solicit payment from the customer prior to fulfilling the customer’s original reason for calling. This call center also handles the overflow from another general customer support call center although it makes up a small percentage of the total calls.

That is all well and good. I understand that Dish Network needs to be paid for the services they provide. What I am not okay with is how Dish Network (and this yet to be named call center) treats their agents. The employees are rated not only on whether they handle calls quickly and follow the guidelines set forth by Dish Network but also on a scale known as “CSAT” or “Customer Satisfaction”. The CSAT is a direct grading scale that Dish Network receives from an automated system which calls the customer back after the customer’s interaction with the soft collections agent. The automated system asks the customer to rate a variety of categories on a 0 to 10 rating scale. These CSAT scores are useless for the following reasons.

A) Many customers simply hang up or press 0 repeatedly without actually grading the experience.
B) Many customers are dissatisfied because Dish Network would not allow the call center employee to provide pay-per-view or other services due to an outstanding account balance (there is nothing the call center employee could have done better, the customer is simply dissatisfied with Dish Network in general).
C) The customer does not speak English and does not understand the CSAT survey (believe it or not the English speaking call center agents encounter multiple customers per day that only speak Hindi, Japanese, Chinese or another language the call center does not support).
D) A myriad of other reasons…

An agent’s overall CSAT score is used to determine that employee’s overall “worth” to the contract and whether the employee is performing satisfactorily. Repeated low grades on calls can and does result in the employee being suspended from work. The employee can also be “written up” and unsatisfactory reports entered into the employee’s employment record. These scores can affect the employee’s raises, promotions and even result in termination.

How fair is it to terminate or discipline an employee that has stellar “quality” scores because they do everything (and more) that is required of them by Dish Network during a call but is later rated a zero by the customer because his $300 bill wasn’t waived or simply because he felt like it?

Recently, a rating of zero has even been given when all the agent did was take a customer’s pay-per-view order. The customer called, got this call center due to the primary customer support call center receiving a high volume of calls, the agent answered, verified account info, placed the pay-per-view order, the customer got the pay-per-view they ordered but rated the experience a zero when the system called back. How is that the agent’s fault and why should the agent suffer?

There has got to be a better way to grade soft collections reps than this. No matter how nice the person I’m on the phone with might be, the nature of the call will color the customer’s perception of what happened—if the customer bothers to fill out the survey at all.

Maybe this is a cost-saving measure so management doesn’t have to record and evaluate calls, but if so, it’s a poor evaluation choice for this type of call center.

(Photo: boltron)

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