The New York Times today has a story, “A New Capital of Call Centers,” which focuses on the fact that many companies with US customers are moving their call centers to the Phillipines or back to the U.S. because personnel in the new locations speak better English than, say, their counterparts in India.
Evidently, these companies believe that customers’ primary concern is the quality of the language used by the call center agents. My primary concern, however, is whether or not the call center agent is actually able to answer my questions, solve my problem, and/or take my order accurately. Overall, I’ve had much better luck with the hard-to-understand foreign agents who seem to know what they are talking about than with US-based agents who are poorly trained and/or work in call centers in which no system is in place to help callers actually get their questions answered.
In brief, I wish companies would pay more attention to this Renee’s Rule™: Make my life easy.
What do you wish?
When I won a Turnaround of the Year Award from the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) in 1997, I was thrilled. In addition to the thrill of being recognized for my achievements, during the award ceremony, I had the opportunity and the pleasure to deliver a thank you and give credit to Ron Torland, the CEO who brought me into the company, gave me full operating authority, worked with me side-by-side, and supported my decisions, some of which were extremely unpopular. The turnaround would not have been possible without his participation.
When I attended the TMA awards presentation at the conference this year, it struck me that things have really changed. There were so many awards given to so many people that there were no speeches–just lots of people marching across the stage.
Think about it: How many announcements about awards events or awards being bestowed do you receive every week? Clearly, these awards bring people into each organization and its events, and they are are certainly great marketing tools for both the organizations and the winners, but I can’t help feeling that the significance of these awards has been diminished.
During the annual conference of the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) which was held the last week in October, I attended two sessions about “turnarounds” and was truly taken aback by what I heard.
An underlying theme, articulated by panelists in both sessions was, “We’ve been focusing on fixing the balance sheet. Now we need to learn how to fix the income statement.” Really? What have these people been doing? And does this explain why TMA sessions and publications in recent years have focused on “restructuring” instead of “turnarounds?” (My article which was attached to my last blog post explores this topic.)
Fixing the balance sheet is relatively easy: collecting receivables, reducing inventory, selling unneeded assets, renegotiating debt. Fixing operations is generally more difficult and, in many respects, requires a different skill set. For companies to survive over the longer term, they need to have carefully conceived plans, the right people in place, and effective management control systems. In addition, they must deliver their products and services in ways that are both cost-effective and customer-centric. To me, ensuring that those pieces are in place is a vital role of the turnaround expert. Evidently, not everyone agrees with my view.
To me, the word “turnaround” means fixing the balance sheet AND fixing operations. What does it mean to you?