It was the moment of truth. Either we made the tough decision to set up our whole phone infrastructure consistent with our brand or we did it the way that the expert consultants wanted.
In the early days of Softchoice we lived by the idea that we answered the phone. It was part of our brand promise. It was part of what we stood for. We wanted our customers to be talking with someone who could help them within three rings.
I remember being at a Lotus Development call centre and the hold queue was 22 minutes. The local management didn’t seem too concerned about that but secretly I was thinking we would be out of business if we had even a two minute hold queue.
Our company culture was all about customer service. Our customers had tough jobs and we should be ready to serve them. We knew that speed was critical but within that there couldn’t be any trade-off for quality or insight. We had to give people great choices, quickly and with a chipper, helpful personality.
Our success meant that the number of incoming calls was starting to explode. Typically companies use hold queues to manage peaks and valleys. No one wants to staff for the peaks but we knew that staffing for anything other than the peaks meant putting in a hold queue and suffering the disconnect with our brand promise.
So we had to come up with a solution that hadn’t been thought of before. Culturally our people were aligned with the brand. They understood that picking up the phone in three rings was expected and part of how we were successful. Our people weren’t the problem. The moment of truth we were facing meant giving up on our principle or standing firm and inventing something that kept us walking our talk.
What did we do? We routed calls automatically after three rings to a bell that sounded through the whole office. That bell going off was a signal to all other employees to pick up the phone – drop what you were doing and help a customer. That included me, the VP of sales and marketing and David Holgate the company President. If either of us spent too much time as a sales rep we knew that we had to hire more people. In the meantime we were incredibly grounded in what customers wanted.
The culture must deliver the brand on a day-to-day basis. Management processes and choices either support this alignment or destroy it. I am happy to say that we made a great choice at the time. It meant telling the experts that we wanted to build a phone system that supported our business – and they thought we were crazy.
moment of truth – definition from businessdictionary.com
In customer service, instance of contact or interaction between a customer and a firm (through a product, sales force, or visit) that gives the customer an opportunity to form (or change) an impression about the firm.