Tag Archives: career


It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye (But It Shouldn’t Be)

(originally published on LinkedIn)

Here’s a question to my fellow call center and customer service colleagues: have you re-evaluated your company’s cancellation procedures in light of the recent Comcast cancellation fiasco?

touch DDBBlock, the AOL executive that tried to cancel his Comcast service. After 10 minutes of getting nowhere with the representative, he started recording the call and since then, the world has been given the chance to share in his eight minutes of pure pain.

As a call center leader, I was astonished. I was flabbergasted. And then I took a look at what it means to cancel service in my call center. 

We all need compelling reasons to keep our customers coming back. Customer retention is vitl and getting customer feedback can give great insight into the future success of our business, but we need to allow customers to leave us. We need to be gracious and offer solutions but when the customer says it’s time to break up, it’s time to say goodbye. 

You get what you measure

Call centers are data-rich environments. We track and monitor every nuance of our operations and look for every opportunity to measure performance and squeeze out even the slightest efficiencies. We measure how easy (or difficult) it is to do business with our company. 

Measuring the ease-of-doing-business needs to include your customers leaving you. Yes, retention is vital, but making it difficult for a customer to say goodbye can be, as we have seen, disastrous. Some of the questions you should be asking:
  • How long does it take for a customer to cancel service?
  • Are there fees associated with cancelling?
  • How many different offers do our representatives present to a customer before finally canceling the customer’s service?
  • How many different people in our company does a customer need to speak with to cancel?
  • Are we capturing specific feedback about our customers’ reasons for cancelling?
  • If so, are we sharing that data within our organization and working on continuous improvement in our service?

You get what you pay for

We need to be sure we don’t create incentive plans that overly reward representatives for retaining business at the cost of doing what’s right for the customer. Ultimately, these kind of scenarios play out because of incentives. 

What controls do you have in place to monitor the quality of your representatives that are part of the customer cancellation process? Is your leadership team paid purely on retaining business? 

As call center leaders we know that every metric can be abused, even if unintentionally, and therefore must have a counter metric to monitor. Call centers learned this many years ago when we created incentive plans based solely on Average Handle Time without a quality metric to counter it. Measuring the quality of the service experience during cancellations can help ensure your retention efforts aren’t working against you.

Comcast is not the first

There is some coincidence here. In 2006, a representative at AOL did nearly the same thing  Even after a 2004 settlement accusing the company of not properly canceling customers’ accounts.

In late 2004 I visited the AOL call center in Ogden, Utah. I spent some time observing calls and speaking with the General Manager of the site and others on his leadership team about how the company was trying to balance retention efforts with a positive customer experience. I remember at the time being impressed with their oversight at this critical point in the customer life cycle.

In both the Comcast and AOL examples, it is most likely that the representative went rouge. Clearly, there has to be some truth to that. But, it’s also just as likely that neither company had adequate controls in place and were focusing incentives, on some level, on bad behavior. 

And before I am accused of throwing stones, I spent a number of years at Providian, the credit card company that, in the summer of 2000, settled with the US government and the State of California for $300 million. Among the number of deceptive business and marketing practices the company was found to be committing, Providian made it difficult for customers to cancel some fee-based products (Article X, § 2, clause (f)).

Providian had challenging times, and as an organization we learned from them and I am proud to have been a part of that transformation. Of course, we all know how it ended. We were acquired by Washington Mutual in 2005 and in September 2008, Washington Mutual was shut down by the US government and sold to JP Morgan Chase.

Now what are you going to do?

Your cancellation policy and procedures should be reviewed regularly and your quality monitoring program should have some focus on the cancellation process. Review your incentive programs periodically to see what the financial impacts of cancellation are (follow the money).

Dedicate some of your time to understanding the customer experience of saying goodbye to your company. Now is the time to evaluate cancellation procedures and quality guidelines around cancellation requests. 

Don’t only worry about trying to avoid embarrassing press or social media; do the right thing and treat your customers well. When you need to say goodbye, do so with grace and professionalism and maybe they’ll come back to you someday.

Photo courtesy of Drew Leavy (Flickr)

Use Evernote to Track Your Accomplishments

As I wrote about before, it is important to track all of your accomplishments in real-time; Manager Tools talks about maintaining your “career management document”.

There are many ways to keep this vital task simple. One great way to do it is to use Evernote, the note taking application. With desktop versions of the software available for iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, and Droid, desktop versions for Mac and Windows, and available on Evernote.com, there is no excuse to not use Evernote. The free account offers plenty of features and online storage space for most consumers.

Set up a new notebook and give it a catchy name like, ‘Master Resume’ or ‘Accomplishments for Resume’. Every time you have an accomplishment, add it to that Evernote notebook. To make it even easier, create an e-mail address to send notes directly to Evernote.

Next time you get an e-mail from your boss complimenting you on your awesome client presentation or when you get the monthly report that shows 50% sales growth in your territory, send it to Evernote. When you call us to have your resume updated, you’ll have a bucket full of accomplishments.



Thanks for the Toilet Seat Covers

Princeton defines management as “the act of managing something” and “those in charge of running a business”.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “management”?

When I hear “management” used as a group of unnamed people, I think of toilet seat covers. Specifically, I think of toilet seat covers in public restrooms. Sometimes the packaging says: “Provided by the Management For Your Protection”.

photo Oftentimes I see signs at retail stores that say things like “No Bills Larger than $20” signed by, of course, “The Management”. Also, I hear things like “It was a management decision” or “I will take it up with management”.

As a manager, I take responsibility for my role and for my decisions.

People make decisions. Managers make decisions.

“Management” provides toilet seat covers.


Professionalism Defined

The term “professionalism” is used a lot, usually in connection with someone’s lack thereof.

What does it mean exactly? Well, I’ll spare you the dictionary definition.

I define professionalism as, simply:

Behaving in a situationally appropriate manner

How do you define professionalism?



How Many Business Cards Do You Give?


I recently met with a consultant and, as many consultants do, he handed me his business card as he left. To be precise, he handed me three of his business cards.

Did he think I would lose them? When I asked why he gave me three he said he hoped I would share them with people I knew.

This consultant and I had just met and I felt like he had assigned work for me to do. Asking me to make a referral after just one brief meeting seemed a bit pre-mature.

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, and you feel the need to give someone your business card, don’t give more than one. Work on building a relationship before asking for a referral.


You Need a Resume

If you have a job, need a job, or believe someday you will need a job, you need a resume.

Really, you do.

I see a lot of resumes. And, yet, I still meet a lot of people that don’t have one. They have many reasons for not having an up-to-date resume. Frankly, none of them are good reasons.

Recent unemployment numbers show California with the third highest unemployment rate in the US (12.4%, higher than anytime in the last 30+ years) behind only Michigan (12.8%) and Nevada (14.2%). Recent reports show Stockton with a 16.6% unemployment rate. Additionally, for every job opening there are 5 unemployed people. I’m sure you don’t need those statistics to tell you that we are in a tight job market.

In this economy, with record unemployment, a resume is crucial. You might think that the only way to get a job is to “know someone on the inside”, someone in your target company that can help get your foot in the door. Your foot is a metaphor for your resume.

An opportunity to talk with a hiring manager may pop up at any time. The last thing you want to be doing is scrambling to put together a resume at the last minute.

A well crafted resume that highlights your accomplishments and how they can benefit your prospective employer is a good first step. Keep in mind, the only purpose your resume serves is to get you an interview.



Customer Service Week 2010

As a call center manager, Customer Service Week is a lot of fun! Celebrated every year during the first full week of October, this is a chance to show my appreciation to the people that take calls and, often, get closer to our customers than anywhere else in the business. Call center representatives are often the lifeblood of an organization.

I enjoy being part of the festivities during Customer Service Week and hearing what other call center leaders do in their centers. I do my best to show my appreciation to my staff the other 51 weeks every year but find this week a special time.

Even if you don’t have money to spend, there are simple things you can do during Customer Service Week.


How about clearing your calendar (or much of it) and spend time talking with your call center team members. Schedule time to be out on the floor, with your people. If you don’t do this very often you may even find that you’ll pick up some great ideas on how to improve service. Time is a precious commodity for leaders. Want your staff to know you value them? Spend time with them. Listen to them.






Thank you cards never go out of style. Hand write thank you cards to everyone in your organization. This year I wrote out over 100 personalized thank you cards. Hand written thank you cards mean something. Well, to me they do. Hopefully my employees won’t throw them all in a bonfire.

Happy Customer Service Week.






My first call center job was 16 years ago, as a 411 operator for Pacific Bell (before they were acquired by SBC and then bought, and re-branded itself as, AT&T). Through the years, I’ve always thought that a call center would make for entertaining TV. So, I was pretty excited when I first saw the preview for Outsourced on NBC.

The pilot episode was funny. Although I’ve never travelled overseas for work, I have been involved with vendors in India, Philippines, Costa Rica and Panama. The “cultural immersion” aspect of the show brought back memories of stories my team members would share when they returned to the US after opening a call center abroad.

Running a call center, in any country, is a delicate balance between art and science (to steal a phrase from a very smart colleague of mine). It continues to be very challenging and rewarding work. I am looking forward to seeing if this show gains mass appeal. I know all of my call center friends are watching.

Outsourced trailer on Hulu


One Year Later

One year ago today, the company I worked for went out of business. I think that’s a nicer way of saying we “collapsed” or “failed”.

Over the nine years I spent there (over the course of 14 years), four different names hung above our door but it still just always felt like Providian.

I am proud of my accomplishments and even more proud of my team’s accomplishments. I worked for some great leaders that pushed me to succeed and taught me a great deal. I had the privilege of working with some very talented and hard working people and have many, many awesome memories.

More than 1,000 of my colleagues and friends lost their jobs in the months after the collapse. For those that are still looking for that next great gig, hold your head high; keep up the fight.

Stay positive. Keep looking. Never stop looking.


LinkedIn Does Not A Network Make


I had a conversation with Dawn tonight about “networking” and using LinkedIn. My wife, with her wonderful honesty, reminded me I have some pretty strong opinions about this subject. Our conversation reminded of me of my own axiom: just because you’re on LinkedIn doesn’t mean you’re building your network or even “networking”.

I have been on LinkedIn for a couple of years now and have found it to be a very helpful tool to keep track of all of the career movement out there. When I am looking to hire someone, or want to make a referral to a hiring manager or recruiter, LinkedIn is often the first place I visit. On many occasions, I have also been able to connect with people of whom I had lost track.


LinkedIn is a tool for gathering your contacts’ info. It is not, however, the only one.  I use an application on my Mac that has proven to be a great tool for maintaining contact info.  Nothing high tech here. It’s called Address Book and comes, with little fanfare, on every Mac.  For those on Windows machines, I guess you could use Outlook or build your own in Excel or Access. I maintain my address book with religious devotion. People are, after all, how and why the world works. I treasure my family, my friends, my colleagues and people in general. I keep up to date contact details and reach out to everyone I know every few months or so. It is a practice that has given me great joy through the years.

I take great pride in maintaing my personal and professional networks. Staying in contact with people has proven valuable many times. Add to that the fact that most would call me a pretty “social” person; I genuinely enjoy meeting and spending time with people. Every success I have had in my career is thanks to lessons I have learned from other people. Learning new things and growing starts with building and maintaining a strong network.

To help you build your network, here are my 5 tips for using LinkedIn:

1. Share your contact information. I am happy to share my work and personal e-mail addresses, work, home and cell phone numbers with anyone in my network. If you are not willing to share all of your contact details with someone, you have no business sending them an invite on LinkedIn.

2. Don’t discriminate. LinkedIn represents only a small percentage of what would be considered my professional network. I believe in building my professional network indiscriminately; I don’t just focus on those that are on LinkedIn, thus my reason for using Address Book. As a rule, I never send a “join LinkedIn” invite to people that I know that aren’t on LinkedIn. Chances are, they know about it already and I don’t need LinkedIn to stay in touch with them.

3. Personalize your introduction and invitation request. “Because you are a person I trust…” and “I’d like to add you to my professional network…” is code word for “You’re not important enough to me to take the time to write a personal note.” Okay, I admit, that’s a bit much, but is it really that hard to customize that message? If you get a link request from me I promise you’ll get a customized note, and my contact info!

4. Building meaningful relationships starts by adding value. Your professional network is not there for you to feed on. Look for ways you can contribute to others.  Check in with people, ask how you can help. Make meeting new people a priority. And please, when you do, stick your hand out and introduce yourself.

5. Stay in contact. My Mother, being in business for herself most of her life, planted the seeds for this practice early in my life. She taught me that staying in contact is the most important rule in building relationships. Make a point to reach out to your contacts regularly. My goal is to reach out to everyone every 3 months. Admittedly, I fall a little behind from time to time but would never dream of letting 6 months or more go without sending out a quick e-mail, phone call or card (yes, hand written cards rock). If you value your relationships, stay in contact. My trick: schedule time on your calendar to follow up. After years of doing this, it comes natural and the rewards are immense.

Networking, as a term, gets a bad rap. Building relationships is about sharing and adding value.

If you want to link with me, you know where to find me.



There Are Jobs Out There

This is dedicated to all of my friends and former colleagues who have recently been given lay off notices. They are some wickedly talented people and I wish them all the best.

On the US jobs front, this has been an ugly week, and it’s only Tuesday.  So, here are three things I believe to be true:

1. Unemployment is high.
2. The economy is in the the tank.
3. There are jobs out there!

Yesterday, 7 companies announced a total of 71,400 job cuts.  Today, another 11,500 were lost.  With over 218,000 announced layoffs since January 1 this is shaping up to be a very tough year.  In the financial services industry alone, there have been over 230,000 jobs lost since November 2008.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the national unemployment rate rose from 6.8 to 7.2 percent. California had the highest increase (9.3 percent in December) while Michigan had the highest overall (10.6 percent).

I could have become one of those unemployed.

read more »