Hot Potato! Customers Are Friends, Not Food

Have you ever had this happen to you?

  • technology stops working,
  • you have a question about a bill you received, or
  • you need to make a business transaction that requires you to speak to a real live human?

Of course, you have. We all have! Then there’s a sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize you’ll need to have a most-likely unpleasant and time-consuming conversation with a human to get your problem solved.

Mostly this reluctance is because the humans we need to interact with are not trained well to deal with, well, the humans that need their help. Have no fear! We’ve identified the top 3 complaints that make customers feel like a hot potato being dropped or tossed from department to department, and propose some concrete solutions to creating an excellent customer experience and corporate culture.

Hey what’s the rush?


The caller is rushed through a conversation. They feel that they are being pushed in a direction they don’t want to go, are wasting their time answering questions that aren’t relevant, or their business is not worth an investment in a meaningful conversation. On the other side of the discussion is a person whose success is measured by taking/making a high number of calls, “resolutions on first touch point”, and length of a call. All of these are meaningful measures but not at the expense of a stellar customer experience.


Company representatives, especially those in call centres, need to be measured more heavily on customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. Obviously, we can’t have people taking or making one call a day, but if we focus and incentivize based on customer satisfaction, the game will be changed, for the better. If call center employees have visibility into the Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), and/or Churn Rates they will have a better understanding of how their interactions directly impact these numbers. Employees that are invested in the success of the organization rather than achieving artificial targets will always deliver the best experience.


Hot Potato!


A caller connects with a department, waits on hold, explains the situation, is transferred to another department where they wait on hold and explain the situation again just to be rerouted to another department who puts them on hold… Do you see a vicious pattern here? I call it the hot potato effect. There is no accountability for helping a client in need, which is a result of not having the authority or flexibility to solve a problem beyond the perceived boundaries of their mandate or job description. Employees can sometimes fear going above and beyond to delight a customer as they may be penalized for going that extra mile to ensure a customer doesn’t get treated like a hot potato.


There are two ways to solve this problem.

  1. Empower frontline employees to go the extra mile to delight the customer and in doing so recognize and reward employees who are making a measurable difference vs crushing their call stats. Shifting the focus of a team to a customer-centric approach creates a corporate culture employees are proud to be part of.
  2. Connect your systems. Departmental silos that keep information in and separate rather making it available to those who need it creates a disastrous customer experience by having customers repeat themselves every single time speak to someone new. The solution is to either use the same system or connect your operational systems so employees have the information about a case, a customer, an order, etc. at the ready. This means address information, call details, and any additional information that will help the next person they speak to provide the service that will keep the customers coming back for more. Easier said than done? Not true. An easy fix is a simple human to human warm handoff or deeply integrated systems. In either case, it will require an investment that will pay off with great customer relationships.


I’ve Heard This Script Before


This classic problem is indicative of front-line employees that aren’t trusted to interact with other humans. Rather ironic considering they have been hired to do exactly that. Scripts enable employers to keep their employees on message and consistent, but it creates a false interaction that doesn’t contain any humanity or empathy and very little value. From a caller’s perspective they may feel stone-walled and that they aren’t being heard. From an employee’s perspective, they feel that their hands are tied and are powerless to help. Doesn’t sounds like anyone wins in this situation.


Have policies, by all means, give talking points to leverage, and provide resources for frontline employees to deliver the best client care, but there is never a need for a script. Empowering employees to leverage their personality and have a genuinely human unscripted conversation makes for natural interaction and highly skilled employees who can choose the best way to respond to a client’s needs. Team members who can think on their feet and get creative about solving a customer’s problem will ultimately be more valuable to the company in their current and future roles. In addition, they will represent the company more confidentially, customers will be happier, and both employee and customer loyalty will improve.

About Anastasia Valentine

Anastasia Valentine is the Chief Marketing Officer at Versature leading the marketing and sales organizations. She is an award-winning product strategist and brings a wealth of experience to the Versature team. Anastasia has a solid track record of over 20 years of experience bringing products to market from idea through to commercialization globally. Anastasia has held leadership, technical and marketing roles organizations such as Sandbox, Cognos, IBM, Jetform/Adobe and with technology startup companies. She leads the multi-disciplined marketing and sales development teams at Versature using a customer-centric and data-driven approach to provide long-term strategic vision and day to day tactical direction. Anastasia is a strong advocate for women in STEM and regular keynote speaker at industry conferences.