What Your Call Center Can Learn from Plane Crashes

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In 1970, out of the 310 million people that flew that year, 1,475 were killed in an aviation related accident. About one in every 210,000 people who got on a plane did not survive the flight.

In 1980, your odds got significantly better. More than 640 million people flew that year and 1,300 lost their lives doing so.  The good news was, your chances of being killed in a plane had dropped by more than 50% in just 10 years.

 Fast forward 35 years to 2015. In that year, more than 3 billion people flew in airplanes, and only 271 people lost their lives to accidents not caused by terrorism or acts of war. That is just one death for every 11,070,000 people that flew.

So, what’s behind this remarkable safety record?

Since 1967, flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been required equipment in all US commercial aircraft. And since that time, these devices have played a major role in assisting the Aviation industry to create and maintain a safety record, that for you, means the trip to the airport could be more dangerous to your health and well-being then the flight you are about to board.

Aviation’s ability to study the events and factors around all the accidents and “incidents” has greatly improved safety. That habit of investigation, collecting findings and implementing the required changes, such as Transponders to locate aircraft, Smoke Detectors to detect fires, better inspections of older aircraft and improved Cockpit Resource Management has been the secret to this extraordinary safety record.   

Like Aviation, Call Centers have installed very similar technologies, like call recording, to help us understand what goes wrong during the Customer’s interactions.

But, unlike Aviation, hundreds of thousands of Customers are lost to competitors each year due to the poor service they receive.

Significant insights can be uncovered from these recorded calls and many Customers could be saved from the competition. Call Centers should follow in the footsteps of Aviation and leverage the vast amount of information it has available to improve Customer Satisfaction and the overall Customer experience.

 Let’s list some of the information each recorded call can tell you;

  1. Which Customer called
  2. Which Agent handled the call
  3. The language the call was conducted in
  4. The Customer’s issue or reason for calling  
  5. Whether this was a first time call on the issue or a repeated call
  6. If the Agent followed the proper procedures
  7. If the Agent had the information to solve the issue
  8. If the Agent had the training to handle the request
  9. If the Agent used any available system tools to fix the issue
  10. If the necessary systems were working at the time of the call
  11. If the system had the correct Customer information
  12. If the system contained the correct information for the Customer’s issue
  13. If the Company’s processes or procedures created the reason for the call
  14. If the Company had a process or procedure in place to solve the Customer’s issue
  15. If the Agent was able to control the call with the Customer
  16. If the Agent solved the Customer's issue, thus stopping a repeat call
  17. If the Customer was satisfied with the solution provided
  18. And finally, if the Customer was advised where they could get this information themselves should the issue arise again. Potentially stopping a similar call in the future

That is a long list of critical insights, but not a complete list of information or findings that are available on every single recorded call.  


Simply put, there is no better way to gather such valuable data then by listening to calls.  

Here are two examples that will show you the value created by listening to Customer calls:  

1:  Listening to 200 calls saved a company from handling 2.1 million calls

Many years ago, I worked with a company that handled technical support calls for one of the many wireless router manufacturers.

We took 12,000 calls a day from Customers who were looking for firmware updates, help with the router settings and other general information. To save money the manufacturer closed their long standing Canadian support center and moved the calls to a center in Manila, Philippines.  

The transition did not go well. Customers were waiting 15 - 20 minutes, answer rate was poor, every metric was red, red, red.

As we looked to find a solution to our long wait times, we quickly found out that many Customers were looking for information that was available on the web. So, we set up a recorded message that played before the call went to the queue. The message advised Customers that if they were calling about set-up or firmware, regardless of their router model - all that information was available to them on the web. We provided the URL and a bit of encouragement to check the web instead of continuing the call.

We launched the message at 4:00 PM on a Tuesday. That night, 50% - one half of our call volume disappeared and never returned.

The Client saved the cost of 2.1 million calls that first year.


2: NPS from -30 to +40 in 3 months.

I worked with a team that was having a difficult time increasing their Electronics Retail Client’s NPS score.

The first task was to listen to all the calls with a low NPS score.

From that listening effort, we found a group of Agents who consistently scored low in NPS. We also discovered 4 types of calls that no matter which agent handled the call, the Customer always scored it low.

For the low performing call types, we created new training material on how to handle each type of call. We also improved the processes and the language we used on the call to positively impact the NPS score.

On the Agent effort, we determined that the coaching they received from their Team Leaders was not effective. Nor was the feedback from the Quality team. Neither group provided insights or learnings that Agents could apply to their calls.  With an improved coaching regime and more specific and targeted feedback from the Quality team, the bottom performing Agents significantly improved.

Overall, the team that typically scored in the -30 range improved to the +40 range within 3 months of starting this listening approach.

In both cases, listening to hours and hours and hundreds of recorded calls generated the insights and the “ah ha” moments that when combined with other processes and training, dramatically improved the service to the Customer.  


This approach simply works. Every time.

 If we in the Call Center business are going to fix the ongoing losses of Customers due to bad service, we must follow similar steps taken by the Aviation industry to develop and deploy proven approaches that can be shared across the industry for the betterment of our employees and our Customers.

© 2017 Care for Customers (2245085 Ontario Inc.)