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Watch your quality controls

The Sun newspaper has got itself into a lather over a story about an Amazon contact centre agent who, fed up with complaints, sent veiled death threats to a customer. It seems that when the book buyer complained over no delivery, he started to get book recommendations like “Follow You Home” and “Suicide Is An Option” by email. It was a deliberate act and Amazon says it’s taking it very seriously – we should stress that the customer was never in any danger as the perpetrator was on another continent.

The Sun takes this as a juicy story, which is fair enough. We see it as a cause for concern – and have set our minds to thinking about what contact centre professionals can do under this sort of circumstance. Here are some thoughts:

  • Vet your employees and try to make your recruitment as watertight as possible. Even the most casual of employees can cause an issue so take very great care.
  • Then train them. You knew that.
  • Accept that your precautions, designed by humans as they’re going to be, can’t be completely foolproof. Have a damage limitation plan in place before there is an issue so that you’re prepared.
  • Your first responsibility, if this sort of thing ever happens to your company, is to the customer who feels threatened. The Sun story suggests that Amazon didn’t tell him that the perpetrator was on another continent, and in the heat of the moment that’s understandable. If you’ve worked out a plan and put ‘reassure the customer’ as your first action point, you will be better covered than you might otherwise have been.
  • Be transparent after that. Put together a public statement and put it on your website so any inquiries can be referred to it.
  • Make sure staff are aware they should not comment to the press unless they are authorised to do so. A complete media lockdown is a bad idea and transparency is good, but only from the people who have been briefed.
  • Don’t wriggle out of it. Unlike some organisations, Amazon has had the confidence to admit that this happened and it has taken responsibility. This is good practice – it’s not an ideal solution but it’s not going to come back and bite Amazon again unless there is a recurrence.
  • When it’s off the agenda again, have a post mortem – see if you can find what the trigger was and how your organisation got to this stage in the first place.

This could have been a grim story. It’s sensible to acknowledge that the occasional rogue employee is likely to get into a growing business; having a contingency plan already prepared is simple good sense.

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