Taco Bell wins with customer service take out

Taco Bell's customer service outsourcer calls its agents customer maniacs and rewards them for taking the customer's point of view.

It's rare that a vendor and client describe their relationship as "a good marriage." Yet that's just how Taco Bell

describes its 15-year partnership with contact center outsourcer PRC (formerly Precision Response). The secret, executives said, is to share the focus on the customer and ensure every employee lives the Taco Bell brand.

"PRC is an extension of Taco Bell," said Rashad Moumeh, associate manager of operations at Taco Bell. PRC has 40 agents fielding about 600 calls and 300 emails per day on behalf of the restaurant chain. Customers call to ask about store locations, nutritional information, and provide feedback about products or services. "[PRC agents] are our ears in the field," he said.

The goal is to give customers the same experience in the call center as they have in the store. "Customers are interacting with the brand, and that consistent brand experience has to happen across all touchpoints," Moumeh said.

Customer centricity is integral to Taco Bell's parent Yum Brands. That extends to PRC, where Taco Bell account employees are called "customer maniacs," not agents.

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Every new "customer maniac" receives the same training as new Taco Bell employees on products and services as well as on the customer mania philosophy. They spend time observing in-store customer experiences before fielding calls, said Cary Danner, director of client services for PRC, who leads the Taco Bell account. Once on the account, PRC employees are empowered to resolve customer issues just as a store employee would, such as giving callers free food vouchers.

Employees are also measured and rewarded similarly for taking the customer point of view. Yum Brands has a peer recognition program where employees reward each other with 4x6 recognition cards when they observe customer-focused behavior from their peers. Employees write a note on the card as to why they're recognizing their colleague; the card includes a sticker that the employee can wear for the day.

In addition, the PRC call center receives the same posters, signage, and point-of-sale materials that a store gets to keep the close brand bond. Danner gets marketing calendars in advance, so she can coordinate staff levels and anticipate questions, like when Taco Bell launches a new product. "Taco Bell does an outstanding job of keeping us informed," she said.

The relationship is two way. Danner and Moumeh have weekly calls to discuss customer issues, product satisfaction, and other insights. Each quarter they meet strategically to suggest changes to the customer experience. Moumeh noted that, in one case, customers raved about the new Crunch Wrap sandwich, which had been slated as a temporary entrée. It's now permanently on the menu.

Both sides agreed that the relationship works well. Danner points to PRC employee tenure as proof, noting the average rep stays two-and-a-half to three years. An 11-year veteran with the account herself, she noted that many employees have moved up to be supervisors and into other lead roles. "They think of themselves as Taco Bell employees more than PRC employees," she said.

Reprinted with permission from

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