Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Securing Customers With Every Call

September 08, 2008

How to provide quality interactions at every touch point...
Most executives understand the intrinsic value of taking a customer-centric approach to business. We all recognize that customers provide the revenue needed to sustain an organization. Yet, only truly great companies realize that providing quality service at every touch point leads to sustainable, positive relationships and creates a solid customer base that will sustain a company through a turbulent economy.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins finds that great companies identify their core values and preserve them regardless of how the business environment changes. He goes on to explain that while great companies must adapt their operating practices to accommodate change, these adjustments are always done in a way that aligns and protects their core values and purpose. For companies that have identified customer care as a core value, I would encourage you to not view customer service as a cost to be minimized. Rather, turn your “call” center into a “contact” center. With this fundamental change in thinking, customer care professionals can be a valuable asset throughout a customer’s lifecycle, instead of confined to the occasional troubleshooting calls.
Integrating Service throughout the Customer Lifecycle
To begin with, look at your customer experience as a lifecycle. The interactions people have with a company should be coordinated with careful consideration given to courtesy, respect and resolution. For example, many times a consumer begins working with someone in the sales department. Once the sale is made, that same consumer is now transferred to the customer service department. If he or she needs help with the product or service, a support technician now takes the call. Each of these interactions provides an opportunity to drive home a consistent message and experience. Rather than treating each department as a separate entity, they must work together to strengthen customer loyalty and the company’s brand.
Customer care professionals (CCPs) are well positioned to efficiently and effectively work with consumers in roles outside of simple problem resolution. With appropriate training and access to information resources, they can assist with each phase of the customer lifecycle as follows:
I           Making the Sale
Customer care professionals can sell products and services every time they answer a call. In addition to taking a retail order or booking a travel reservation, CCPs can turn every call into an up selling opportunity. In fact, Alpine Access home-based CCPs sell more products than in-house staff, resulting in larger average order sizes and higher total order values. Point of purchase up selling is effective in non-retail industries as well. Selling service warranties or additional insurance policies, for example, can provide important additional revenue.
II         Taking Care of the Customer
Once the sale is complete, the reservation booked or the credit card issued, quick problem resolution is essential. Experienced CCPs with industry knowledge and strong service skills are empowered to answer questions, provide necessary information and find solutions as fast as possible. Today’s consumers appreciate companies whose professionals show consideration for their valuable time.
III        Providing Technical Support
Technology support or staffing an IT help desk is a relatively new area for customer care professionals. In the last few years, as more companies have implemented “self-help” automation, we’ve seen a corresponding increased need for professionals to help consumers through how to use these new tools. For example, when a consumer is placing an order through a company’s website and needs assistance, a trained customer care professional can walk him through the process. Experience has shown that after completing the order once, the consumer then is comfortable using the website independently on subsequent orders. This technology support helps avoid frustration on the part of the consumer and creates process efficiencies for the future.
IV        Collecting Revenue
The final piece of the customer lifecycle is collecting payment. Whether it is indirectly through billing, or more direct with interpersonal collection calls, customer care professionals are adept at working with people to find solutions to their financial situations.
Home-Based Model Well Suited for All Types of Customer Interaction
In the past, brick and mortar call centers were established to serve one purpose — answer in-bound customer complaints. In working to meet this objective, customer service personnel were evaluated primarily based on how long it took them to complete a call or how many calls they could take in a given time period. However, when businesses make quality customer care a core value, they need a partner that can handle the complexities that come with integrating all four phases of the customer lifecycle.
Fortunately, home-based customer contact centers are well equipped to handle all types of customer interactions. As a matter of fact, some of these centers, like Alpine Access, already have proven success working with multiple departments within an organization.
With a contact center using home-based employees, clients can tap into:
  • Existing technology systems that can provide integrated information to help CCPs make decisions on how best to work with customers. For example, one person might help with placing a pc order, another person with setting up the pc once it arrives.
  • The latest distance-based training methods that incorporate state-of-the-art tools and learning practices to provide hands-on experience of specific products and services.
  • The largest talent pool of candidates who can be hired to create specialized teams based on a specific needs and requirements such as technical support, sales, billing and collections.
  • Flexible ways to monitor and evaluate customer service based on the type of interaction required.
  • Customer care professionals with strong in-depth product and service knowledge who have greater job satisfaction and, consequently, are more likely to maintain employment.
If customer care is the backbone of an organization, some may question the logic of outsourcing these relationships to an outside partner. This is understandable, yet it is for this very reason that businesses who place a priority on quality service seek help from customer care experts. In keeping with Jim Collins discovery that great companies achieve success by operating more efficiently while maintaining focus, companies concerned with sustaining their customer-focused brand must find ways to decrease costs without sacrificing service.
More efficient and productive operations are absolutely necessary in today’s economy. Companies must do more with existing resources. One solution to this complex dilemma is to take advantage of the established processes and people available through home-based contact centers. These companies have thousands of qualified professionals ready to serve your customers as well as sophisticated systems, infrastructure and resources to manage a customized team. To go from good to great, concentrate on what you do best and let home-based contact centers focus on what they do best – quality service with every customer call.

Christopher M. Carrington, President and CEO at Alpine Access, writes the Home Agent Happenings column for ContactCenterSolutions. To read more of Christopher’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Greg Galitzine