Cutting-Edge Technology, Quality, Customer Service
And Help Desk Are Your Keys To A Sustainable Competitive Advantage
In todays ultra-competitive global marketplace, every company
is scrambling to find an effective competitive advantage. They not only want to maintain
their current business, but they also want to expand their market share. Price-cutting and
the reduction of service and quality are no longer viable options for todays
competitive company, however well these techniques may have served in the past.
For a company that wants to stay at the top of our industry, or to make a
play to join that elite rank, four essential ingredients need to be in place. These
essentials will contribute to maintaining your competitive advantage and market share.
They will, additionally, allow your company to promote customer loyalty, which will in
turn foster your companys growth.
It stands to reason that the raison dtre of advanced technology is to
provide higher productivity at lower cost. In the U.S., we are blessed by being world
leaders in the technology driving the telecommunications, computer and computer-telephony
(CTI) industries. In the call center arena, as in any other industry, the rule of the
jungle governs. If a company can pro-duce more of a given product/service at a higher
quality and a lower cost, it will prevail.
Properly applied advanced technology is the only way to achieve a higher
order of magnitude in productivity, customer satisfaction and reduced cost. Consumers
today are perceptive, educated and demanding of high quality at competitive prices.
State-of-the-art technology is the name of the game in todays marketplace. People
expect corporations to be on the Internet, have e-mail capabilities, voice mail and faxes.
Millions of homes in America have these capabilities, and so too must the company that has
even the slightest desire to stay in business. Not only does high technology tend to
improve workers efficiency, it is also good for the image of the company, resulting
in customers feeling secure that they are buying the latest product/service from a
Not too long ago, there were teleservices companies that chose to continue
manual operations despite the industry trend toward automation. Gradually, the drastically
superior products/services of automated call centers either forced the laggards out of
business or forced them to acquire more advanced technology. I recall one major
teleservices user company that actually insisted its vendors become automated or they
would lose its business.
Quality, in todays business environment, has become the number-one criteria by which
to measure customer satisfaction. I once heard a statement originating, if memory serves
accurately, with an executive at the Ford Motor Company, which encapsulates my point:
Better design sells the cars, but quality brings the customer back. The
assertion of quality simply means that the product/service possesses a degree of
excellence or superiority which makes it distinct from all other like products/services in
the marketplace. The company that produces this quality product/service tends to set
itself apart, giving customers another reason to do business with it, perhaps exclusively.
I would like to direct your attention to the feature article in this months issue,
which highlights the 1996 winners of our MVP Quality Award. If you have any doubts of the
importance of maintaining and projecting a quality image to the market, I hope that these
superlative examples will convince you that quality is the foundation of customer
Approaches to customer service have grown in the past few years to now include customer
care and retention strategies, as well as long-standing relationship and
loyalty marketing. Since 75 percent of all purchasing decisions are influenced
by emotions, it should be an important business strategy to arouse emotion in your
customers in order to better attract and keep them.
The essence of customer service is engendering customer loyalty and trust.
If your customers trust you, so long as your product/service is top-notch and
competitively priced, then they will want to stay with you. As I discussed in my November
1995 Publishers Outlook, there are at least two approaches to fostering
and developing customer loyalty. First, focus on your customers customer. That is,
understand your customers business so you can recommend methods and innovations that
your customer can use to promote personal loyalty in its customers. Second, build a
personal relationship with your customer based on your solid business relationship.
If you can do [both of these], you will keep your customer for life. You must
ensure, however, that your employees treat your customers well, since you dont have
daily, personal contact with each of your customers. Nothing will undermine customer
loyalty as swiftly as shabby personal treatment. One way to ensure your employees treat
your customers well is to treat your employees well. Reward them, thank them and give them
the tools (training, equipment and direction) to ensure they will work well and hard.
Specify and communicate your expectations, train employees to meet them, and then let them
develop their own initiatives and allow trusted people to do their jobs. Make certain you
monitor them, not only to correct mistakes, but more important to provide them with
positive feed-back. Most everyone wants to do a good job if you can mentor
employees when they need it and help them develop their own skills, you will be developing
their loyalty to you, which will come across on the phone in their contacts with your
Advanced technology is usually designed and developed by MIS personnel, engineers
and/or other computer-literate persons. Unfortunately, little attention seems to be paid
to userfriendliness. Once advanced technology is marketed and sold, end users have a need
for technical support/service/guidance and advice from the developers of the software or
hardware they have purchased. This is the foundation of one of the fastest-growing
segments in our industry the help desk. The help desk differs from outbound
telesales, since outbound telemarketing requires one to speak the prevailing language
flawlessly. For example, an American company conducting outbound sales in Germany must
employ agents whose command of the German language is perfect. In the case of the help
desk, however, the accent does not matter. Why? When a user calls up because his/her
machine wont boot up, or an important application just crashed, or their
computers cup holder (the CD-ROM, as one unfortunate soul mistakenly believed) is
broken, they need a solution immediately. As long as they can understand what the help
desk service representative is saying, the problem can be addressed and solved. Language
issues take a back seat. Consequently, many high-tech companies are able to establish a
help desk center in one country that provides help desk services to many other countries.
Help desk is exploding because high-tech companies are experiencing explosive growth and
must seek cost-effective ways to serve their expanding markets.
Cutting-edge technology, quality, customer service and help desk are all
important factors in maintaining your companys competitive edge. These and other
factors, such as new market opportunities, market-share projection, positioning and
expansion, will be examined in my pre-keynote address at TCCS TM SPRING 97. I wish
you all the best in this new year.
TCCS SPRING '97 The World's Leading Call Center Event Now
Having worked diligently on the program for
the last 12 months, we are proud to announce one of the best, if not the most spectacular,
TCCS events ever presented in the 24-consecutive conference history of this, the
Original Call Center Convention. A quick glance at the conference grid on pages 126 &
127 will immediately reveal that this is by far the most relevant, comprehensive and
informative conference program we have ever put together.
From the original conference track of TCCS , we have developed a new industry event
called the TeleServices & TeleSales Expo . This is designed as a separate show
run in conjunction and colocated with TCCS. The conference segment of this expo is geared
toward all call center managers and executives interested in how the newest concepts and
latest developments in teleservices and telesales can be integrated into their corporate
environment. Topics will include:
effective hiring and training practices,
call center management,
human resource issues,
customer service/help desk solutions,
and benchmarking, to name a few.
TCCS , in accordance with its new name, Technology for Call Center Solutions, is
now geared toward those specifically interested in technology. These sessions will focus
on how the technology works, on what it does and on how to successfully deploy it in your
call center. Topics will include:
Web-enabled call centers,
IVR & the Internet in the call center,
computer-telephony integration (CTI),
help desk and multimedia solutions.
The groundbreaking Internet & Call Center (ICC ) Expo & Conference, which
debuted in 1996 with resounding success, will now be prominently featured, and run
concurrently with the preconference program on Tuesday, May 6. This move eliminates
conflict with the core conference program to allow those interested in the revolutionary
impact of the Internet on the call center to attend these comprehensive sessions, which
are tailored for management and for technical applications. This exclusive opportunity is
designed to provide you with a good starting point for the full conference program, which
will feature related topics, and the exhibit hall, which will showcase leading providers
of Internet products and services.
Your One-Stop Buying Arena
To reflect the scope of the retooled conferences, the exhibit hall will be filled
with a diverse array of cutting-edge vendors of the latest in:
Internet and electronic commerce,
help desk services,
call center technology and telesales- related products/services, among many others.
As such, it remains your one-stop buying arena for all inbound, outbound and customer
service/help desk call centers.
Perhaps never before in our history have we had such distinguished and knowledgeable
keynoters. The keynoters, both high-level executives from leading companies, will be
providing timely and comprehensive information based on the outstanding records of their
companies. First, Mr. Lou Marianacci, Vice President, Customer Sales & Service
Solutions of Lucent Technologies, will speak on Technology Solutions For A Global
Market. Lucent is renowned for its association with the world-famous Bell
Laboratories, which some consider the cradle of new telecommunications technology. We are
proud and pleased to bring to you Mr. Marianacci, who will discuss the many practical
aspects of utilizing call center solutions to develop global business. Our second keynote
will be delivered by Mr. James Lynch, Chairman & CEO of SITEL Corporation, the
worlds leading international outsourcing company. Mr. Lynch will speak on
Global Teleservices Outsourcing A Powerful New Tool In Global Marketing.
Mr. Lynchs expertise, know-how and achievements are legendary in our industry. His
international achievements are unmatched, as is his phenomenal success in bringing SITEL
to public ownership.
We invite all corporate leaders to attend these rewarding sessions, for both indicate
the changes being introduced to the global marketplace upon which the survival of each and
every company, regardless of size, will depend.
New Exclusive Offering
In a two-part pre-keynote address, Nadji Tehrani will be presenting the latest call center
industry statistics. In the first part, he will examine inbound and outbound growth, all
aspects of telesales and teleservices, as well as various factors influencing the rapid
expansion of the call center industry. In part two, he will offer the outlook and
projections for the entire industry, and look at factors and problems that could adversely
affect industry growth. We urge you to join us at TCCS TM SPRING 97 in Los Angeles
this coming May 6-8, 1997 at the L.A. Convention Center. If you cant attend that
one, consider TCCS TM FALL 97, which is scheduled for September 16-18, 1997 in
Atlanta at the Georgia International Convention Center, conveniently located near
Hartsfield Airport. Better yet, register for both events. Please be certain to check
between pages 128 & 129 for our V.I.P. Passes to attend our exhibit hall FREE!
Make your plans today and look for more detailed information on conference schedules in