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January 1997


  Cutting-Edge Technology, Quality, Customer Service And Help Desk Are Your Keys To A Sustainable Competitive Advantage

BY NADJI TEHRANI


 In today’s 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 today’s 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 company’s growth.

Advanced Technology
It stands to reason that the raison d’tre 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 today’s 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 progressive company.

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
Quality, in today’s 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 month’s 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 retention.

Customer Service
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 “Publisher’s Outlook,” there are at least two approaches to fostering and developing customer loyalty. First, focus on your customer’s customer. That is, understand your customer’s 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 don’t 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 customers.

Help Desk
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 won’t boot up, or an important application just crashed, or their computer’s 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 company’s 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.

Sincerely,
Nadji Tehrani
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief


TCCS™ SPRING '97 — The World's Leading Call Center Event… Now Even Greater!

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.

Retooled Conferences
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,
  • database marketing,
  • outsourcing options,
  • 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:

  • unified messaging,
  • Web-enabled call centers,
  • Video ACDs,
  • IVR & the Internet in the call center,
  • computer-telephony integration (CTI),
  • application generators,
  • 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,
  • outsourcing,
  • CTI,
  • 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.

Powerful Keynotes
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 world’s leading international outsourcing company. Mr. Lynch will speak on “Global Teleservices Outsourcing…A Powerful New Tool In Global Marketing.” Mr. Lynch’s 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 can’t 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 upcoming issues.

 


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