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April 17, 2008

Transition to Selling and Service in Call Center Poses Challenges

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Traditional call centers have earned a reputation for driving costs within the organization. To combat this stigma and react to industry trends, many call centers have morphed into multichannel contact centers that do more than just take calls — they also employ sales initiatives to drive revenues.
 
In order to experience a successful transformation from the traditional call center to a sales-based organization, proper sales training must be implemented within the center. In such an environment, agents must often execute cross-selling campaigns to drive additional revenue streams.
 
According to ICMI’s 2007 Call Center Cross-Selling Report, 59.5 percent of the 264 responding call centers that have successfully implemented a cross-selling program reported increased revenue per contact.
 
Many of these companies also experienced increases in customer satisfaction. More than 34 percent of respondents indicated increased satisfaction rates. Such results point to significant promise for contact centers that are blending sales with service.
 
Another challenge in the call center is finding agents who can not only service, but also sell. Hiring the right agent is key to success and those centers that fail to implement proper hiring practices will not see positive results. For 16.9 percent of ICMI respondents, a pre-hire test to determine skill-sets for cross-selling and upselling has been implemented.
 
Changing the dynamic within the call center can also impact agent retention, either for better or for worse. Only 8.1 percent of participants in this survey reported that implementing selling in the service center has had a major negative impact on agent retention.
 
While this is a low percentage, it is not a true indication that those agents that do stay will perform well. Quality training and coaching are essential to ensure the agent’s success. A full 68 percent of the respondents to the ICMI survey said they added cross-selling-specific training. What must be examined, however is whether this training stresses service and sales.
 
Communication between contact center agents is also essential to overall success of the transformation. For 63 percent of survey participants, communication was listed as very critical to the successful implementation of a cross-selling initiative.
 
Cross-selling is implemented for a variety of reasons, the foremost being to increase revenue for 42 percent of respondents. Only 13 percent indicated that it was to build customer relationships and 11.5 percent said the goal was to increase customer retention.
 
At the end of the day, it is possible for the call center to successfully morph into a multichannel contact center that can effectively drive sales. It is getting there without falling apart that will be the true test.

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Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC (News - Alert) and has also written for eastbiz.com. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.
 
Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.
 
Today’s featured white paper is Best Practices for Implementing a First Contact Resolution Program in the Contact Center, brought to you by Enkata.
 
 



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