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[May 2, 2003]

Customer Catcher™

By Martin Wales

Who’s Calling For Your Success?: Contact Centers That Work

One of the most efficient means to find new business and serve your existing clients more cost-effectively remains the telephone.

Qualifying and disqualifying prospects without travel or onsite sales presentations greatly reduces your costs and risk in separating serious buyers from the "browsers." Handling inbound calls for promotions or customer service with sleek efficiency influences the difference between profit and loss. Proper call management techniques save money and precious time while enhancing your allocation of resources.

Additional risk and cost are eliminated with clear objectives, concise communication and constant measurement. Yet, many companies continue to operate inefficiently, some almost aimlessly, because they lack these qualities. For telemarketing campaigns, whether it's a cold call initiative, or a follow-up to direct mail or a trade show, you will experience more success by addressing these three key points. The same is true for routing a customer call to the most knowledgeable agent.

Whether you have your own contact center or outsource the role, it remains your responsibility to gage your return on investment. If internal, your managers must understand and implement proper planning, policies and procedures. If you outsource, then you must seek service providers that meet these same needs and can justify their invoices and, more importantly, results.

The technology for contact centers has improved while tasks and information systems have converged for greater access and functionality. You want to provide your contact center with the flexibility to choose options best suited to specific needs.

Both outbound telemarketing campaigns and inbound client services should benefit. A complete solution helps your organization to meet these objectives:

  • Maximize agent talk time;
  • Minimize agent burnout and frustration;
  • Leverage the benefits of automation without compromising service;
  • Eliminate dialing errors;
  • Increase agent productivity;
  • Reduce call abandonment;
  • Easily manage multiple campaigns;
  • Leverage your third party and legacy databases; and
  • Customize a solution tailored to your business.

Let's take a look at a real-world application that exemplifies meeting a client's challenges. Now, I don't usually get product-specific but I came across one that, conveniently for me, meets these objectives.

The Centre for the Financial Services OmbudsNetwork (CFSON) helps consumers navigate the complaint or inquiry process in the financial services industry by providing information and directing callers to the proper channels. The first step in this process is the CFSON call center.

A key requirement was that agents be able to quickly access a wide breadth of industry information. Its unique multi-industry membership meant that thousands of names, titles, contact phone numbers and e-mail and office addresses had to be available to agents on demand.

CFSON decided to implement a solution called "ice³" by Computer Talk Technology, or CTT. This Web-based, custom interface connects to CFSON's database to ensure access and navigation of all industry information quickly and easily. ice³ helps manage phone, e-mail, Web chat and voice messaging interactions quickly and efficiently.

Before calls even reach agents, incoming calls are directed to the proper channels to ensure that the agent best suited to handle a call receives it, but also that callers receive service in the language they've requested. This greatly improves agents' chances of competently handling calls the first time around and reducing the need to transfer callers, put them on hold or even call them back.

While speaking with callers, agents query the CFSON database for the issue. ice³ instantly searches the database and pops the appropriate actions, contacts and referral locations on agents' screens, allowing agents to maintain a natural dialogue with callers while retrieving data.

"We can record our calls, and use the reporting mechanism to get the statistics we need," said Manny Da Silva, CFSON's National Director of Consumer Assistance. "We also have workflow, which lets us modify and design our queues and call flows on demand."

Customizable reports are generated to assist CFSON in evaluating any aspect of their service, such as call volumes or statistics on how many calls are transferred where. iceCapture, a built-in conversation recording feature, records call information and provides vital statistical data.

The same application doesn't ignore the objectives above for the outbound side and telemarketing campaign management. It has an embedded function, iceCampaign, that equips inbound, outbound or blended contact centers to run lead generation, promotions, and customer service campaigns. It increased agent productivity without sacrificing customer service and satisfaction.

iceCampaign seems to be a dynamic tool, deployed for unique requirements and objectives. It is often custom-developed to address customers' needs. While equipping organizations for optimal dialing campaigns is a key function, iceCampaign can be used alone, or with a CRM tool, to develop scripting applications, to track all inbound and outbound calls, with monitoring and reporting on calls, campaign, and agent performance.

No matter what the purpose, any large-volume contact center initiative is both simplified and enhanced with a simple approach and discipline. It's not about the technology but its implementation and the leverage gained. I'll repeat, using a telemarketing slant, you must have:

  1. Clear Objectives: Define the results you want quantitatively, e.g. 20 new prospects per week with revenues between $10 and $25 million.
  2. Concise Communication: Well-scripted messages that are clear and concise while peaking the interest of the prospects, e.g. "Hello, I'm calling to make sure you received the Industry Status Survey. It cost $25,000 to create but it's free for you from..."
  3. Constant Measurement: Regular review of your "batting average" to know whether you're actually getting somewhere, e.g. only one in 10 call recipients are responding positively. Is that good and can it be improved?

We work in an industry that sells communication solutions. It's interesting, and simultaneously a shame, to see a lack of call management combining technique and technology. Seek to apply and leverage our industry's own innovations for your marketing and business success.

Get a FREE review of your web site! Just email [email protected] with your web address today. Martin Wales is an advisor to growth-hungry tech firms & entrepreneurs at The Customer Catcher Institute™, helping you “Reach Success Sooner.” From group training to one-on-one coaching, he gives you step-by-step methods to get results now with affordable strategies & tactics. Email us at [email protected].

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