Three Common Operating Mistakes in a Catalog Contact Center
Well-run catalog operations always have to balance service perform-ance with operating costs. That is, they must meet service objectives within a budgetary context of what is both doable and affordable.
To that end, catalog operations managers often are forced to make compromises when it comes to both setting and satisfying service standards, with the better managers able to deliver acceptable service levels at a reasonable cost.
Nowhere is this operating dialectic more evident than in the contact center. Although I might get an argument from a few warehouse managers, I believe the contact center is the most difficult fulfillment activity to manage in terms of both operating and service performance.
From an operations perspective, the workload is random and real-time. You have only 20 seconds to answer a call, while at least in the distribution center you typically have the luxury of 24 hours to get an order out the door.
From a service perspective, your phone reps literally are the voice of the company, with all the training and monitoring that responsibility entails.
Meanwhile in the warehouse, the customer contact is indirect at best, limited for the most part to the presentation and accuracy of the customer’s shipment.
After almost 30 years of working with catalogers of all types and sizes, I now believe the only true measure of operating excellence is directly related to the level of managerial focus and responsiveness.
Conversely, poorly run operations appear to suffer from common operating shortcomings that are more a function of management’s inability to focus on both sides of the operating equation (i.e., service and cost), rather than any technological inadequacies.
For example, many catalogers tout their customer-service levels, proudly noting their contact center’s ability to operate at a high level of service. When pressed, however, they admit that more often than not they fail to meet these standards. They say that to meet the standards on an ongoing basis simply would cost too much.