Face Your Hang-ups
Your merchandisers have found the most appropriate products. Your creative team designed an eye-popping book, and your warehouse is prepped for the onslaught of orders.
You’ve done everything you can to ensure the success of your next catalog drop. But if your call center doesn’t pick up customers’ calls efficiently enough, all of your work may be for naught.
Abandoned calls occur when customers, for whatever reason, hang up the phone before they reach a call center agent. One operations consultant who surveys roughly 30 call centers annually says abandonment rates for catalogers can range from less than 1 percent to 40 percent of all calls received!
Many experts cite a call-abandonment rate of 2 percent to 5 percent of all calls received as a good benchmark for which to strive. More than 5 percent and you may be having personnel problems; less than 2 percent and you may be overstaffed.
But Bill Spaide, senior partner at catalog operations consultancy Spaide, Kuipers and Co., reminds catalogers that making this metric a reality takes serious effort and commitment. Catalogers with smaller call center staffs will be especially hard-pressed, financially and staff-wise, to meet the 2-percent mark. In the meantime, their customers still expect fast service.
“Customers don’t know if you’ve got 20 or 200 seats [in your call center]. They just expect the phone to be answered,” Spaide points out.
Meeting these expectations more effectively requires customer familiarity, creative staffing techniques and a little technical know-how.
Limits of Customer Tolerance
Brad Cleveland, president of the Incoming Calls Management Institute, a think tank, pinpoints seven factors that affect caller tolerance when waiting in a queue:
1. Motivation, or how badly customers want what you have to offer.
2. The availability of substitutes, that is, if customers can use other means (e.g., your Web site) if they’re kept on hold for too long.