Managers Share Secrets of Success
CS: How did you select the one you use now?
Perry: We sent an RFP, and then narrowed the list to seven call centers. I mystery-shopped them. Some didn’t take calls quickly. Some had a lot of noise in the background. One criterion we looked for was how easily their agents could communicate updates to team members. For example, did they have a intranet site where we could post our shipping charges, contact list, etc.?
CS: What advice would you give a new contact center manager?
Perry: Thank people for a job well done. You don’t have to give prizes and pizzas, although that’s nice. People really just want to know you appreciate their hard work.
Also, be available, listen and provide honest feedback, even when it’s tough to do.
Finally, plan effectively. Of our annual total shipments, 60 percent go out in one week: the first week of December. We have to be ready for that. We start in January, reviewing where the bottlenecks were, tweaking plans. The call center goes to 12-hour shifts. It’s exciting to be hitting our sales projections. Our owners bring in snacks and make a festive time of it.
Mike Pitkow, executive vice president, chief operating officer
Holt’s Cigar Co., Philadelphia
Merchandise: premium cigars and smoking accessories
Contact center employees: 12
Overflow/after-hours contact center: AnswerNet
Catalog Success: What are your top challenges as they relate to call center duties, and how do you overcome them?
Pitkow: First, maintaining a staff of premier service reps who know our products well and stay up on their product knowledge. Our call center is staffed mostly by women, and few women in general smoke cigars. And yet some of the customer questions they field are pretty tough, such as the different tobacco blends. So one challenge is keeping sales associates who can talk about the product and have been through the training.