Managers Share Secrets of Success
CS: What’s the most important lesson in call center management that you learned?
Pitkow: The customer is always king. I learned [that] from our owners pretty early in my career here. You should bend over backward, twist yourself into a pretzel and then bend over backward again for customers to feel they’re getting the service needed to come back and shop from you again. So great customer service is No. 1. And then hiring and maintaining employees who can give that level of service is the second most-important aspect of this business.
CS: What advice would you give a new contact center manager?
Pitkow: Always be fair to employees. Treat them with dignity and respect, because that’s the way you want them to treat your customers. Instill steady behavior, and do so in a firm and loving way.
Second, know every single aspect of your company and its products. Be an encyclopedia of its strategy, merchandise, policies and thinking.
Finally, make sure you create a fun environment. Keep the mood light. Maintain perspective. My motto: Work hard, and play hard. For people to enjoy their jobs and look forward to coming to work, there has to be a sense of fun in it.
Paula Arnold, general manager
The Americana Co., Gardena, Calif.
Merchandise: blank, imprintable apparel products sold to screen printing shops and other businesses
Contact center employees: 15 to 25
Catalog Success: What are your top challenges as they relate to call center duties, and how do you overcome them?
Arnold: Finding qualified customer service reps is always a challenge. When we find them, they’ll train with other reps, watch the daily workflows, and hear what customers ask and want. Periodically we have mill reps come in to give product presentations for us.
Attendance is another challenge. We have three call centers: Gardena, Calif., Commerce City, Colo., and Oklahoma City. The centers are networked to one another, and so can take overflow calls when necessary. This helps us to deal with absenteeism when it occurs. We do not use an overflow contact center.