Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Other surges occur around key holidays and events, including Christmas, spring break and Fourth of July, and sometimes significant weather changes such as sudden cold snaps.
To maximize call-center productivity, all operators take orders for both catalog divisions. As calls come in, telephones display for the operator from which division the customer is calling. Operators then answer calls appropriately. This requires additional training on products, sizes, fit, etc., so the operators can support both divisions.
Web customer service is handled by a separate employee group. The Web sites have live chat online that specially trained Web customer service representatives handle, in addition to answering e-mail inquiries.
Interestingly, the same sort of inquiries come via the Internet as on the phone. Says Scott, "People want to know, 'Should I get a small- or a medium-sized bathing suit bottom?' The rep can help them with exact size specifications."
Reps are kept up-to-date on any product changes. A new Venus catalog launches this fall featuring just sportswear, including jeans and "fun" apparel, says Scott. "We're now training all of the operators to handle these new product orders and questions."
The Internet's Promise
Scott has a firm belief that the Internet is a great sales medium but is not representative of a separate business opportunity. "The Internet is a wonderful tool. But it's nothing more than that right now. It's another way [for customers] to order."
Web ordering is fully integrated with other back-end operations at the company. "It's really no different from a phone order on the back end," says Scott, noting that once a Web order is placed no manual intervention is needed.
For WinterSilks and Venus, online sales represent a small percentage of new business, but the vast majority of those Web sales are a direct result of the print catalogs.