Contact Centers

Face Your Hang-ups
October 1, 2002

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

Sell Your Reps on Upsell Programs
August 1, 2002

You don’t have to resort to enforced compliance among your customer service reps to make an upsell program successful for your catalog. In fact, you’ll probably sell a lot more incremental product if you invest the time and effort to ensure that your reps understand and support the validity of the process. Following are six important keys to an incremental sales program that your reps will accept and follow. Stress offers, not selling. Most reps in catalog operations are more comfortable with the idea of helping customers to buy than they are with selling. So soft-pedal your sales talk, and make it

Service Anyone?
May 1, 2002

While attending a recent business marketing conference, two things really struck me. First, direct mail not only lives, but thrives. Indeed, how do you drive Web traffic? Snail mail! Who wants a print catalog? Web browsers! Second, what do customers do when they want to order? They pick up the phone and call. My point isn’t that they use the phone, but rather what occurs—or at least, should occur—during the call. And it isn’t some idealized version of customer relationship management. Rather, they want simple, old fashioned customer service. Let me illustrate with an example from my own catalog-shopping experience. There’s a

High-tech Customer Service
March 1, 2002

Technological advancements within contact centers are revolutionizing the way catalogers answer and manage inbound calls. And if implemented properly, automated, inbound call programs can streamline caller-cataloger interactions and improve overall customer relations. Added bonus: By using these technologies, catalogers are saving time and money—good news in these economically challenging times. The Virtual CSR Imagine a virtual customer service representative (CSR) through which callers can place, change or check their order status. For example, officials at NetByTel (www.netbytel.com) say their NetByTel Connected system’s virtual agents recognize human colloquialisms, ask callers to repeat information the technology couldn’t initially register, and it even

Case Study: Chinaberry Catalog
September 1, 2001

Imagine for a moment that your catalog company’s main competitors are book-selling giants Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The grueling price wars—behemoths battling for market share tend to inflict that on their industries—are driving the smaller players in your space either to bankruptcy court or to the arms of consolidators. But through it all, your niche catalog company continues to enjoy annual sales growth of about 13 percent—for 10 years running. And, in all but one of those years, your company recorded healthy profit margins. Chinaberry, a cataloger specializing in books and other products for children, women and families, combines a carefully selected merchandise

CRM Solutions Can Help Cross-Sell and Upsell
August 1, 2001

Although customer relationship management (CRM), has been a buzzword for the past few years, catalogers have applied it to telemarketing on a sophisticated level only in the past year. The reason for the delay is not because catalogers lack desire to incorporate cutting-edge technology, but rather that CRM solutions can be expensive and tricky to implement effectively, say experts. But careful CRM system selection and adequate staff training can, among other benefits, help boost the cross-sell and upsell rates of your catalog’s customer service reps (CSRs). Goal: Customer Retention Kathryn Jackson of Response Design, a call center consulting firm, says cold calls and

Great Customer Service Starts with Great CSRs
November 1, 2000

In today’s highly competitive catalog arena, service has become a make-or-break proposition for many companies—not a nicety. To stay in the game, it’s imperative that catalogers provide real service to their customers, not just lip service. “Service should benefit the customer, not just be a marketing tactic for the company,” says telemarketing consultant Liz Kislik, of Liz Kislik Associates. “Failing to meet this need by providing inadequately trained and/or non-service oriented [customer service] reps will guarantee failure,” adds Frank Fuhrman, director of sales, customer contact services, for DialAmerica Marketing, a telemarketing firm in Mahwah, NJ. The firm works with catalogers in the giftware,

Mony Modes, One Voice
June 1, 2000

A single customer contact center presents one company message across e-mail, Web chat and telephone calls As catalogers move business online, they are noticing an increase in the number of incoming calls to the call center. Theoretically, the Internet is supposed to reduce the number of calls. But Web sites, especially commerce-enabled ones, are generating more contact for catalogers. Many of the incoming calls are for customer service. The customer is on the site, they have loaded up their shopping cart, but they have a question about the color, the size, the quantity or they can’t figure out how to complete the transaction.

Upselling on the Phone
May 1, 1999

The underlying philosophy of Omaha Steaks’ successsful telemarketing operation is: “I don’t have the right to determine when you’re done buying.” And that’s a good way to look at upselling on the phone. Instead of thinking of it as pushing extra product at your customers, present it as a customer service, suggests Ron Bruggeman, director of sales at Omaha Steaks International, a cataloger and direct marketer that operates its own call center. For inbound telemarketing operations, Bruggeman says that means almost every caller is a prospect. He explains, “It makes sense: You have a captive audience of people who