Contact Centers

Re-examine Your Call-Center Practices, Part 2
March 4, 2008

In the second part of this series on how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your call center as a sales channel, this week I provide tips on how to increase your call-to-order ratio.
(For part 1, click here.)
Not every prospect who calls your call center actually places an order. We all should strive for a 100 percent call-to-order (CTO) ratio. But due to the nature of the call center itself, with its inherent imperfections in technology and human behavior, 100 percent conversion is virtually impossible.
So let’s explore how to increase your CTO, increase your average sale and make sure

Re-examine Your Call-Center Practices, Part 1
February 26, 2008

While many catalogers receive the lion’s share of their sales today via the Internet, call centers still handle a significant, albeit declining, amount of volume. Due to the nature of how call centers are set up, many times orders slip through the cracks. One reason for this is technological: Many call centers have systems that impede sales flow.
Other reasons are due to the people in catalog/multichannel call centers. Customer service representatives (CSRs) are the people on the front lines of our businesses, and, in short, they’re the people who can make or break your business. In fact, a number of my recent columns

The Most Effective Call-Center Training Technique You Can Use, Part 2 of 2
February 19, 2008

In the final installment of this two-part series on call-center training techniques, this week I focus on how working with enthusiasm can make all the difference in your call center’s productivity.
(To read part one, click here.)
Plan for the unexpected
Role-play the entire sale process — opening, closing, upselling, cross-selling — with your customer service representatives (CSRs), and pay special attention to handling objections. Be aware of all of the potential customer objections that could come into play with your product, and come up with multiple rebuttals that your CSRs can use for each.
Consistently train your reps until they can

The Most Effective Call-Center Training Technique You Can Use, Part 1 of 2
February 12, 2008

In this first article of a two-part series on providing you call-center training techniques that can add value to your company, this week I’ll look at how role-playing improves call-center performance.
As direct marketers, we spend a great deal of time and money developing campaigns to make the phone ring. But it’s the call center that can truly make “the cash register sing.”
Thus, I believe it’s imperative to spend a great deal of time training customer service representatives (CSRs) to be powerful brand advocates and difference makers with all customers. Personally, I hate calling a company and having to hear

Using Your Call Center as a Strategic Tool: The Art of Upselling
February 5, 2008

Upselling is a powerful tool that can, and should, be taught in your customer service representative (CSR) training sessions. Whereas cross-selling is about related products, upselling could be anything from an add-on, such as a second product, to a discount or free-shipping offer designed to increase the order size.
By implementing this simple tool, you can add greatly to your bottom line. Before your CSRs end their calls, have them ask something along these lines: “By the way, Ms. Jones, if you purchase an additional widget today, I’m authorized to provide you a (percent, dollar off, etc.) discount. Is there someone you know

Discover a Myriad of Ways to Track and Record Inbound Calls, Part 2 of 2
January 29, 2008

After a one-week hiatus in which I discussed the amazing customer service I received while on a recent cruise, I’m jumping back into part two of how to use your call center as a strategic tool to increase sales. (For part 1 from Jan. 15, click here.) Audience feedback I got from part one indicated the need to address how best to record calls for training purposes.
It seems some of you have the capability to record calls and some do not. For those without the proper technology, you have a few simple options. The Internet enables some companies to record your inbound calls

How to Increase AOV in Your Call Center, Part 1 of 2
January 15, 2008

Let’s start the new year off right and work on ways to increase your revenue. One way is to effectively use your call center to increase your average order. By increasing average order value (AOV), you increase your gross margins, profitability and, thus, increase profits. Or, put another way, by increasing your gross margins you have more money to contribute to your marketing efforts.
Always remember that your customer service reps (CSRs) are the front line of your business. If you want to know what’s going on with your business, just ask one of them.
So what kind of sales training do you do

Reducing Costs in the Contact Center, Part 2 of 2
January 15, 2008

In part one of this two-part series, which appeared in the Dec. 18 edition (click here to review part 1), I presented a step-by-step guide to conducting a postseason analysis of your contact center as a baseline for process improvement and cost reduction. In this second and final installment, I’ll examine potential opportunities for major cost savings within your contact center. Once you’ve decided on a postseason review, assemble a team from across the organization. This team should comprise representatives from fulfillment, merchandising, HR and the contact center. Include as many areas of the contact center as possible, from the director to managers, supervisors,

Show Me the Numbers; Better Yet, I’ll Show You
January 11, 2008

Over the past few months, we at Catalog Success have been hard at work to further develop a hefty well of research data for our readers. In October we launched the Catalog Success Latest Trends Report, a quarterly series of original benchmarking research we’ve been conducting with the multichannel ad agency Ovation Marketing. In the coming months, we’ll also be running a series of mail volume charts provided by several catalog co-op databases. Like the Latest Trends surveys, these will run in the IndustryEye section of our print magazine. And for the past year or so, we’ve been running a regular reader poll.

Curve Your Enthusiasm
January 1, 2008

The management of catalog businesses large and small depends on order curves. Yet order curves are affected by several different factors — mail delivery, the weather, time of year, etc. — all of which affect delivery times. This month, I want to touch on the factors that affect these curves, because your actions have the most influence over how soon orders start flowing after the initial mail date and when order levels will peak. Typically, orders start flowing in seven to 10 days after the initial mail date based on a normal five-day mail distribution pattern. If the initial mail date is