Contact Centers

Reducing Costs in the Contact Center, Part 1 of 2
December 18, 2007

As 2007 comes to a close, many of our clients are turning their thoughts to how they can save money — both in their contact centers and throughout their operations — as well as starting to prepare for holiday season 2008. One of the best ways to plan for future success is to conduct a postseason analysis. In this first of a two-part series, I’ll explain how to perform a postseason analysis of your center as a baseline for customer service, process improvement and cost reduction. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the postseason analysis. 1. Form a postseason review team. Because your efforts

Some Not-So-Obvious Ways to Get Through the Tough Holiday Season Ahead
November 16, 2007

Reading retail sales, housing sales and consumer confidence reports the past couple of weeks while watching the stock market sink, I’ve become quite worried about the outlook for the holiday season for catalog/multichannel marketers. Retailers collectively reported their worst October in 12 years, and a Conference Board report last week said consumer confidence dropped in early November to its lowest level since Hurricane Katrina triggered soaring oil prices two years ago. Meanwhile, recent reports from the National Association of Realtors showed sales of existing homes had plunged to their lowest level in nearly a decade. None of this bodes well for catalogers. So

Balancing Your Budget and Investment: When is the Right Time to Outsource?
November 13, 2007

Many multichannel merchants focus on how they can lower operating costs when they consider outsourcing certain tasks. But when you outsource operations, you also outsource the investment. Sounds obvious, but maybe the magnitude isn’t all that clear until you’re faced with replacing an order-management system, moving into a new fulfillment space or upgrading your Web site. When outsourcing your investment, you don’t have to invest in those upgrades as your business grows and changes. Let’s look at some examples that show the size of these investments. * Order-management systems. Software as a service (SaaS) can free up a potential investment of $25,000 for an

Telephone Upselling: Be Realistic and Not Pushy, Kislik Advises
November 6, 2007

As long as it’s not forced or aggressive, telephone upselling still has a rightful place in catalog call centers, pointed out Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik & Assoc., during a presentation she gave at last week’s Cyber City Teleservices Forum and User’s Conference in New York City. Kislik outlined several pointers and reminders about upselling; below are the five most notable ones followed by five useful questions catalogers should ask themselves. 1. Don’t be pushy or “slick.” “Customers hate anything that seems like aggression, pushing or manipulation,” Kislik said. “The use of force is bad news and just doesn’t pay off in the

There’s Always a Way to Improve Catalog Customer Service: My Top Five Tips for 2007
November 2, 2007

Continuing my discussion from the previous Corner View on companies’ treatment of customer service and CSR empowerment, this week I bring you my Top five catalog customer service tips, based on my observations throughout this past year. Some of these are more topical with the times; others are age-old issues that must be addressed. It’s easy for someone in my position to demand catalogers do more of this and that in customer service. I realize that some — if not many — of catalogers’ limitations in customer service are budget-driven. So, I promise not to make any bold (and expensive) recommendations here. But considering

The 50 Best Tips
November 1, 2007

Say what you will about this wonderful trade we call the catalog/multichannel business, but whichever way you spin it, you can’t go very far if you’re unprofitable. That’s why above all else — the marketing, the merchandising, the creative, the e-commerce, etc. — we’re most interested in helping our readers make more money. So we bring you our annual binge of tactics and tips extracted from all of this year’s issues of Catalog Success, our weekly e-newsletter Idea Factory and our biweekly idea exchange e-newsletter, The Corner View. Our editorial staff went through every article we’ve produced this year to give you a nice,

How United Airlines’ Customer Service System Ruined My DMA07 Conference (and What Catalogers Can Learn from My Experience)
October 19, 2007

As the editor of a publication that covers the catalog/multichannel business, I don’t really have any business devoting a column like this to an airline. But having just endured one of the worst nightmares of my life, I believe catalogers who rely on offshore, third-party customer service reps might care to take note. My saga started on Sunday, Oct. 14, shortly after I arrived at O’Hare Airport in Chicago for the DMA07 conference. As I waited at the baggage claim carousel for my garment bag containing three suits and assorted other precious items (to me), for some reason I thought to look at that

Intuition IS a Metric
October 1, 2007

Financial and operations metrics are what most businesses use in day-to-day management. This is, in part, because they’re the easiest to obtain. But they only measure part of your business’s performance. They key to long-term success is the effective delivery of goods and services to customers in a manner that engenders repeated purchases and recommendations. And your call center plays a key role in that process. Some operations metrics, such as abandonment rates and average time to answer, relate to building customer relationships. Other factors affecting this, however, are not as easy to measure. Surveys are good tools, but don’t underestimate the

Technology’s Back-end Effect
October 1, 2007

The rapid development of sophisticated technologies has been tantalizing. So much so that it’s been suggested companies can improve efficiency by replacing expensive, variable-cost human labor with incredibly efficient hardware and software, both fixed costs. Such promise has led to change in the call-center business, beginning with call-routing menus and leading to sophisticated, interactive voice recognition systems. Despite countless horror stories of customers lost in “promptland,” most of this technology has been developed with the best intentions. Yet numerous studies have shown this promise often has remained out of reach. A recent Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index survey found that 55 percent of customers

Fold it Up?
October 1, 2007

If you’re like most catalogers, you’ve either discussed giving up the use of a bind-in order form with envelope or you have already eliminated it. There’s a definite trend to eliminate the bind-in order form/envelope typically found in the center of catalogs. Is that really the right thing to do? This month, I’ll offer the pros and cons of using a bind-in order form/envelope, provide you with actual test results and give you the criteria to use to make the right decision for all the right reasons. Facts Don’t Lie I first explored this topic in a Catalog Success column back in