First in phone service

Catalog call centers are the fastest to “live answer” incoming calls-at least according to a survey published in the August issue of “Service Level Newsletter,” a call center industry publication. With an average of 23 seconds before a live answer (when a telephone rep picks up, as opposed to a machine), the catalog industry far outpaces other selected industries.

The study, conducted on July 1, presents average answer times for various industries, including government agencies and credit card, travel, and utility companies. (Time comparisons are illustrated in the chart shown below.) “Service Level Newsletter” contacted 10 companies within each industry and started timing at the sound of a ringback tone. For companies that answer with an interactive voice response unit (such as, “If you want to request a catalog, press 1…”), the report notes how long it took to get through the menus, then how long it took from that point to get a live answer. The timing stopped once a live person picked up.

1) Review storage needs. If you’re selling perishables such as fruits or cheese, or temperature-sensitive products such as chocolate, you’ll need special storage lockers and refrigeration equipment.

2) Step up security. When the evidence can be eaten, there can be increased temptation to steal goods from the warehouse. Consider keeping food products in a secure cage.

3) Use protective packaging. “Package food items in a way that maintains the integrity and appearance of the product,” says Omaha Steaks director of operations Ron Eike. This could mean refrigerated or heat-resistant packaging.

4) Assess delivery time. You need to figure out how long it will take a perishable package to get to its recipient. Many mailers opt for standard expedited shipping. Also, “ensure that a recipient will be there to receive the product,” Eike says, or the food could spoil on the doorstep.

5) Urge customers to order early. Because of high holiday delivery volumes, package delivery may take longer than usual. Encourage customers to place food orders early to ensure safe and timely delivery.

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