Live from NEMOA: Make the Most of Your Call Center

Providence, RI—You don’t need whiz-bang technology to get the most value out of your call center, according to Liz Kislik, who led a panel discussion during the New England Mail Order Association’s fall conference here last week. Instead, focus on making the most of the resources you have. For instance:

* Give your call reps the authority to be generous, said Tena Perrelli, call center manager of America’s Gardening Resource, the parent company of Burlington, VT-based Gardener’s Supply Co. Empower them to bend the rules when necessary to satisfy unhappy customers. But at the same time, be sure your company has detailed practices and procedures in such instances that warrant going the mile.

* Establish and maintain a “notes” field in your customer database. The customer will especially be impressed, Perelli said, when they don’t have to tell their story repeatedly when passed from representative to representative.

* Instead of first trying to maximize sales, built the connection with the customer, said Eric Pennington, marketing director of Hillsborough, NC-based Carrot-Top Industries, a marketer of special-event and patriotic goods. “If an item is $10 cheaper but makes sense with the customer’s order, so be it. It will build the relationship down the road.”

* Encourage “small talk.” Face it, often a part of your customer base just calls and wants to chat. Of course that may clog the queue from other calls, but if you teach your CSRs to look for cues, you can wrap up the call without sounding rude, Kislik said. “Teach listening skills so that you can segue back to the ordering process to complete the sale,” she said. “Your CSRs need to think of themselves as party hosts. There are cues, such as ‘I hope you enjoy the product, and how do you want to pay for this?’” Engaging in small talk works for that last guest who just won’t leave, Kislik added.

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