Operations & Management: Spotlight On…Gardener’s Supply Co.

Gardener’s Supply Co.’s Call Center

Burlington, VT-based Gardener’s Supply Co. is a $50 million, employee-owned cataloger selling gardening equipment, seed-starting supplies, and outdoor furniture. The secret to Gardener’s Supply’s success, says customer contact center manager Tena Perrelli, is that many of its telephone service reps (TSRs) are also avid gardeners and therefore can knowledgeably address customer inquiries.

Year facility was built: 1985

Square footage of call center: 4,500 sq. ft.

Seats in the call center: 82, plus capacity for an additional 20 seats

Telephone calls received a year: 750,000

Average number of calls each rep handles an hour: 10

Size of phone agents’ cubes: The order-takers have stations measuring 4′ × 4′; the stations of the customer service, Internet service, and outbound telemarketing reps are 4′ × 6′.

Computer telephone integration applications: “We have a company intranet where TSRs can access information not easily found in our operating software,” Perrelli says. “For example, we can do customer searches in several ways, such as by credit-card number or by ship-to addresses.”

Supervisor capabilities: “We have eight service observers who evaluate calls and, at the same time, watch the TSRs’ terminal screens,” Perelli says. After filling out an evaluation form, supervisors meet with TSRs individually to offer feedback on overall performance and upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Handling overflow: Instead of using an overflow call answering service or a dead-end “we’re closed” message, Gardener’s Supply uses a voice messaging system from Dictronics that enables consumers to leave messages for reps. Not only does the system reduce the company’s call abandonment rate, Perelli says, but the system’s recorded voice message can be changed to promote various sale items. Perrelli estimates that the messaging system paid for itself within six months of implementation.

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