Whatever the industry, people love the personal touch. In marketing, a business always treads the razor’s edge between efficiency and personal service. But the two do not have to be at odds.
Smart Business spoke to Carl Albright, president and CEO of InfoCision, about keeping high-tech and high-touch balanced.
How is the personal touch built into a tele-marketing program?
The most important thing is to get buy-in from agents. They have to be attuned to the client’s objectives. Agents need to feel like they are part of a team effort. They need to know that management respects, likes and appreciates the job they are doing. They need to understand the client’s goals.
Communicators are the most important people in the company. If they are happy, the personal touch will come through. We believe that if agents feel good about what they are doing they will do a good job. A happier worker is a better worker — better on the phone and at representing the client.
Can you teach the personal touch without seeming phony?
You can. But like anything else, you want people who are genuine. You want people who understand the product or service they are representing and feel good about what they are doing.
You can teach sales skills. You can teach technical skills. But you need real empathy with the customers or donors to have the personal touch. The best choice for the job is someone who is naturally people-oriented.
Can you have both high-tech and high-touch?
Definitely. We have some very high-tech programs. Some of our programs have a lot of data and numerous screens to navigate. Often the communicator has to be able to handle problems or make the right offer to overcome a customer’s objections. It requires a good technical background to serve the account and navigate the technology. But we also need agents to be able to do the job with great personal touch. Many good ones can do both.
Given the choice, which is more important to cultivate?
I’d pick the personal touch every time. Someone with a great customer-service attitude is a real value to the team. Besides, it is easier to teach technical skills than personal skills.
A good personality is so important. It is easier to take a genuine person and teach him or her the technical end. A better attitude shows through and feels better to the person on the other end of the phone call.
Does high-touch cost more?
It does cost more, but there is a reason. Typically, people who add the high-touch aspect are older, more mature workers. They may be the main breadwinners in their families and are career-oriented. They want to be successful. They want their clients to be successful. You’ll pay less money for a person who simply goes through rote repetition of what is on the screen. But you will absolutely get a greater return on investment from a person who communicates well. High-touch is worth the cost.
Does high-touch infringe on call time efficiency?
You want to avoid idle chit-chat. So we worry about this to a light degree. But our main objective is to have a customer who is happy. Customers are more likely to buy or accept another call if they feel good about the person calling. That’s just good business.
Are some agents better at this than others?
Like business or sports, some people are just naturally good at it. Others are better at the technology, some at the fundamentals. A select group of people is good at high-touch. The person who brings all of these skills to the table is going to be one of your top agents.
Sometimes, it is necessary to escalate a call to someone with better people skills. This is uncommon, and it takes special training. If a situation requires high-touch, the people on the program should be high-touch people. They should have the proper training and outlook and the right level of skills before they start to work. With good people, the need to escalate calls is rare.
How does a business build a program around the personal touch?
It’s done by design, but it is different for each client. Some firms just want high sales volume and communicators to take orders. Others require more skill or technical ability. A good call center can modify its program to meet the needs of the client. It depends on the product or offer and what the customer needs.
CARL ALBRIGHT is president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corporation. In business for 25 years, InfoCision Management Corporation is the second largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customer care services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 500 companies and smaller businesses. InfoCision is also a leader of inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, religious and political organizations. InfoCision operates 28 call centers at 12 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.