The personal touch Featured

1:06pm EDT May 25, 2006
Are you considering whether to use an outside call center vendor? If you currently have one, are you satisfied with the relationship?

“Companies considering outsourcing should have a specific direction in mind for where they want to take their business,” says Carl Albright, president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corp., the world’s third-largest privately held telemarketing company, serving nonprofits and Fortune 100 companies. “What type of business do they want to attract? Do they need to increase sales? Enhance customer service? The first step is to establish a direction. That involves bringing together all your top managers to discuss the goals and objectives.”

Albright recommends that companies that already use an outside call center keep focused on their return on investment. One of the most important keys to a good ROI will be the quality of the call center’s staff.

Smart Business asked Albright how a personal touch can be fostered among a call center’s employees, so that they sound and feel as if they work directly for the client.

How important is the ‘personal touch,’ and how is it best fostered?
Any company that uses an outside call center to handle its telemarketing programs and answer its incoming calls wants the call center’s employees to act as professionally as their own employees would. These people should be helpful, informed, friendly and skilled communicators.

People who choose to become professional communicators for a living want to work for a quality company. They want their boss to know who they are, and also to respect and care about them. They want to be employed by a company that trains them properly and recognizes them for their achievements.

Giving customers the personal touch means that a professional communicator is trained on, knows and understands the programs and services of the company it is representing. Furthermore, they understand the company’s goals and long-term objectives — what they are trying to achieve and why.

To what degree should a corporation be involved with training employees who work on their program in a new call center?
During the initial phases of working with a call center partner, it’s always a good idea to send out your own corporate trainers to meet with the call center’s trainers as well as the staff of communicators. Spending some time up front will help tremendously as the vendor puts together the complete training guidelines for your program, especially if it’s a complex program where communicators will be answering calls regarding products, billing and other similar areas. Additionally, meeting with the call center’s staff is good for their morale. Feeling as if they are part of your team will go a long way as they learn about your products, services, and long-term goals.

In addition to the quality of the staff, what other factors should a company consider before awarding its business to an outside call center?
The ability of your call center partner to be flexible and adapt to your company’s needs. Depending on the project, certain clients may want older, more mature people on the phones. Some programs may require more technical people on the phones. The call center vendor should have a variety of different talents to choose from, and should be able to adapt to changing needs very quickly.

Additionally, a company should consider its ROI. What is it going to get back for every dollar it spends — $1.50 or $2? How will it be measured? How accurate will the reporting be?

Next, there is the quality of the data that the vendor collects. What is the vendor learning about the wants, needs and spending habits of the client’s customers?

Another consideration is response time. How long does a person have to wait on hold — 20 to 30 seconds or less? How long is the time on hold? Are calls being abandoned? What are the customer service satisfaction rates and how are they measured?

Finally, for companies that want to shift their call center costs from fixed to variable, outside call centers provide a valuable solution, since you only pay for the time you use.

How has the national Do Not Call Registry changed the telemarketing landscape?

It has prompted many corporations to outsource their call center operations. The costs would be phenomenal for most corporations to purchase the necessary hardware, software and human resources to comply with all the regulations. And heavy fines have been levied against companies that do not comply properly. The new regulations have made it difficult for some call center vendors to survive. However, those that continue to thrive have most likely made the necessary investments to comply with regulations, thereby eliminating the costs for doing so for their clients.

CARL ALBRIGHT is president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corp. Reach him at (330) 668-1400 or CarlA@infocision.com.