Blog Mini Rant: Call Centers Are NOT an Expense – Put Them in Sales & Marketing

Mini Rant: Call Centers Are NOT an Expense – Put Them in Sales & Marketing

CallCenterIf you have a call center, chances are it is viewed through a single financial lens: expense. Leaders of call centers typically rise up through operations and are charged with minimizing the expense of their department.

According to a study reported in the July 7, 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman, and Nicholas Toman, Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, customers are four times more likely to become disloyal rather than loyal after a service touchpoint. Think about that. As your customers engage with your organization, the interaction is typically so bad that they are more likely to become disloyal rather than loyal. Wow! What does this say about call center touchpoints?

Call centers often suffer from, “what gets measured gets done.” A bane of customer experience efforts is the call center metric “call time.” A knee jerk reaction is that less call time means less time for the reps on the phone and fewer reps in seats, saving money. An intuitive analysis comes up with the quite the opposite. If reps are measured on how long they are on the phone, they will shorten calls – “what gets measured, gets done.” Chances are shortened calls will not address all of the customer’s issues, leading to additional calls. Additional calls mean more reps and higher costs – and an unhappy customer.

For many companies, the call center is the primary means of interacting or engaging with customers. This should be considered an area for investment, not an expense department. This is an opportunity to build Lifetime Customer Value.

A strategy for success?
Zappos.com is a company recognized for their amazing customer-centricity. Here is a company that invests in their customer “loyalty” center (rather than call center). They don’t measure call time. Not at all. Anecdotally, their longest call was over eight hours. Imagine. They train their reps to engage with customers rather than to rush them off the phone.

The fact that Zappos.com hit $1 billion U.S. in sales nine years after its 1999 launch and in 2009 was purchased by Amazon for a reported $1.2 billion U.S. certainly supports their customer focus as a viable strategy.

Call centers becoming proactive
The call center is evolving. Progressive companies are undertaking creative ways of utilizing their best call center personnel. Some are discarding the pure passive role of just accepting calls and creating teams taking proactive roles in making outbound calls. These calls can be to address service issues, reach out to lost customers, aid “go to market” strategies, etc.

As a critical opportunity to engage your customer and further establish your desired Identity – that perceptual asset in the mind of your customer – your call center should be a part of your sales and marketing organization. Remove it from operations.

Remember, to your customers, you are your touchpoints.

This post an excerpt from my book, TOUCHPOiNT POWER! Get & Keep More Customers, Touchpoint by Touchpoint (William Henry Publishing, 2013).  Now available!  For information and to order, visit TouchpointPower.com or view the TOUCHPOiNT POWER! listing on Amazon.

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Hank Brigman

Hank Brigman

President & TOUCHPOiNT Strategist
Customer Experience Strategies, Inc.
Qualified Member National Speakers Association
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