Cultivating the Contact Center

By Dr. Jodie Monger

For the in-house call center, the callers are also the customers. For the outsource call center, it is not that simple; two groups need to be considered. First, there are the clients, who contract with and pay the call center to process calls for them. Then there are the people who actually call into the call center. They are the clients’ customers and only indirectly, the call centers’. Therefore, for the outsource call center, this discussion on how to grow your asset base has two diverging applications: your clients and your clients’ callers. First, let’s address the clients.

It’s true – not all clients are created equal. We derive the majority of our profits from a subset of our client base. Essentially we are gardeners who must tend to the roses and cultivate the potential roses without spending too much of our resources on the weeds. Weeds never turn into roses.

All clients are not the same and should not be treated the same. Have you successfully implemented a process to stratify your customer contacts? Did the effort pay off? Logic does play out in this scenario for call centers that have successfully created different service strategies based on the type of customer as defined by value or potential value to the organization. In essence, leverage your center with your premier clients.

Deeper, more profitable clients should receive preferential treatment – quicker time to the CSR, access to more senior CSRs with better problem solving skills and relationship deepening cross-selling skills. Premier clients should interact with CSRs, supervisors, and customer service staff who have more leeway to do what it takes, what is right for this rose of a customer. Why shouldn’t customers who cost the company money have to wait longer? “Weeds” do not deserve disrespectful treatment, just not the “Rosy” premium service.

Providing premium service does not come without effort on your part. It does require a focus on staffing levels since all calls are not routed from the aggregate pool of calls. Can these efforts provide premium service which is evident to your top-tier customer? Our research indicates that it is. What does this mean for your bottom line? Delighted customers are corporate assets. Knowing the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and total profit margin of the premium client group allows for the quantification of the loyalty effect and facilitates growth within the profitable client base.

The same principles hold true for your clients’ callers. If you also apply these principles to your clients’ callers you can quantify and increase their value to your client and in turn increase your clients’ loyalty to you. The asset value of the customer contacts the center handles dwarfs your cost to the client. Your effective management of the client customer base can be proven, and should be proven, to underscore the contribution of the outsource relationship to the client organization in general.

We collect more than 40,000 pieces of real-time customer feedback each month for our clients. In reviewing the evaluations for customers who are differentiating their evaluations based on “premier” versus “basic” status, the effort is paying off. Survey responses are not only higher for the CSR portion of the evaluation but for the company in general as well. The CSR has an affect on the company perception (good and bad) which underlines the need for the roses to receive relationship-deepening service. Our results highlight that 5% to 12% more clients fall into the delighted category (top score) for the roses when examining overall satisfaction with the company and with the CSR specifically.

Using a valid measurement strategy allows you to generalize the survey results to your entire call population. Assume you take 100,000 calls per month for a client. Their roses have a CLV of $500 and 60% are in the delighted category. The asset is valued at $30 Million ($500 X 60,000). In this example, 1% is worth half a million dollars. If you take more than 100,000 calls per month for your client and if the roses are worth more than $500 over the lifetime of the relationship, that 1% is likely to be worth more than half a million dollars. The numbers get very large very quickly.

It is definitely worth focusing on the roses (and potential roses). You and your clients will benefit.

Dr. Jodie Monger is the President of Customer Relationship Metrics, LC. Prior to joining Metrics, she was the founding Associate Director of Purdue University’s Center for Customer-Driven Quality.

[From Connection MagazineApril 2004]

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