It’s Your Call Not To Lose Customer

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Brand management

It is really difficult for a brand to manage its call center, which is one of the most important factors to sustain brand identity and image on customer basis. When I observe my boy friend working as an outsourcing manager in a well-known company in Turkey to manage some call centers, I am not strange to the concepts such as quality standards, supervisory control and data acquisition. Especially, my boy friend’s mobile phone that doesn’t stop ringing even all weekends and his overextertion to solve problems in the call center make me interrogate the importance of a call center for a brand’s identity and image created in the minds of consumers.

So it should be taken for granted in the branding world that there is a re-emergence of a fervent debate about the relationship between a company’s marketing department (which is responsible for a brand’s personality) and its call center (where that personality literally speaks to customers calling with a problem or question). The main question here is whether marketing should control the call center or keep its hands off it.

Although Forrester produced an influential paper titled “Why Marketing Should Own The Contact Center” in 2004, just a year later CustomerThink, which is an online community of business leaders, retorted that that was a better idea in theory than practice due to the fact that running a call center requires very different skills than those possessed by most marketers.However, I am of the opinion that the marketing department should control the call center or at least supervise the call center in order to see whether quality standards that are accordant with the brand identity and image are implemented.

The reason is as plain as a pikestaff. Marketing department spends millions of dollars on ad campaigns to build brands and sustain the positive image in the minds of customers. However, “…when a consumer call headquarters with a problem or question, it’s the consummate moment of branding truth. And, too often, marketing has little or nothing to say about how that moment turns out.” says Eric Camulli, Vice President for Virtual Hold Technology.

If this moment of truth is not compatible with the brand’s identity and image, you can expect that the brand’s reputation will be ruined on the angry caller’s Facebook page, Twitter account, youTube, his blog or any number of online review sites. These profanity-laced posts not only are spread by word-of-mouth but also demonstrate how your call center can become your own worst enemy. “Terrible upbeat piano music while on hold with [brand x] customer care center just seems like throwing salt on the wound.” says Camulli.

Surely, we all know how these problems arise because as customers we, too often, face the difficulties when we call a bank to solve a problem about our credit card or account. It is the most common problem that customers expecting convenience get put on hold for a decade instead. What is more, customers, who hope for glitch-free service, are asked to repeat their information over and over as they get passed from agent to agent.

The point technology comes today makes it easy to solve these problems while saving costs and increasing efficiency. We have technology which allows visitors to peek into the call center from the company’s website to see the current length of the wait for service. Once site visitors know the wait time, they can place their call or opt to hold virtually. However, the main problem is that the new frontier for customer service is moving to the social space like greased lightning before conquering the problems. As a result, both marketing and the call center look for a way to better serve customers who may likely contact them through Facebook, when they aren’t even handling traditional inbound calls well.

After all, a strong relationship between the marketing department and the call center surely increases the level of customer loyalty that sustains “brand reputation”. Instead of measuring a center’s performance with metrics like average call length, what is needed is to have a call center that pay tribute to actual customer satisfaction. Since customer satisfaction leads to customer retention, they are more likely to buy more product and recommend to others. And this is the general rule defined under marketing.

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