|Telemarketing and Call Centers|
Using the phone to hear from customers and to talk with customers can be a great asset if done right. Not only can you learn more about each customer but the conversation can leave the customer with a feeling of being well served. Done right, telemarketers can pick up new ideas from customers, carry out surveys to learn about the market, and even cross-sell other items.
Lands End does it right. About 85 percent of their orders come in by phone. New operators are given 75 hours of training before going on the job. Customers can phone 24 hours a day, and Lands End can answer 90 percent of the calls within 10 seconds.
Overflow calls are routed to stand-by operators working at home. And customers who use Lands End’s web site can also reach a live operator just by clicking an icon on their computer screens.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t run their phone service in this enlightened way. Companies have rushed to automate their phone service and remove any human interface. One calls and hears a digital voice offering nine different choices, followed by another four choices, followed by three choices.
And very often, the phone line is busy (because the company refuses to have enough terminals or operators), or one is put on a long waiting line before hearing a human voice. And the human voice half the time is tired, curt, or bored.
One airline goes so far as to disconnect its waiting customers after 59 minutes, all because the manager is compensated based on the average time required to handle customer calls. Can you imagine waiting 59 minutes and then being disconnected, and the impact of this experience on customer feelings toward the company?
There is a legitimate issue of how much time to spend on the phone with a customer who tends to be talkative. Most companies have trained their telemarketers how to handle a talkative person with grace. Aim essentially for customer satisfaction, not for phone speed.
Management should let telemarketers know that their conversations will be monitored. The purpose is to make sure that customers are treated respectfully and to learn best practices from the better telemarketers. Beyond this, some companies ask their executives to do some telemarketing to sense its power and problems.
Telemarketing in the future must move from one-way sales pitches to two-way conversations; from cold calls to efforts at relationship building; and from knowing nothing about the prospect to making targeted, meaningful offers.