I saw a commercial the other day from a pizza franchise and was very surprised that they were admitting that their call center service was awful. They go on to say that customers should not call them, but instead, they should only order pizzas online. Many companies may not go to this extent, but they encourage their customers to contact them online, or visit them in person. They do this by creating helpful sites that offer catalogs, online discounts, FAQ’s and forums. The reason, apparently, is the costs associated with a call center. There are people costs, hardware and software costs, training, etc. Offering alternatives to the call center is not bad business, in fact many times we would rather use self-service tools to order and obtain information anyway. But there are other times when we just want to speak to a live person about a specific question or concern.
Companies need to realize that this is an important channel, and an opportunity to differentiate their brand, and should use call center interactions as revenue generators rather than just a necessary evil. These same companies that direct customers to online self-service sites, spend millions of dollars each year to engage prospective and current customers and they are missing an opportunity with the call center. Utilizing the right call center solution, companies can efficiently provide informed interactions that can be very effective in closing a sale, offering alternatives when items are out of stock in a specific location, and up-selling additional products. The ability to talk to a live person will always have value. While I might take the discount on the pizza, I would rather have an informed agent when I have a question that cannot be answered online. Why not use the call center as a differentiator from competitors and offer informed interactions as an alternative to a discount. See how IBM’s call center solution can help create informed omni-channel conversations http://www-01.ibm.com/software/commerce/order-management/call-center/