Call Centers Can Be Profit Centers: Investing in the Dialogue
Call centers have become profitable, are gaining trust and are building enduring, beneficial customer relationships
Companies are beginning to recognize the value in their call centers, not just as moneymakers but also as an integral part of developing long-term, business relationships. For an industry that typically tracks, measures and controls metrics like call time and volume, it’s easy to think that the value lies in data and quantitative improvements. Think again. These measures general focus on efficiency, not revenue.
Savvy companies are starting to see what was previously viewed as a necessary cost drain should now be treated as a critical component to their customer loyalty strategy—even an investment in future growth. The million-dollar questions:
How have call centers catapulted from being the low ones on the totem pole to acting as the trusted advisors contributing to profitability? And what has caused this dramatic shift?
The answer to both is, quite simply, your customers. With the rise of technology in all aspects of life, customers have gotten used to getting things done in the most efficient way possible. They no longer want or have the time to physically meet with a sales rep, nor do they want to get involved in a lengthy sales cycle. The Internet is one option, but for many, there’s still a desire for human contact, so call centers have become increasingly important.
The phone! It’s quick; it’s efficient and there’s a real person on the other end of the line. What’s more, well-trained call center professionals who have a positive outlook about sales through service are able to skillfully guide clients into additional purchases, bringing in additional revenue for the company.
The result is that the call centers have become profitable, but that’s not the only positive outcome. Call center professionals are gaining trust. They are building enduring, beneficial relationships. They are establishing a loyal customer following and helping the business deliver on its ultimate mission and purpose. Customers are not only trusting the advice; they’re learning to depend on the informed suggestions offered by skilled call center personnel. They are perceiving call center agents as partners, not just providers. Smart companies are recognizing that when they focus on partnerships, profit is the natural by-product.
There’s still work to be done. Recent research from Lee Resources revealed that 80% of companies believe that they deliver superior customer service, while only 8% of customers feel the same. And if American Express’s findings are true—that Americans tell an average of nine people about a good experience but 16 people about a bad one (and that doesn’t even include negative Facebook postings or tweets!)—then companies need to be especially worried about that huge percentage of customers who believe they’re getting less than superior service.
Yet if companies recognize that people and profit are not mutually exclusive, and if they equip their agents to engage in the dialogue that’s necessary to drive revenue, they will position themselves for long-term, positive results.
Dialogue That Pays Off
What does that dialogue look like? Here are a few of the key areas the most effective, skilled call center professionals keep top of mind:
- Building trust and rapport
- Putting customers at ease and making them feel important
- Asking compelling questions to uncover needs
- Following a proven, structured sales process
- Actively listening for cues about challenges and wants
- Understanding Behavior Styles and adjusting accordingly
- Restating or paraphrasing points
- Offering solutions that meet needs and create value
- Translating product and service features into benefits
As more call centers focus on relevant, business-aligned learning and development strategies for their teams, call centers will continue to increase the top line.
The take-away? Put your money in your people. Align standards used to measure success with revenue and customer satisfaction goals, and watch your numbers go up!