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Mark Fichera - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

The Call Center Services Star Performer

When it comes to call center services representatives, there are traits that the star performers tend to have in common. 

 We’re talking specifically about call center outsourcing agents, who sometimes work on several clients’ customer service call center programs at once. The great ones are a special breed. Let’s look at their professional characteristics:

 -          Keep Calm & Carry On: Call center services representatives deal with thousands of people on the phone every week. Among those thousands are a number of people who are unhappy, mad, impatient or in some other way difficult. Some have unreasonable demands, and some are in a crisis caused by the call center’s client. The great call center customer service specialist always remembers that Job One is retaining the customer for the client if at all possible. The great agent studies effective techniques for successfully handling the difficult customer in ways that work toward successfully resolving the situation and satisfies (and retains) the customer. This requires the representative to remain calm, to be able to absorb a certain level of anger and even abuse and to constantly turn the conversation toward a constructive, positive interchange.

 -          Sales Message Mastery: The call center services star is frequently in a training class learning a client’s unique sales messages, product set, market and brand. This agent can master several clients’ messages and articulate them as need be throughout the course of the work day. This requires mental dexterity and determination to absorb new information on an ongoing basis.

 -          Computer Literacy: Customer service call center programs can be highly complex. Beyond the details of a client’s sales and product message, each client program has different ways of transacting sales, processing orders, transferring phone calls, accessing customer data, escalating customer issues, notifying clients of hot sales opportunities and recording results. All this requires knowing how to get around a computer. The star call center services performer gets around a computer quickly and accurately.

 -          An Ethic of Helpfulness: Great customer service outsourcing representatives gain satisfaction from help people find the products they want, the services they would like, the doctor they need, the information they lack and the problem resolution they seek. They get a charge out of helping people, it keeps them motivated and energized.

 -          Enjoy People: Call center services representatives enjoy the exposure their work gives them to many different people from many different walks of life. The star performers get their personalities into every customer interaction, they bring a personal touch to every customer service phone call.

 -          Flexibility: Call center customer service managers work hard at training representatives to anticipate myriad customer problems, but they can’t think of everything. The call center services star has the ability to think on his or her feet, to come up with an appropriate solution that keeps the customer happy.

 -          Attentiveness: It may seem obvious but it’s important nonetheless; the star customer service call center representatives listens attentively to what the customer is saying. Breakdowns in customer service often happen because the agent fails to pick up the details of the customer’s request or problem. This undermines customer service quality and leads to customer dissatisfaction.

Some outsourced call center services providers hire entry-level employees as representatives. But there are very few outstanding inbound call center representatives straight out of high school. It takes experience, proven desire and time to develop the skills required to be a star performer.

Mark Fichera, CEO
OnBrand24
Call Center Services
Beverly, MA
Savannah, GA

Publish Date: January 31, 2014 5:31 PM


Why Call Center Customer Service Goes Bad

We all know bad customer service when we see it. But the process by which poor customer service happens is usually a long and complex. Here's OnBrand24's blog on how and why bad call center services happens: http://bit.ly/1iDY3o1

Mark Fichera, CEO
OnBrand24
Call Center Services
Beverly, MA
Savannah, GA

Publish Date: January 28, 2014 7:58 PM


What’s Wrong with a Virtual Workforce? As It Turns Out, Quite a Bit

One of the most important ways in which call center services providers can be categorized is premise-based vs. virtual.  That is, those whose employees work at a brick-and-mortar call center facility over against those whose staffs work from home.

Overall, virtual employment has grown quickly in recent years, up 73 percent since 2008, according to a study by globalworkplaceanalytics. It’s particularly prevalent in the call center industry for vendors trying to hold down their costs or boost profits.

But even as new technology enables workers and companies to remain hyper-connected, a new study indicates that the virtual staffing model has significant drawbacks. A recent article in Forbes magazine offers insights into virtual/on-site trade-offs. Yes, some employees are happier and more productive working from home. But in the larger scheme of things, the advantages of premise-based outweigh the downside, chiefly in the areas of teamwork and knowledge sharing.

To quote from the article: “A healthy organization has a culture that allows the sharing of values and ideas, the formation of a corporate identity, and the sense of competitive urgency that allows a company to be agile and innovative.” And this can only be accomplished when people are working in physical proximity.

In addition, “working from home can fail to fire up remote workers in the same way as a shared company environment.”

This refers to the crucial element of collaboration and the creation of innovative ideas that happens when employees talk to each other, swap suggestions and building on each others’ thoughts.

Concludes Forbes, “…teleworking generally doesn’t work well, because corporations still haven’t solved the issues of remote learning, knowledge sharing, or firing up ideas. If that ‘magic’ is to happen, you still need office face-time.”

These insights apply to the call center industry.  Teams of representatives, working in dedicated or shared teams on inbound customer service/order processing or outbound lead generation and appointment setting, work best when they work in collaboration. Agents and program managers can swap experiences, compare best practices and share ideas in team meetings. All of this invaluable activity is impeded, or eliminated, by agents working from home, with the client hurt by the loss of collaboration.

Mark Fichera, CEO
OnBrand24
Beverly, MA

Publish Date: August 7, 2013 5:03 PM


Hospital Call Center Manager: "You Guys Made a Night-and-Day Difference"

Jan. 3, 2012 --  It’s been over a year since we signed on as the outsourced call center for a large, regional hospital (1,000+-bed) for non-clinical physician referrals and class and event registration, so we thought it was a good time to get a progress report.

We interviewed the call center manager for the hospital (which requested anonymity), and the feedback was very gratifying.

“You guys made a night-and-day difference,” she said.

She breaks down the benefits delivered by OnBrand24 into four categories:

•    Improved Customer and Patient Support Services: Compared with the previous outsourced call center, OnBrand24 has reduced patient inquiries referred to the hospital’s in-house staff by 70 percent.  This is a major efficiency benefit to the hospital, whose staff now has more time to focus on higher-level administrative and patient programs.  It also means that patients receive more prompt service because their inquiries receive first-call resolution.

In addition, complaints from patients about call center service quality, which had been frequent, have been virtually eliminated.

This improvement reflects OnBrand24’s ability to go beyond scripted responses.  Our patient support specialists are trained to communicate with patients on an individual basis and to take the initiative to research patients’ needs.  Above all, our patient support specialists are problem solvers.  They enjoy helping customers gain access to the resources and information they require.  The result: according to our hospital client contact, OnBrand24 has significantly improved patient support service and customer satisfaction.

•    Dedicated, Premise-based Team: Our team methodology represents a major area of difference and improvement. The hospital’s previous call center had a virtual staff model, with agents and the team manager working from home for a variety of clients.  By contrast, OnBrand24 has implemented a dedicated, premise-based team approach.  This means a relatively small team of patient support specialists and managers work together only on the hospital’s program, and they all work from within our call center facility.

This ensures strong communication, accountability and responsiveness between the hospital and our dedicated team.  It also enables the hospital to know each of our team members individually.  And it means our team continually becomes more expert about the hospital, its program and its brand.  Lessons learned are not dispersed among agents working for other clients.  Instead, they are absorbed by a contained team.

HIPAA compliance also is enhanced because patient records are handled by a limited group of agents at a single location.

Finally, because our Team Leader is dedicated to the hospital’s program, system changes and updates are a top priority and immediately put into effect – the Team Leader is not juggling the needs of other clients.

•    Flexible Software and IT Infrastructure: The hospital reports that OnBrand24, in combination with LVM’s Centaurus software, quickly implemented a customized program that supports the hospital’s business processes and patient care practices.

In addition, according to the hospital, OnBrand24 quickly makes system changes and updates, such as adding new classes and changing class schedules, making additions to the physician referral network and changing drop-down menus.

Centaurus is both user-friendly and powerful, enabling our Team Leader to quickly make updates without the involvement of programmers on our IT staff.  And because of the ease and speed we can make those changes, we do not impose incremental charges to hospital, helping them realize significant cost savings.

This contrasts with the previous call center, which charged extra for a wide range of tasks, such as adding physicians to the referral network, making changes to event schedules, completing patient survey, and so forth.  Charges for these activities added up to thousands of dollars per month.

•    Cost Savings: The hospital reports that in addition to achieving enhanced patient service, greater customization and overall responsiveness, OnBrand24 has reduced the hospitals monthly outsourced call center costs by roughly 35 percent.

It’s good to hear “Job Well Done” from a client, particularly one with the complex requirements of a major hospital.  We look forward to continuing a successful partnership with the hospital moving forward.

- Mark Fichera, CEO
OnBrand24
Beverly, Massachusetts

Publish Date: January 4, 2012 7:08 PM


Customer Service Is Important... But "CE" Is Everything

Leading marketing strategists are embracing a powerful new concept: “Customer Experience,” or CE.

CE elevates existing notions of customer service and CRM to the next level. According to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek study, CE means creating “a practical and emotional manifestation of how a company delivers on the promise it makes to its customers, through all encounters, on all channels.” Social media, email, advertising, public relations, POP.

And the call center.

The CE payoff: “The development of loyal lifetime advocates for your brand.”

Very exciting stuff. But the study shows that while 80 percent of surveyed execs said CE is critically important, most concede their existing CE is less than optimal.

Because it puts a voice and a personality to your brand, the call center is a critical component in effective CE strategies. Your customer service agents and outbound lead generation specialists must work in concert with all of your media and communications tactics to create an emotional connection between your customers and you.

Your call center – be it in-house or outsourced – must be strategic and brand-aware enough to support your overarching CE plan. OnBrand24 supports CE operations at Virgin HealthMiles, Sappi Fine Paper, Alpha Software and other B2B and B2C companies.

You can read case histories about them on our site.

- Mark Fichera, CEO, OnBrand24

Publish Date: September 28, 2011 3:38 PM


Why “Time-on-Task” Customer Service Makes So Much Sense

The last thing businesses can afford is to pay for services not rendered.  Yet it’s amazing how many sales managers do just that.

In the call center industry, particularly at in-house contact centers, customer service agents spend significant time sitting idly by non-ringing phones.  Yet for each minute that happens, the agent is receiving full salary and benefits.  That’s money out the window. 

But there’s a solution.  It’s called the “time-on-task” billing model.  It means only paying for customer service when customer service is being delivered.  When there’s no activity, there’s no charge.

Most of our inbound clients choose this billing model (a.k.a., “shared agent”).  They like paying strictly for the time we’re helping customers place orders, answering product questions, checking order status or answering customers’ emails.  When call volume and email traffic decline, so do costs.

Of course, time-on-task isn’t the right approach for all companies.  For those with higher call volume programs, or highly technical products, a dedicated agent model may be more appropriate.  There’s also the hybrid model that dynamically combines both approaches.  When call volume increases, a dedicated agent model is adopted; when volume moderates, the program reverts to time-on-task.

We started offering time-on-task long ago because it makes such complete sense.  We can measure call length and track call outcomes.  We can cost-out average talk time, first-call resolution and revenue-per-call.  We can gauge ROI in a heartbeat.

It’s perfect for clients who like to quantify, analyze and maximize the cost effectiveness of their outsourced customer service program.  And it’s great for managers who hate seeing meters running when no work is being done.

 If time-on-task makes sense to you, we should talk.

Publish Date: March 1, 2011 3:41 PM


The Telephone's Enduring Value

Many followers of our web site fondly remember the graphic that used to be on our home page: an old black-and-white photograph of a group of telephone operators – women in hoop-skirts – in front of a large switchboard covered with wires for connecting phone calls. The ironic message we hoped to convey is that OnBrand24 is at the cutting edge of call center services – worlds away from the old-tech scene depicted in the photo. But we pulled the photo because we found that the irony was lost on most people. The photo just made us look old. I was reminded of this by an excellent article from Samantha Coren, a Boston-area marketing specialist, called “Why a Pure Inbound Marketing Strategy Isn't Right for Every Business” (see www.pullnotpush.com) By this Coren means that it can be a mistake to adopt an internet-only marketing strategy (SEO, email, social media) to create inbound market demand. “Going completely inbound with your marketing efforts,” she writes, “isn't an effective solution for all businesses.” There’s a strong temptation for companies to aggressively adopt web-based strategies and technologies. They make you look new, cool and cutting edge, and they offer huge potential cost savings. But Coren’s point is that an online-only strategy can hurt companies with customers who still make purchasing decisions via traditional marketing tactics, such as print/television/radio advertising, direct mail -- and the telephone. Call it “off-line marketing.” Coren expands on her theme by identifying the kind of company whose demand-creation strategy should go beyond the Internet: “B2C business with low price points, high sales volume, and geographically bound to a specific area of the country where people were just not looking for these types of businesses through inbound means.” This is where Coren and I part ways. While I agree with her overall point that online-only can be bad, I disagree with her definition of companies that should use traditional off-line strategies in their marketing mix – it's too narrow. I say this because many of our clients that use our off-line phone-based services lack the characteristics identified by Coren. Let’s take Mettler-Toledo, a global manufacturer of laboratory devices that measure the purity and contents of water and other materials used in chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other products. Mettler is not B2C, it’s not low price/high volume, and it isn’t bound to a geographical area – other than North America, Europe, Asia and South America. OnBrand24 is Mettler’s “eyes and ears.” We conduct phone-based surveys of their customers and users of competitors’ products to gain market insight, purchasing plans and competitive research. Mettler could try to conduct online market research by emailing surveys and asking customers to fill out a questionnaire, or putting a link on their site and hoping people would fill out an online survey. But Mettler understands that the telephone is the best way to get information out of people. We have surveyed thousands of people in their markets, generating a high volume of data and invaluable insights. In the process, we have scrubbed their customer database. Our off-line market research program has been extremely effective. Or let’s take the Southwest Indian Foundation, a non-profit organization that sells apparel and gift items, the proceeds from which help Native American in need. We provide SWIF with outsourced call center customer service and order taking services. This time of year, incoming call volume is extremely high from SWIF customers ordering gifts or checking on the status of their orders. SWIF also lacks some of Coren’s characteristics of the off-line marketer because it has a nationwide customer base, not “geographically bound to a specific area of the country.” Being smart marketers, SWIF sells the way their customers buy. Some search and buy products over the internet via SWIF's e-commerce capability. Others prefer to look through a SWIF catalog that arrived in the mail and call the customer service number. If SWIF limited customers to the internet, they would miss out on the large market that would rather buy off-line over the phone with the assistance of a friendly and helpful OnBrand24 brand ambassador. To be fair, I would assume Coren agrees that a mix of off- and online marketing programs is right for SWIF. And I wholeheartedly agree with her fundamental point: An on-line only marketing strategy can be a mistake. Where we differ: I think off-line marketing still has great value for more companies than she does.

Publish Date: December 17, 2010 7:44 PM


With Great Sales Comes Great Customer Service Responsibility

Retailers take heart: Holiday sales news is good! Bloomberg reports a rise of 3.5 percent for Thanksgiving week over last year. For Black Friday itself, total retail revenue hit $10.7 billion, a record. Spending for the first two weeks of November was up 6.1 percent, according to ShopperTrak. A look inside the numbers reveals a distinct trend: growth in consumer spending is being driven by a big jump in online retail sales. Online merchants realized a 16 percent revenue increase in November, reports Coremetrics, with the average order climbing to almost $191, an increase of 12 percent over last year. Online sales rose to more than one-third of the total, the highest ever, according to the National Retail Federation. But with great news comes great responsibility. Specifically, retailers need to satisfy a greater need for premium inbound customer care and order processing services. Put another way, the quickest way to kill online sales is to put consumers through bad experiences with your call center. This means more than just adding more order taking staff. It means connecting your customers with smart, alert, knowledgeable, friendly and responsive customer service agents who are immersed in your brand, who can hold the average talk time to a minimum and who know how to increase your average sales order. Longer term, the goal is to get customers to buy in to buying online. If they enjoy your customer service you’ve taken a big step toward cementing customer loyalty – and lowering your business costs. A final note on the retail sales numbers: U.S. consumer confidence rose more than expected in November to the highest level in nearly six months, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Index. For retailers, the key to riding out the rest of the recession is making the right adjustments that leverage these trends. If consumers are more confident about the future and increasingly buying online, you need to provide your customers the inbound customer care call center capabilities they deserve – and will keep them coming back.

Publish Date: December 3, 2010 5:02 PM


The Fourth Quarter Hum

There’s nothing like the “Fourth Quarter Hum” to lift the spirits of a marketing manager, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing and hearing at OnBrand24

Providing outsourced customer services – in the form of catalog order taking and e-commerce order processing for companies like Sappi Fine Paper, Dancing Deer Baking Co. and SodaStream – we’re experiencing a noticeable, healthy and heartening uptick in activity.  The noise level in our inbound call center has risen to a steady din of orders placed and customer questions answered.

The Fourth Quarter Hum has never failed to materialize in our 25 years in the call center business.  But with the economy so slow we couldn’t help wondering if it might arrive in a reduced state this year.  We’re happy to report that such worries were unfounded.

You’ve heard me preach in the past that there’s never a good time to cut back on customer service.  But a recession may be the worst time of all.  Marketers need to leverage every cost-effective resource available.  Providing customers extended access to friendly and informed customer service agents to assist with product orders, facilitate sample shipments and answer product questions by phone or email, is a significant competitive advantage. 

It’s a major difference over companies that tell their customers to “call back during normal business hours” or leave a message in a general voice mailbox.  The costs associated with extending personalized service are quickly outpaced by maximized revenue and stronger customer loyalty.

So if the Fourth Quarter Hum hasn’t visited you give me a call.  Enhanced customer service could be the boost you need.

Publish Date: November 10, 2010 3:24 PM


Meet OnBrand24’s New Vice President of Sales

Posted by Mark Fichera, CEO, OnBrand24, Beverly, MA Jeff Velodota, whose 23-year career in the call center industry spans all facets of call center operations, has joined OnBrand24 as Vice President of Sales. “Jeff is a call center industry leader,” said Mark Fichera, CEO of OnBrand24. “He has an outstanding record of delivering great client service – from inbound call center customer service to outbound lead generation and sales appointment setting. We look forward to the highly positive impact Jeff’s expertise will have on the success of OnBrand24 clients.” Jeff spent most of his career rising through the ranks at a major call center services company, beginning as a telemarketer in 1987 while a college student at the University of Connecticut, from which he earned a Bachelor of Science degree (with honors) in accounting. He eventually became Vice President of Client Services and Sales. Instrumental in building that company into a Top 25 call center services provider, Jeff was involved in all aspects of its business, client service and marketing operations, including implementation of advanced call center technology. “OnBrand24 has a great group of clients and a highly talented and experienced group of managers and call center agents,” said Jeff. “As a leading Massachusetts call center, OnBrand24 draws on a great talent pool in the Boston area. OnBrand24 is poised for great growth. “I’ve always found it very exciting to partner with clients in developing the call center strategy that will boost their sales, improve customer service and customer satisfaction – all the while lowering their business costs,” said Jeff. Outside of work, Jeff is an avid motorcyclist. But he says his greatest passion in life is being a good father to his four-year-old son. Welcome Jeff!

Publish Date: July 12, 2010 7:25 PM


Call Center Technology – The Latest and Greatest

by Mark Fichera, CEO, OnBrand24 Good call centers fire on all cylinders: 1. Experienced managers who devise great inbound and outbound telemarketing campaigns. 2. Professional outsourced call center agents adept at B2B communications and sales. 3. State-the-art call center technology. At OnBrand24, we’ve recently enhanced Cylinder No. 3 – the central nervous system of OnBrand24 call center services. This is part of our ongoing investment in a flexible, scalable and stable technology infrastructure capable of handling the most demanding inbound and outbound call center programs. We’ve enhanced system reliability with a new IP vaulting and off-site disaster recovery solution, which includes sophisticated remote data backup technologies and redundant server hardware. In doing so, we replicate our most critical business applications, which reside remotely in a data center, reducing downtime risk brought on by hardware failure or environmental factors. Client data is moved off-site to a secure underground facility and mirrored to a second data center for full fail-over redundancy. Data stays encrypted in transport and storage, and it remains encrypted in our remote data centers, which meet Sys Trust certification as well as compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for 2009. This is the kind of ongoing technology improvements OnBrand24 continues to make. Enhancements to data security, risk reduction and cutting downtime to the absolute minimum are a constant focus for us. Whether it’s inbound call center customer service or outbound lead generation and appointment setting, we’ve got the technology backbone to support highly effective – and secure – outsourced call center programs.

Publish Date: June 14, 2010 11:18 PM


Why the Call Center Business Is Booming

by Mark Fichera, CEO, OnBrand24 When the history of the Great Recession (2008 - ?) is written, the sad accounts of lost jobs, shuttered businesses and general economic hardship will also include a few pockets of prosperity.  One of them will be service providers that help companies cut the cost of doing business, such as outsourced call centers. To be sure, I'm generalizing based on my own experience.  I can't speak for the call center business overall, just OnBrand24's - and our business is booming. Why this is happening is no mystery.  In recessions, businesses have the strong tendency to: Cut business costs Look for ways to grow bottom-line revenue Resist hiring new staff Look for ways to increase sales resources Contradictory?  Sure.  But just as individuals in panic situations become irrational and incoherent, businesses also tend to want things that are at cross-purposes with each other. Here's the beauty of OnBrand24: We satisfy each of those contradictory goals simultaneously.  Let's take a look: Cut costs and grow revenue: OnBrand24 does this in many ways.  For example, at very low cost we can augment and extend our clients' customer service, providing additional hours for customers to call for assistance or to order products. On the outbound call center side, OnBrand24 can make thousands of lead generation and appointment setting calls to existing or new customers in a matter of weeks, spurring significant new sales revenue - at very low cost. Increase sales resources without adding new staff: Companies that hire OnBrand24 add significant resources to their inside and outside sales staffs.  On the inbound call center side, we can teach a team of agents to be an extension of your brand, processing customer orders and quickly creating relationships that reduce shopping cart abandonment, improve customer loyalty and generate revenue. On the outbound telemarketing side, we can blitz your markets, generating leads, setting quality appointments, surveying your existing and potential customers or engaging in direct sales - without adding to your headcount. Come to think of it, it's not just our call center that's thriving through the recession.  OnBrand24 is helping other companies - our clients - come through the recession as well. That's what I call a win-win.

Publish Date: June 10, 2010 5:55 PM


Call Center Check List

By Mark Fichera, CEO, OnBrand24 If you're a first-time user of a call center company you might be unsure what to expect, or ask, of your service provider.  Having been on the service provider side of the equation for many years, here's my recommended approach to hiring a call center. The first principal: Agree with the call center provider on program goals based on measurable results.  Then, hold them to it. Like direct mail and social media marketing, one of the great attributes of telemarketing is measurability - and, by extension, call center accountability. So how do you keep a call center accountable? Start by developing a list of priorities and objectives - also called a "Service Level Conformance" - that you and your call center manager agree on.  The objectives of your campaign may change as you gain better understanding of your telemarketing strategy.  If your call center lacks the flexibility to set individual performance standards for your campaign - or balks at any of these items - you should probably look for another service provider: OK, so here's a check list: - Results Coding: The result of every call, be it inbound customer service, outbound lead generation and appointment setting, should be coded for tracking and analysis.  This is critically important for adjusting and refining your campaign, which you should do in concert with your call center project manager.  Results codes include: Appointment Set, Forwarded Customer to Client, Answered Caller's Question, Survey Completed, Sale Completed. - Success Rate: Depending on the type of campaign involved there is a "best outcome" call result, such as scheduling a sales call for an appointment setting campaign or completing a sale or successfully resolving a customer problem for an inbound program.  Set a mutually agreed-upon goal with your call center manager for successful calls per week or month. - Internal Measurement: As the client, measurement of your telemarketing campaign extends beyond the call center's results report.  For outbound programs, it's smart to track the quality of their sales leads, assessing the level of interest and appropriateness for your product or service offering.  For inbound programs, code your ads and have the call center incorporate them into their results report - and then adjust your ads according to those that generate the best results. - Cost per Call: Call centers with advanced telemarketing technology infrastructures can measure results and costs to a high level of granularity, including breaking your campaign's costs down to the individual call.  Ask your provider for project costs per call and hold him to it. - Productivity: Similarly, the call center should provide data on call volume handled per FTE per week or month.  Productivity targets vary depending on the nature, length, purpose and detail-level of the campaign.  Work with your campaign project manager on setting productivity targets. - Abandoned Calls: An objective measure on inbound call center quality is the percentage of abandoned calls.  Your call center should pick up calls within a pre-agreed time limit. - Service Resolution: This is another measure of inbound call center effectiveness.  Agree with your provider on a target rate for call center resolution on first contact calls.  Target rates vary based on the complexity of the product or service involved.  Set a goal that reflects your program. - Call Agent Availability: This is a measure of the speed with which call center agents resolve phone calls.  You want to balance speed with effectiveness.  Get your telemarketing provider to set an aggressive standard for agent availability.   - Service Response: This is a measure of the time required to answer calls.  Obviously, the faster the better.  Your call center should validate the time it takes for calls to be picked up. And the most important measure of all: - ROI: This is what call centers are all about, right?  Lower your cost of doing business and boost your revenue.  For outbound campaigns, OnBrand24 clients typically realize returns of between 5-1 and 10-1 of realized revenue over telemarketing fees.  For inbound, results vary widely because campaigns vary widely - but I encourage you to press your call center for some level of ROI expectation. That's the gauntlet you should put your prospective call center through.  If it passes, you're already well on your way to a strong, profitable relationship.  

Publish Date: June 9, 2010 6:19 PM


OnBrand24 - Call Center Central

When to Use a Call Center -- and Why? Posted by Mark Fichera, CEO, OnBrand24 In our last post, we talked about a critical aspect of hiring a call center services provider: setting expectations for your program and holding the call center accountable.This time, let’s move things back a step and examine when the timing is right to hire a call center for lead generation, appointment setting and sales and other outbound telemarketing functions.  Closely related to that: Why should I outsource these capabilities?Call centers get hired when sales and marketing managers face some of the following challenges that, left unaddressed, can bring a company’s forward progress in the market to a grinding halt:• Problem: The sales pipeline is empty, or nearly so, too often.  A good call center is a lead generation engine that knows no rest, continually replenishing the pipeline with new leads.• Problem: The turn-over rate on the sales staff is too high due to lack of sales appointments.  Call centers keep sales staff calendars full – and keep salespeople happy and incented. • Problem: The quality of sales appointments scheduled by the sales staff varies widely and does not reflect consistent criteria.  Call centers train their agents to adhere to strict standards for sales appointments; they work hard to avoid setting appointments that will reflect poorly on them.• Problem: The sales staff never gets around to making enough cold calls.  Most people hate cold calling, but it’s the call center’s raison d'être.  Call center agents are naturals at it – they actually enjoy cold calling.  Good call centers do it efficiently, productively and at a low per-opportunity cost that lowers the client’s cost of doing business.• Problem: Too many new sales leads generated by the marketing department go untouched.  Call centers can train a team of phone sales consultants and scale a telesales program to contact hundreds of leads per week.• Problem: The few salespeople committed to cold calling tend to be slow at it.  See above.  Call centers are optimized prospecting factories that deliver efficient, productive cold calling results. • Problem: The sales staff doesn’t have the knack of converting a friendly conversation into a sales appointment.  Call centers continually refine and improve their appointment setting technique.  They work hard at quickly establishing a rapport with prospects while moving them toward agreeing to an appointment.• Problem: The sales staff can’t keep track of sales leads who have asked to be called back at a later date.  Call centers utilize specialized lead management programs that manage all contacts with a given lead and automatically surface the lead when the prospect wants to be called again.• Problem: The sales staff gets tangled up in the CRM system, wasting time wrestling with the application and not enough time selling.  Call centers have technology infrastructures that optimize outbound telemarketing operations – they are specialists at keeping outbound programs humming along smoothly and efficiently.The list goes on, but if you see yourself facing these challenges it may be the answer to your questions on when to hire a call center is quite simple: Now. Alpha Software Drives Product Launch With OnBrand24 Outbound Sales So many customers, so little time… That was the challenge Alpha Software, a global leader in database application software, faced earlier this year when it released Version 10 of its Alpha Five flagship product. In the world of database apps, Alpha is nothing short of legendary. Since its inception more than 25 years ago, the company has developed a highly loyal user community that today numbers in the hundreds of thousands.When Alpha launches a new product version, one of its biggest challenges is contacting its enormous installed base. So Alpha assigned OnBrand24 the critical assignment of telesales market outreach to existing Alpha Five customers. The project has been hugely successful, exceeding Alpha’s expectations and leading to additional telesales assignments for the call center service provider."OnBrand24 has been absolutely great," said Brett Johnston, Sales Manager at Alpha Software. "We’ve been very impressed with their ability to establish a highly capable team that quickly developed a strong technical grasp of our technology and the ability to communicate new product features in a compelling way. We quickly came to regard OnBrand24 as a satellite office for us, a direct extension of our sales and marketing team."With four call center agents assigned to the Alpha team, OnBrand24 has averaged 1,500 calls per week, selling large numbers of Version 10 along with significant sales of training DVDs, educational classes and professional services. Alpha reports an impressive 5-1 return on their telemarketing investment – for every dollar spent on the project, the company is realizing $5 in revenues."This was a big challenge for us, but we have talented call center agents with the technical background and the smarts to quickly master Alpha’s needs," said Mark Fichera, CEO of OnBrand24. "We are proud to contribute to a highly successful product launch for Alpha Five."In addition to boosting Alpha revenue, OnBrand24’s outreach program also supports Alpha’s customer relations strategy. As existing users of Alpha Five upgrade from versions 8 and 9 to Version 10, their loyalty to Alpha software is perpetuated.Alpha has received positive feedback on OnBrand24 customer service. After completing a purchase of Version 10, a customer emailed Alpha that the OnBrand24 call center agent he spoke with "was professional, knowledgeable, polite, engaging and very good at eliciting insights about the product that only come from many years of using it seriously. I can’t remember the last time I had such fun on the phone purchasing software. You would be well advised to count yourself lucky to have her representing the ‘public’ face of Alpha."Based on the project’s initial success, Alpha has added to OnBrand24’s assignment, including sales of training products, mentoring and professional services, along with a five-day user group and training class in Las Vegas."Many of our customers have been with us for a long time – the Alpha user community is very tight," said Johnston. "I was amazed at how quickly OnBrand24 became an integral part of our culture. With OnBrand24, we’re selling more copies of Version 10 and refreshing more customer relationships than we possibly could on our own."

Publish Date: June 1, 2010 4:24 PM

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