This article originally appeared in the DEC. 2012 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.
Most companies know the key to long-term growth is generating repeat business. Repeat customers mean greater brand loyalty, higher referrals and a steady stream of sales. Adding a new customer also costs considerably more than retaining an existing one.
But creating the kind of brand relationships that drive customers back again and again isn’t easy, especially for businesses that outsource their marketing and sales efforts to third-party call centers.
It’s about more than just taking orders
You don’t want your brand to get lost by having representatives who might treat a call with your customer as just another interaction. While they can help your customers make their purchases and answer their questions, it’s not creating a customer experience that is going to convert into future sales.
Companies need more than just order takers. To be competitive in this disjointed marketplace you need call centers that can build outstanding interactions by being as professional and connected to the brand as your own employees are. The order taker will process an order and get it done, but brand ambassadors will take it to a higher level to ensure the person feels good after the call.
You need to leverage the people on the phones if you’re looking to create outstanding customer interactions. Your call center is the voice of your company, so it's crucial to have mature, experienced professionals on the phones. The agents making and taking your calls are representing your company in front of your most valuable asset – your customers. Reputable call centers have highly selective hiring policies. At InfoCision (News - Alert), the average age of our communicators is 42 years old, close to 80 percent are full time and almost 75 percent are their family’s main provider. Successful call center companies will also have robust recognition programs to retain and reward top performers.
Separate yourself from the crowd
With the trend toward multiple communication channels and a brand ambassador approach, an extensive training curriculum is essential. What separates brand ambassadors from typical call center representatives is their deep level of product and client knowledge, which can enhance the value of a call in a number of ways. Instead of just answering questions, brand ambassadors act as an extension of the brand they’re calling for, so they do a better job connecting with the customer from the first phone call. Brand ambassadors convey the feelings and voice of a brand. They are also comfortable enough with product and service lines to present other opportunities and upsell the customer and boost conversion rates.
Often, people are not 100 percent sold when they call in initially, and it’s going to translate into lost revenue. The phone call should be looked at as an opportunity to pinpoint customer wants, answer questions and create need. Because of their training, brand ambassadors are going to know what questions to ask and what benefits their product or service offers. They will take this information and build on it to create that need for the customer.
Creating stronger brand ties
By enhancing brand value, brand ambassadors also add future value in customer retention. The real value of the brand ambassador comes after the phone call is completed: The prospect will have a stronger tie to the particular brand as well as a clearer feeling of who the company is and what it has to offer. Even if it’s a purchase of a singular item, the experience can make clear this a company that the customer will want to go back to.
The success of brand ambassadors really comes down to the investment a company is willing to make up- front with time and training. The more involved they are in developing training materials and programs, the more ammunition they can provide to brand ambassadors. When those on the phone know the product and client, it’s going to positively impact the bottom line on that initial call. It’s about creating a better impression of who we represent. And, in this economy, where competition for customers is extremely fierce, strategic use of call centers can provide companies with far-reaching benefits that will help them to achieve goals, to enhance market position and to maintain their good reputation.
Monica Ross is vice president of training and development at InfoCision.
Edited by Braden Becker