“Within five to 10 years, contact centers will become one of the most important revenue-generating departments in most enterprises”.
This is a recent quote from Donna Fluss of DMG Consulting (registration required) who specialise in customer support and call centre strategies. If this is true (and I think it is except that there is no way it will take 10 years, I would say more like now to 3), it will have a profound impact on our business and on profits as this business moves from a price-based commodity to one offering a high-value / high-margin product. To take advantage of this change, contact centres will need to be able to demonstrate our expertise at selling and customer service.
I think Donna’s ideas dovetail perfectly with some work we have been doing with a US multi-national consumer food chain. This organisation has unmatched domain expertise in producing their product and marketing it. Their expertise is not (nor need it be) in order taking, selling and cross-selling, that’s something we (and others like us) specialise in. Here is a really easy example of what Donna is talking about, by combining this company’s product-domain expertise and my company’s selling experience he goes from strength to strength.
There are other less obvious but equally profitable examples. I remember when I first started in sales as an Account Executive for Illinois Bell (IBT) in Chicago. My business area was alarm central stations, the guys who monitor the burglar and fire alarms in your house and business. For various historical reasons these guys hated us (and the feeling was generally mutual). My first introduction to the industry was at the local alarm association meeting where my colleague and predecessor introduced me this way, “This is Steve who will be taking over from me, if you didn’t like what I have been doing for you, you’re not going to like him either”. I’m not making this up. Anyway, in our IBT sales-training, one of the key modules was “Selling on the service call” where we were taught that a customer with a complaint is one of the best selling prospects. It was true then (I managed to consistently make my numbers in this very hostile environment) as it is now. The reason this service/sales relationship is important for us to remember is that so many customer complaints and service calls are coming into Indian call centres just like ours. In my observation, selling new products into these calls is an under-utilised opportunity but one that our more aggressive customers are considering with greater frequency. We service providers shouldn’t be waiting for our customer to come to us though, we need to be finding creative ways to combine our skills in selling and in handling customer service events and package them for our current clients. It won’t pay to be behind the power curve on this.
Outsourced call centres, especially those of us in India, have the opportunity to be on the leading edge of the monetisation of the call centre. Here are some reasons:
- The price-advantage thing has pretty well played out (see previous post on differentiation)
- Many of us are pretty darned good at selling, have good track records the right technical environment and experience
- It’s not just in our best interest but in our survival interest to go beyond being cost-centre organisations
- If we have handled tech-support and other service functions well (and our growth, expansion and customer sat numbers suggest we have) it’s natural to expand and enhance the utility we provide our clients
- We have less of the internal political pressure and self-inflicted status quo pressure that many internal call centres have, this makes it easier to experiment and trial.
So, let’s take Donna’s notion to heart, get ahead of the game and look for creative revenue generating opportunities.