A colleague of mine and I met for “high tea” at The Imperial hotel here in New Delhi last weekend. The Imperial is way too rich for my blood (I bought some logo-engraved golf balls in the gift shop as a Christmas present for $20) but the tea was very enjoyable and the scones, clotted cream and jam were worth the price of the event – recommended if you come to Delhi. My colleague also works in marketing for a large call centre that is based here in northern India, and during our conversation she complained about the state of the “products” her company offers. She was concerned about commitment to quality and detail and about whether her organisation fully understood and was dedicated to providing value to their customers.
After a long discussion about job satisfaction and alternative opportunities, we discussed what she might do about this challenge. First, I think of the “stuff” Call Centres and BPOs have to sell as products. Of course our products aren’t tangible the way that a car or a soft drink or a widget or even a piece of software is. Nonetheless our products can be described in similar terms; by characteristics, features, benefits and value, so I don’t see them as particularly distinguishable from their physical counterparts in most ways. However, I think that those of us who market these more abstract products must have a much greater role to play in the development of the product.
Traditionally, a Product Manager (who is part of the Marketing department) will have the responsibility of developing an MRD (Marketing Requirements Document) and specifying the nature of product to be made and sold. Whether your Call Centre has a Product Manager or not, the marketing department has to do the same thing, translating market needs, market demands into requirements for the business. These needs may well have to do with quality, with process, with metrics, with hiring, training or any other process within the delivery stream.
Product Managers (PMs) always meet with resistance, normally from developers and engineers who think they know better or just want to build something different than the PM. So, PMs influence, they cajole, they bargain, trade-off and compromise, but in the end, if they are good, they get what they need (wait, do I hear a Rolling Stones song playing in the background). In my colleagues’ call centre, the resistance is apparently pervasive, but marketing is supposed to be work (really, I’m not making this up) and so work she must. Just like a good Product Manager, she needs to sit with her operations people, with her HR people, with her CEO and anyone else she can think of to drive home what the business needs to do in order to meet the demands of the market. They probably won’t want to do it at first. They will throw up roadblocks and objections and complain but, if she is right and she is good she’ll move them in the right direction.
And if she does move her company, she will have uncovered the Holy Grail of Marketing – Value Creation. Rather than just creating the perception of value, the stock in trade of us marketers, changing (for the better) the way the call centre delivers its service creates actual value. What a great opportunity.
I don’t know if she’ll fully succeed, but I hope she does because it will be good for her, good for her company and good for our industry.