Call centres – from dog-end to top-dog

Last year while attending an e-commerce exhibition in London, mistakenly ventured into the wrong hall and into the midst of a call centre expo.

Call centres: take your pick.
Not wishing to stay too long in the dog end of the retail industry a hasty retreat ensued. The poor reputation of call centres has been built on widespread outsourcing to countries where English is a very foreign language, long waiting times on the phone, and too many automated processes, which have ultimately led to awful customer service.
But maybe things are changing and the call centre is coming up in the retail world. With ever greater levels of business being done online, the call centre’s time may be about to come.
While there is certainly plenty of investigation by retailers into the latest technologies to improve their interactions with customers – such as utilising social media platforms – the most effective tool might just be the simple call centre.

Richard Goodall, sales and marketing director at PCMS Group, reckons being able to pick up the phone gives customers confidence when buying online and also provides a near-physical point of contact for after-sales service.

He believes a good contact centre could help increase online conversion from a typical 2% to nearer 5% – particularly if the call centre employees are empowered to offer customers added benefits such as discounted warranties.

We’ve heard the argument that a multi-channel shopper can be three-times the value of a single channel shopper so maybe this could rise to four-times the value for retailers that also have a good call centre channel.

Yes, call centres really can.
Utilising the call centre for revenue generation has certainly been recognised by Gravis – a German-based retailer of Apple products. When customers call the company (when researching specific products) they are encouraged to make a commitment to ordering the item that is then collected (and paid for) in-store. This has led to 5% of the total goods sold by the company being pre-ordered from a call centre interaction.
When the goods are then collected in-store there is the opportunity to sell them other products and services. The average basket size of these click & collect customers is Euros 600, compared with Euros 300 for in-store customers, and Euros 400 for online shoppers.
The up-selling and offering of in-store services helps boost the 10% margin Gravis achieves on selling Apple products to an average of 18% per customer transaction. The call centre is clearly more than earning its keep at this particular merchant.
Such is the value now being assigned to call centres by a growing number of retailers – including Snow + Rock – that they are not placing their call centres in foreign territories, nor even remote towns in the Highlands of Scotland, but in their head office – close to the CEOs desk.
This is truly connecting the boss with the customer. If this proliferates then we will never look at call centres in quite the same negative way again.
Management from Both Gravis and Snow + Rock will be presenting at the forthcoming Retail Bulletin Multi-Channel Summit.