May 3, 2009
Reprinted with permission of Evergreen Newspapers
I’m sure you have heard these words when you called some business for which you had a question or problem to be solved. You would swear that you were hearing an accent from some far away place, but he introduced himself as Joe. Worse, you heard that your call was very important, but they didn’t invest in enough agents to answer it. The message they convey is that there is an unusually high call volume so you should consider checking the company web site. In other words, please hang up we are not staffed well enough to answer your call.
Good news, there’s another model out there. Alpine Access, a local company, and others are promoting another way of doing business. They are promoting something I call “home sourcing” an alternative model that hires American workers who work at home. These workers are better educated than typical call center workers. They tend to have many more customer service skills so companies who really care about customer loyalty are signing up for this level of telephone service.
The call center business focuses on one of two things. Some companies want to minimize expense and that’s their focus. They tend to hire offshore operations to just get through the call as fast as possible. Other companies see the conversation on the phone as a defining experience that provides an opportunity to improve the relationship between the customer and the company.
The secret of the call center business is to hire the very best people possible and empower them to serve the customer’s needs. By hiring top people the company doesn’t have to teach them to relate to the customer. Individuals whose life experiences more closely mirror the customers they are serving understand how to do that.
With their work at home model, such companies have a recruiting edge on traditional bricks and mortar operations, so they choose only the very best people. In the face of millions of lost jobs, Alpine Access is planning on hiring several thousand individuals this year whose commute is no further than to their nearest computer. They will be able to utilize the interpersonal skills they have learned over a lifetime to build better relationships for their company’s clients.
So maybe your call is important to us after all.