Harrah's Likes Odds in Outsourcing Teleservices to APAC

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National casino operator Harrah's Entertainment is betting all its chips that APAC Customer Services can handle its inbound teleservices more efficiently than its in-house call center.


APAC Customer Services, Deerfield, IL, now handles inbound voice calls as well as customer inquiries made through the company Web site, www.harrahs.com.


The casino chain averages 3.5 million incoming customer calls yearly. When Harrah's closed its Memphis, TN, call center April 22, eliminating 143 positions, APAC took up all those calls. The parties would not reveal the monetary value of the deal.


"There was an enormous volume of these calls coming in," Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson said. "With APAC, we have the capability of doing the things our teleservices center was handling, but more cost-effectively for us."


Calls to Harrah's will be handled by dedicated customer service representatives at APAC's 24-hour call center in Waterloo, IA, which has 300 workstations, said John Gray, senior vice president for APAC. APAC will provide customer service for the Total Rewards loyalty program as well as reservation services for Harrah's hotels, restaurants and entertainment.


CSRs will have access to Harrah's database of 19 million customers through a system, developed by Harrah's in 1997, that links the company's customer database with its database of hotel, restaurant-reservation and ticket availability.


Harrah's highest call volumes come during its busy seasons, which include the second and third quarters of the year -- when many people go on vacation -- and during extended-weekend holidays. But during much of the year, many of the company's call center workers sat idle.


By outsourcing to APAC, which employs 17,000 people in the United States, Harrah's eliminates its work-force management issues. Thompson declined to disclose how much money Harrah's anticipates saving by using APAC for customer service.


APAC can manage its work force to match the patterns in call volume and deal with occasional spikes in business. "We can work with them on seasonality," Gray said.


APAC began work for Harrah's about a year ago, Gray said, initially offering to handle call overflow, or volumes that exceeded Harrah's call center capacity, Gray said.


"That gave us the chance to show what we can do," he said. "Give us a piece; let us run it so you can compare."


Harrah's, Las Vegas, uses database-driven direct marketing in many of its promotions. The company gathers consumer information through its Total Rewards loyalty program, which offers discounts and deals to repeat customers based on how much they spend, much like a frequent-flier program.


Harrah's tracks how often a customer visits and uses outbound telemarketing to contact those who have broken from their pattern. The data also are used to tailor direct-mail offers to an individual consumer's habits and interests.


Direct marketing lets Harrah's grow its business without opening new locations, Thompson said.


"We decided a couple of years ago that this was a real good way to generate growth," he said. "You can't keep building billion-dollar casinos every year."


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