Italian Necktie Collection Checks Outsourced Calls

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CHESHIRE, CT-The Desantis Collection, an upscale gentlemen's accessories catalog, with silk neckties hand-picked from Italy, is not the type of catalog to leave quality control to a third party.


But with explosive growth occurring since its inception in 1996, the catalog could no longer keep its order-taking and customer service in-house. It needed help in handling its calls.


But the Boca Raton, FL company wanted proof that kid-glove teleservice support was the only type of service its customers, who range from executives to well-known newscasters and celebrities, would get from any outsourcing partner. It already had a bad experience with a medium-size mixed media vendor before. It didn't want to repeat the experience.


Along with its list of demands -- the vendor must process 80 percent of the calls in 20 seconds, must not exceed hold time of 30 seconds; must provide orders from the previous night by 8 the next morning and three times a day during the weekend, must implement changes to the account within 24 hours -- the catalog company wanted a monitoring program that gave security and allowed the company to call any time and listen to any conversation.


Enter the Voice Logger.


The monitoring system developed by Wygant Corp., Portland, OR and used by MBS Communications Inc., a Cheshire, CT-based, privately-owned teleservices agency, provided the assurance that the cataloger needed.


MBS, whose clients include Bloomingdales By Mail Ltd. and paper-based communications provider Pitney Bowes Inc., records all calls. It allows clients to punch in an order number to receive a playback of any call or as many calls they'd like to listen to.


"I told them that providing that kind of access, they are either incredibly good or incredibly foolish," said Maureen Wilt, customer service manager of the Desantis catalog. "I don't know of any call center that allows clients to input an order number and listen to every call that is taken."


"There is a big difference between remote monitoring and the Voice Logger," said Vince Mulhall, vice president, sales and marketing, for MBS. "It's another thing to monitor 10 calls a week than to allow access to any call at any time. Remote monitoring really only allows you to get a feel for quality of service," he said.


With standard monitoring programs the client must listen to calls in the order that they were received before getting to a specific call.


Wilt, who listens to a random sampling of about five calls a day, looks at each listing of orders she receives from MBS. When she has a question about an order -- perhaps it was longer than usual, the purchase was larger than normal, or various sizes of ties, regular and extra long, were combined in the order -- she will punch in the code for that call and automatically receive playback.


During one such instance she listened to a 22-minute call and discovered that the representative was walking a guy through his closet in an extensive cross-sell that resulted in a sale of more than $600. What looked like a grossly inefficient call, horrifying to any account manager, turned out to be extremely positive.


"This is the kind of call we want to see happen," said Wilt. It is more important for her that the reps take time with the customer, cross-selling and up-selling rather than simply taking the order. "Reps should know it is OK to take time to listen to the customer."


On average, five items are purchased per transaction. Ties range in price from $50 to $100. About 1,000 calls are taken in each week.


In-house, it is a given that the reps shop with the customers, helping the customer dress themselves, according to Wilt. They know the customer down to the nuance of their voices. "We spend a lot of time getting to know these people," she said.


Though the same cannot be expected in an outsourcing relationship, according to Wilt, it is important that the reps come back with responses that are intelligent. "It just isn't possible to put every response on script," she said.


Listening to the calls facilitates training as well as helps Wilt determine if she is giving reps enough information.


With 22 teleservices representatives working on the program in what MBS calls a semi-dedicated team, meaning that the reps answer for only two other catalogs, MBS records all questions that reps encounter during the campaign and send them to Wilt for feedback.


The only point of concern for the future, according to Wilt, is turnover, of which MBS has a better track record than most, with turnover currently less than 2 percent a month. She has a good relationship with the reps working for MBS.


"They even thank me for coming up to the center to see them," she said. She especially likes their enthusiasm.


But the important end result is how this relates back to the customers.


"We want the reps to know about the ties and who the Desantis customer is," said Wilt. "We want customers to keep calling us back."
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