QVC Leverages Call Center Resources Making Room for Internet

ORLANDO, FL–In a move to reach more customers and handle more calls, QVC pushes forward its plan for large-scale conversion of call center operations to the Internet.

According to a source, the Westchester, PA's toll-free supported Personal Shopper and its on-line site, iQVC, will be integrated.

Already QVC, Inc.'s foray into the Internet has led to over 2 million shopping sessions per month, with per month sales over $5 million placing iQVC third of all sites doing consumer commerce as of December 1997. IQVC was first launched December 1996 with a recorded 2000 hits a month.

Call volume has gone up. For both the on-line service and QVC's traditional Personal Shopper, average monthly call volume is 49,306, up from 36,858 for the previous year, a 33.8 percent increase. iQVC takes up the bulk of that increase with 68.9 percent.

“There still are a lot of people who don't have computers,” said Steve Hamlin, vp, QVC Interactive Technology Operations in referring to the mix of internet and standard phone orders in the company's call center operations. “They are able to call up and order anything from both QVC and iQVC.

QVC currently separates itself from iQVC by its highly edited choices, narrow inventory, on air product list, contained fulfillment and impulse driven buying pattern.

IQVC offers continuity and answers demand with a product list including everything that QVC offers and more. “It basically has anything that a manufacturer can create,” said Hamlin.

The customer's use of the Internet to get information and handle simple transactions ie basic orders, daily upsell information and daily special values frees up agents so that they can perform their evolving role as sales advisors and savvy techs.

QVC's agent to Internet training involves familiarizing agents with technology and screens prior to customer calls in a live environment. Intranet applications include screen design, functionality, help screens, product imaging, search capability, enhanced upselling. The idea is to get agents on par with technologically sophisticated customers so that they are able to quickly walk customers through the screens and help them decide what they should purchase. Computer based training (CBT) and interactive training provides agents with a new level of expertise and is key to success of the conversion process according to Hamlin.

“The emphasis is on the sell and the up-sell rather than on service and research,” he said. “As a retailer, we have to use technology to be there and sell the product.”

Strongest sellers include jewelry, home, electronics, apparel, health and beauty. Peak traffic time is during lunch hour with a $81 average order. Over 15 percent of customers each day are new customers.

Calls are generated on air, on line, on demand with TV, Internet and Personal shopper respectively. An 800 number sales/service support group provides real time response. On-line Internet customer service correspondence has a 24 hour 7 day a week response back to the customer with a 24 hour response objective for customer service, an improvement from the insufficient 72 hour correspondence turnaround.

Core customer service on the Internet are currently being developed based on VRU capabilities including order and return status, credit card balance and account credits.

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