How efficient is your call center?

By Janet DeGeorge

We all know that time is money in a call center. If so, wouldn't it make sense that wasted time equals wasted revenue? Every hour of a call center sales persons day is filled with a long lists of tasks aside from selling. A sales rep can only type so fast, sell so fast and breathe so fast. However, selling only accounts for 1/3 to 1/2 of every sales hour! In a typical newspaper classified call center, the sales hour is filled with four basic functions, 1) Selling, 2) Problem Solving, 3) Paperwork, 4) Procrastination. In order to logically increase #1, this article is about decreasing 2-4!

Here are some of the ways inefficient call centers cause a decrease in revenue every sales hour. How many are happening at your newspaper?

1. Sales time spent on billing problems that never go away. 2. Inefficient credit card system that still depends on paperwork. 3. Inability to process new logos or pictures immediately instead of filling out paperwork for production. 4. No artist that sits with and works just for the call center. 5. No voice mail or email to conduct business with customers who want to do business with us using that technology. 6. Reps standing in line for faxing, printers that get jammed, paper running out. 7. No complete training manual to look up procedures on infrequent problems. 8. No refreshers in front end system short cuts. 9. Credit applications that take days or weeks for approval. 10. No procedure for overflow of incoming calls and/or a way to even monitor incoming calls.

Lets look at a few of the above.

Billing Problems.

From one on one interviews with thousands of call center reps over the past 4 years, they have put "billing problems" as the #1 time consuming problem that takes them away from sales. In the best scenario, there should be no billing problems. How often do you see an error on your American Express or Citibank credit cards? How can you get to the point where there are no billing errors?

Your bills reflect the integrity of your newspaper. And yet, at most many newspapers, the classified bills, (especially the commercial bills) are a mess. I have even had a sales rep burst out in tears as she explained her frustration with the mounting billing problems every month.

Writing up an adjustment for a billing error does not make the problem go away. If you want more sales time for your call center, create an action committee with members from sales, accounting, credit and systems whose goal is ZERO billing errors. Redundant Paperwork

Even with the newest front-end system, my onsite efficiency studies often show that no changes are made to the processes that move information within the newspaper. Even with the oldest computers, it is possible to build templates that efficiently pick up data from an ad, apply it to a credit application or new accounts form and email it to the proper party. If the amount of paperwork that is transferred between your call center and your accounting/credit departments has not disappeared, then you are not as efficient as you possible can be. Sit down with your reps can go over every piece of paper they have to use, question its current necessity, then find ways to create fast electronic replacements.


Reps love to procrastinate instead of doing callbacks, instead of calling inactive accounts, instead of cold calling for new business. Their procrastination takes many forms; smoke breaks, personal phone calls or simply walking over to the fax machine and talking to 10 people on the way.

An efficient call center would have every reps desk completely self-contained to be the best money producing workspace possible. Every rep should have email, voice mail, fast Internet access, and a printer/fax/scanner so they basically leave their work area less often. The more the rep is in their seat, the more money is being produced. Fax/printers are cheaper then ever and withstand lots of hours of use. It's time that each rep had there own instead of getting out of their seat to process paper.

Why Become More Efficient?

We want our call center reps to handle incoming calls, make callbacks, spend more time on each call upselling and we also want them go prospect for new business. How they use each hour of their time can be manipulated to add more to sales and less to the old processes that rob sales time and revenue. Modernize each reps workstation, add a dash of accountability, a way to measure results and you will see your revenue increase.


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