You lost me there part 5 – Your call center is bleeding!

I recently had the opportunity to do some work with a company that had a pretty decent DRTV campaign running. I say decent because it had a good product and the DRTV campaign’s production values were excellent. But the product was complicated and lent itself to a complex offer that a two-minute spot couldn’t fully explain. The spot generated much interest and strong call volume, which would suggest that the campaign was a winner, right?

Until those calls hit the call center.

What do you get when you mix a complicated product offer with call-center staff that doesn’t have the training (or sales acumen) to convert? A company that’s bleeding potential customers in the call center. In essence, a lower than what should be call-to-order ratio, with a giant chasm between the prospect’s understanding of the offer and the customer service rep’s (CSR) ability to close the sale.

(For part 1 of this series, click here; part 2, here; part 3, here; and part 4, here.)

The Great Call-Center Disconnect:
Companies need to function under the guise that great — even sometimes so-so — direct marketing will make the telephone ring, but expertise in the call center will make the cash register sing! Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating your call center’s effectiveness:

  • How’s your call-to-order ratio?
  • Is there blood in your call center?
  • Can you convert more inquiries to sales?
  • Are your CSRs properly trained?

My Biggest Pet Peeve (and One for You to Ponder)
Ask yourself this question: With the millions of dollars companies spend on inventory, marketing, and general and administrative expenses, why are the people on the phones the least educated and, most importantly, lowest paid employees in the company? These are the people on the front lines of your business every day. Every penny of spend filters through either the call center or your website.

Forget sales conversion for a moment. What about contact capture?

What are you doing to ensure that every call that comes into your call center becomes an opportunity? Are your CSRs doing all they can to entice callers who aren’t ready to buy into giving out their information and blessing to continue the sales dialogue? Some examples include the following:

  1. Are you offering callers who don’t buy some sort of company literature — brochures, catalogs via regular mail, PDFs via email?
  2. How about an email newsletter opt-in? If they don’t buy, this is a perfect opt-in point.

Handling Missed Opportunities
There are many ways to capture consumers’ contact info in your call center. But be sure to also look at missed opportunities to convert more sales.

  1. Are you downselling a less expensive product or a different, yet related, product?
  2. How much time do you spend listening to your reps on the phone? I’m often shocked by how little time call-center management spends on listening. I’m less shocked that marketing and merchandising people don’t listen to calls. And when was the last time someone from the C-suite listened?
  3. How much time do you spend training your reps?

I’ll continue this series next week with some simple, yet effective, call-center training techniques that’ll help you convert more sales.

Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog, direct marketing and social media agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at You can email him, follow him on Twitter at or read his blog

5 thoughts on “You lost me there part 5 – Your call center is bleeding!

  1. Smith says:

    I don’t thinks so personally because I think that call centers people are also very educated and they are given enough training to satisfy the customers

    • Jim Gilbert says:

      Smith, if you were there, you would have seen what I had seen. Suffice it to say, that I have worked with many call centers, and know from first hand experience


  2. jeffyaniga says:

    The section that resonates most in this post: responding properly to hand raisers that have not purchased. This is “fertile ground” for conversion. Traditional marketing blended with new media presents high ROI opportunities. Nice job Jim.

  3. Randy McKee says:

    I’m so glad we share the same frustration in the training aspect. Even with simple products the csr has got to speak fluently as almost second nature to stay focused on the conversion, then up/cross-sell as required. There’s no time for reaching out to secondary resources for answers, if available at all. It is astounding that so little value is placed on csr knowledge and yet low sales numbers and costs are always associated with the call center. BTW thanks for sharing “Death By Powerpoint”.

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