Keeping Customer Contacts In-House

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2005-12-07 Print this article Print

Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can teach corporations the true meaning of customer relationship management. How? They can look at their data and identify members, determine who could be volunteering more, contribute how much

Because call-center interactions are so valuable, Goodison ended World Changers' phone center outsourcing contract with MicahTek, a call-center services company in Broken Arrow, Okla., in April 2004.

MicahTek's agents weren't hired to pray with callers, merely to take orders and fill out forms. Anyone calling to pray was told that a prayer counselor from World Changers would call them back. Also, MicahTek agents didn't know World Changers' products as well as World Changers staff, Goodison says.

Relying on callbacks was inefficient for the church and annoying to callers, he adds. Taking the operation in-house, Goodison bought Nortel's Symposium call-center management software. It can track volumes, wait times and call-abandonment rates.

Goodison's most important metric for measuring call-center success is what he terms "serving the customer best to first resolution." That is, his agents strive to answer all questions a caller may have during that single call.

They have access to the product database as well as membership files on the church management system. Most are also able to pray with callers because they are members of the church. The staff numbers five to 21, depending on call volume.

Best-in-class companies know customer retention matters. General Electric sets CEO Jeff Immelt's pay partly on how well he uses technology to deepen customer relationships. At American Express, the compensation committee can give or rescind bonuses for top executives as the customer base expands or contracts.

Yet across industries, surveys show consumer satisfaction dropping. Consider the University of Michigan's American Consumer Satisfaction Index, launched in 1994, which evaluates factors such as customer expectations, complaints and retention to calculate satisfaction every quarter, from a dismal score of 1 to a top score of 100.

Insurance and gas companies have skittered to all-time lows—67 and 70, respectively. Manufacturing and electronics have declined for two years in a row, groceries for three and autos for five.

Next page: Preventing Churn

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Senior Writer
Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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