My Experience with CRM Solutions for Call Centers

Some years ago, I was working as a trainer and recruiter for a medium-sized call center in India. The outsourcing industry in Asia was booming and sales processes in particular were in every nook and cranny – agents were selling mobile and internet connections, insurance, credit cards and tons more. My part in the hiring process was to ensure that the right people were selected – pronunciation, grammar, stability and flexibility were tested for shortlisting hopeful candidates. The fortunate ones were asked to join in a couple of days and immediately started training with me – soft skills, culture and selling techniques.

My trainees were motivated to perform, the incentives per sale were high and there was a dinner coupon for a classy Italian restaurant for the top monthly performer. The basics were explained in detail and then after testing their knowledge, I moved on to the most crucial section – opening, pitching and closing a call. “Your CRM system interface is your best friend, keep the prospect’s information in front of you always! While the call is connecting - study their activity history and understand the right product for them before pitching. Use positive body language (no slouching, sitting on the floor or staring at the ceiling) and ensure to build rapport to increase the chances of closing a sale. The prospective customer will determine in the first thirty seconds of the call if he is interested in listening to you – maintain a professional tone to introduce yourself and the product you are selling…..” I explained. It was critical that they use the CRM solution's salesforce automation for lead information to optimize their effectiveness during the call and capture all related activities – this would ensure that after the call was assigned the relevant disposition and later dropped on another agent’s station, he could use the updated information to impress the prospective customer and most likely make a sale.

I was later given an opportunity to work for a global leader in pet food at a “boutique” call center, with a small team of talented individuals reporting to me. They were all knowledgeable about canines and had excellent soft skills. It was an outbound and inbound process for the generating sales and capturing requests or feedback.

For the company’s new venture in India, their marketing division had insisted on implementing a CRM solution for running campaigns to create leads and improve the conversion ratio. Kiosks, text messages, radio ads and online competitions were launched to invite feedback and ascertain the potential of their product and pinpoint the most relevant products. All the information generated was entered into the CRM through integration with external systems, importing Excel sheets and directly through the interface. What they knew already was made doubly clear – no pork and beef products for India. But, what they didn’t know until the end of their successful campaigns were the most popular breeds, how many families were pure vegetarian and the average expenditure per meal on pets. All the information from the campaigns was collated in real-time to generate reports for further analysis.

The call center agents were given access to a highly customized CRM solution which ensured critical information was highlighted for each customer, contact details were not available for DNC customers and details of their pets shared during the campaign was easily accessible. The company’s Sales Director wanted to ensure that the outbound calls made for the thousands of leads generated through their campaigns followed a call flow. The agents in my team were trained to use the call scripts within the CRM for all sales calls and assess the lead’s probability to buy based on the output from the automatic scoring engine. Their effectiveness increased – they could use a single interface for all their activities during a call, instead of switching between different applications for solutions, cases, requests and customer information.

In retrospect, I think the CRM software eliminated sleepless nights – for me, security of customer data was always the most critical factor. The validation widgets and customized interfaces ensured that information could only be created, viewed and edited by the assigned people. I had access to a 360 degree view of each prospect, customer and partner with real-time information on our inventory.

Making effective use of every second on a live call differentiates the wannabes from the talented agents, opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell after accurately addressing a customer's issues are usually successful. I believe, CRM solutions at call centres have provided unobtrusive assistance for optimal performance and helped to boost revenues.