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Why Selling Means Better Service

And How to Get it Done Properly

By Ronna Caras

President, Caras Training


Five years ago I bought my dream car. At the end of the lease, I was certain the car was as fabulous as I had expected, so I arranged for the buyout. If things go as planned, you will see me in the little white convertible with the pale gray top well past 2015.

I love driving my car. I especially love driving it into the dealer when it instructs me that service is due. And most of all, I love not worrying that I will be charged for unnecessary repairs. That confidence comes with a car whose warranty includes most everything.

So, in order to keep this state of bliss, I planned to invest another $4000+ on the extended warranty. It's not a lot of money for "bliss". I mentioned this to the financial services representative who helped arrange for the lease buyout (once about a year before the lease ended and then again as we reached the end date). He told me I needed to talk with the dealer. I mentioned this to the dealer who told me I would need to drive the one hundred miles to meet with her in person to discuss it. I called the manufacturer's customer service department to order new cds for the navigation system and asked if they could help me extend the warranty. She did not know and said someone would call me back. No one called.

Finally, after the lease was bought out, I went to my local dealership because I was certain the old warranty was about to expire. I wanted to buy the extended warranty. He was very kind and apologetic when he told me I had missed the deadline. The warranty had just expired and it was too late to buy an extension.


Everybody loses when no one is prepared to sell.


During my three conversations with these call centers, someone should have been able to tell me that the warranty was about to expire and I needed to act quickly. That's the minimum level of service a luxury car manufacturer should provide. Even better would have been for them to take my cue and present the features of the warranty plan along with the pricing. They would have made the sale and everyone would have been happier. The best situation would have been achieved if they had been proactive and called, written or emailed me.


As consumers, we see this in most industries.

We find out a friend received 20% off because she bought a larger quantity and wish that someone had told us when we were shopping.

We learn about an upgraded version of the product we just bought and are upset to have missed out on the additional features.

We realize a vendor we have been doing business with for years offers a product that we have been buying elsewhere and paying more for.

We discover why the less expensive dining chairs were a mistake and wish someone had explained the differences in construction before the boss fell.

As consumers we may not realize these are missed sales opportunities. We may just think "bad service" or "company too lazy to care about me". As business managers we must see it more clearly. In this day and age, selling and service are linked in the buyer's mind.

Effective sales presentations make customers feel helped.

The following situations show what often happens when employees are not skilled at conducting a sales conversation and what can happen to get a more satisfactory outcome.

In a restaurant, we see untrained employees who misunderstand the fact that effective sales presentations make customers feel helped.
Ask, "Which do you recommend, the salmon or the lamb chop?" and hear, "I don't eat fish so I haven't tried the salmon. It sells well, though." Where does a server get the idea we care what he eats? The right answers could be to explain "how many customers come back for the salmon because of its crispy sweet glaze". And, "the lamb chops are ideal for someone who likes spicy sauces." This sets up the server as the expert on the restaurant's food and the customer as the expert on his or her preferences - a perfect fit.

On the phone, we receive the great news that the vendor will come and pick up the new fax machine that does not work for our needs. It's a little unsettling though because the agent seems unconcerned about what we will use now that the fax machine was a failure. Doesn't he care about the customer's need for a fax that drove the purchase in the first place? Doesn't he want to know what we mean by "does not work for our needs?" Some service professionals believe their jobs are to react to a customer's request as quickly as possible. Instead, they should understand their primary role is to fill a customer's business needs. "I'm happy to have that picked up for you and am sorry it did not meet your needs. We have many different fax machines and I know it can be challenging to pick the one with exactly the right capabilities for your business. May I ask you a few quick questions to understand your application so I can recommend an option that will work for you?" This makes the customer service professional an expert on how your products help your customers so customers see the value of coming back to you again and again.


Old-school sales tactics reduce buy-in from staff and customers.

Once upon at time, salespeople were taught to "present an offer" and "close the sale". For example, "We have a special on raspberry flavored water today. May I add a case to your order?"

Some have been taught a stronger approach that does not give the customer an option. "I'll be sending out our specially priced raspberry flavored water. Will 3 cases be enough or is 4 better?" It is tough to equate this type of selling with good customer service.

If this is the strategy your customer care or customer retention group has been taught, you are probably getting less buy-in than you need from staff and customers. Less buy-in means lower results because agents are not making the connections and doing the selling. When they try to sell, they are pushing away as many customers as they are reeling in.

If this old sales model proliferates, I predict we will see a backlash against selling in the service environment just the way we saw the "do not call" movement arise and change telemarketing.


A "service-sale" approach makes your staff look confident and competent rather than pushy.

Selling in the service environment requires training and coaching on three things:

1. Hearing customers cues and taking action to provide help

Teach staff the top 10 problems customers' experience that can be solved by your products or services. After all, your products and services were each designed to address needs or solve problems.

Make sure they know the words customers use that indicate they have problems you can solve. Provide a list of the statements customers make and the questions customers ask that identify a sales opportunity.

Give staff some proactive phrases they can use to show customers they heard the need or concern and would like to offer some suggestions to help.


2. Make effective presentations of products and services that address basic needs for saving money, saving time or being comfortable and safe


Break down key products so front line understands top features.

Connect each feature to the value it brings (money, time, security).

Provide tools and cheat sheets so staff feels confident they have guidelines to follow.

Give everyone time to practice engaging in effective sales conversations.


3. Gain opinions rather than agreement.


If they can't create interest they won't create action. So, instead of making a sales pitch and asking for the sale, help front line staff open up a conversation and connect with your valuable customers. This means teaching staff to:

Acknowledge the customer's cue and ask a soft question to get the conversation started, "Did you know we have a new way to save you money on this?" If the customer does not show interest in the discussion, at least they know your company cares enough to try to help.

Present products and services colorfully then see if the customer is sold or not. "I recommend you consider this option because it has. (feature) which means. (value). Can you see how that will be of value to you?" If the answer is positive, then the sale can be assumed. If the answer is negative, then more selling is required.


Service-people sell when they are sold.

I began this article, sharing a story of service failure and I blamed the vendor for not putting the right tools and behaviors in place. Now here's the funny part. Even when companies do not encourage selling, many customer service people do it anyway. This happens when, and only when, the team member:

Truly believes the customer is better off after accepting the additional product or service

Feels completely confident he or she can answer any questions asked about the recommendation

When a high-quality service professional becomes sold on the product or service, you are half way to the outcome you need. When he or she can talk about the product or service without fear of looking foolish, you have everything.

So skip the worry about closing early and hard and focus on the openings customers give you every day.

Your results will include more satisfied customers, more committed employees and increased revenue all at the same time.

About the author

Ronna Caras is a consultant, writer and frequent speaker on the subjects of non-intrusive selling and adult learning. For more great ideas on ways to improve the effectiveness of front line employees, go to www.carastraining.com  for free downloads or http://blog.carastraining.com  to join the conversation. Or, contact Ms Caras directly at rcaras@carastraining.com  or at 978.531.2022.

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STILL STRUGGLING WITH Agent Adherence?

TRY THESE Three Simple Strategies FOR ImproveD SERVICE LEVELS
 

By: Bob Webb, Pipkins, Inc.


Agent adherence is an inherent problem for call centers. When agents arrive late or leave early, log in to the wrong queue, take lunch and breaks at unscheduled times, or get tied up on a customer phone call when breaks or lunches are supposed to begin, a severe impact on service levels occurs. There is a delicate balance between under- and overstaffing that can be easily tipped when agent adherence goes unchecked. For example, if 10% of agents are out of adherence, one-half of the center's incoming calls will be impacted and likely not be answered within the target time frame.

If you are struggling with agent adherence issues, try these three basic rules to help achieve peak results:

1. Examine the Real Cause
Don't rely on numbers alone because they can be misleading. Verify that an agent who has fallen below adherence targets is not the result of someone's failure to record exceptions in the schedule. Neglect to log an illness-related absence, a switch in lunch schedules, reassignment from phone to email duty or call volume being twice what was expected can result in inaccurate data.

2. Set Realistic Adherence Goals
Adherence goals should typically be in the 90% to 95% range, meaning agents should be engaged in scheduled activities 90 to 95% of the time. This allows latitude for minor scheduling oversights and unexpected developments.

3. Set Realistic Grace Periods

Adherence rules should include realistic grace periods before deeming an agent out of compliance. Taking punitive action against an agent for returning to his or her desk at 2:02 instead of 2:00 is too rigid will affect morale and, ultimately, customer service. Different activities should have different thresholds. A late start at the beginning of a shift or a late return from lunch may have a grace period of 2 minutes, for example, while a late lunch start may have a grace period of 5 minutes. These policies are necessary to accommodate the realities of call center work, where an agent scheduled to go on break at 10 am may be delayed by a call received at 9:59.

Managers need every option available to preserve service levels. The best option for monitoring agent adherence is real-time adherence tools which are available with many workforce scheduling applications. These adherence systems communicate with the call center's Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) to determine each agent's current activity and compare that information to his or her assigned schedule. Supervisors can view adherence status at any time in a window that is refreshed according to the timetable set by the user.

Another excellent option is the use of pop-up messages sent to agents' computer screens when they are out of compliance for a certain period of time, as determined by the supervisor. This feature can be used to notify agents when they are logged into the wrong queue, not logged on at all, and in other situations that can affect overall operations.

The goal of real-time adherence monitoring is to reduce unproductive time by keeping agents in their seats when they're supposed to be. If only a few agents are out of compliance, overall performance probably will not be compromised. But if too many agents are out of adherence for too long, the results can be severe.

Bob Webb is Vice President/Sales for Pipkins, a worldwide supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry. For more information, visit www.Pipkins.com  or 800/469-6106.


Five Myths the Software Industry Would Like You to Believe about Software As A Service SaaS
By Jay Noble, President, North American Operations, Saaspoint


1. Software as a Service (SaaS)is not core to the business
The reality is that organizations implement technology for one of two reasons. To increase revenues or reduce costs. The traditional nine to twelve month framework for implementing on-premise software is no longer credible. We live in a competitive world where business units can’t afford to wait around for that length time to go to market with a new service or product. In 12 months’ time the original business case will have been radically altered due to new competition, change in the market place, new CEO, acquisition or other events.

On the other hand, a SaaS implementation can be implemented in 30-90 days with rapid return. Why ? It is because SaaS is becoming invaluable new revenue streams for service oriented businesses because of its flexibility and speed of adoption to keep up with the changing demands of the organization and its business units.

Ben Pring, research VP for Gartner, identifies the change in the market. “The dysfunction of the client/server era is driving alternative approaches to IT development, delivery and management, of which SaaS is the most apparent version.”

SaaS is now viewed as a quick method of solving business issues with a rapid turnaround and ROI combined with lower total costs of ownership. According to Aberdeen Group’s Software-as-a-Service Buyer’s Guide, ” Aberdeen surveyed 631 companies using SaaS and found that CRM applications were implemented in less than three months with ROI in less than six months. Supply Chain Management was implemented in less than three months with ROI in under a year. Sourcing and Procurement was implemented in less than two months with ROI in less than a year. Financial management applications were reported having an implementation in less than three months and ROI in fewer than six.

So, contrary to what the software industry would have you believe, SaaS has offered a new approach to doing business. Traditional software applications are having a hard time keeping up to date with SaaS applications in terms of customers being able to get their hands on the prevailing, cutting edge applications for the reality of today’s rapidly changing business environment.

2. SaaS is only a small part of the total software market
Many of the traditional enterprise software dinosaurs like SAP and Peoplesoft have been trying to reassure themselves that SaaS is only a small part of the overall software market.

In one sense, traditional software companies have Gartner’s backing SaaS has no legs a Gartner estimates that SaaS was just 5% of total business software sales in 2005. However, Gartner also forecasts that SaaS will constitute 25% of the market by 2011and grew 26% in 2006 to $6.3 billion. It expects the SaaS market to grow at 25% compound rate over the next five years.

Most experts agree that these figures are conservative in regard to the true size and penetration of SaaS in the software market overall. We believe this is for two reasons.

Firstly, the revenue recognition model is totally different. On-demand revenues are calculated as a monthly subscription. Traditional CRM software is calculated on the value of its licences over a year and/or on the sale of additional new licenses (sounds strange to say Net new license sales), which has been flat or declining for the past 12 to 18 months.

SaaS provides a more accurate analysis of income because of the predictability of its revenue stream. What was originally thought to be an easy in, easy out scenario for SaaS has turned into an easy in, easy expand and don’t even think about taking it away from the users scenario.

Secondly, the bane of traditional enterprise software is shelfware. It has been estimated that well over a third of on-premise software revenues turn out to be shelfware and not implemented or used. SaaS easy configurability and user friendly interface has consistently outscored traditional software applications for high usability.

Because of the way that revenues are calculated, on-premise revenues have been exaggerated and SaaS underestimated. The real market share is further distorted by the fact that much of on-premise software is shelfware.

3. SaaS is only for SMBs – not the enterprise
Tell that to Merrill Lynch, Cisco or Dell all of whom have implemented software as a service using Salesforce. Today major organizations are implementing SaaS across multiple functions. In many cases it is replacing or being implemented as an alternative to the traditional Oracle, Siebel or SAP systems – not just some add on in the corner of the enterprise.

Ben Pring of Gartner comments, “There is now a widespread consensus among the movers and shakers of the IT industry that SaaS is an important and meaningful issue which can no longer be regarded as the ‘lunatic fringe’.”

Aberdeen Group has found that 69% of larger enterprises are using or considering an on-demand CRM solution.

The two major drivers of this accelerated adoption are cost advantages and increased proof of data security. Corporations always undertake detailed cost benefit analysis and are recognizing that they can no longer wait for traditional in house software to deliver expected returns. Nor can they justify the costs in licences, implementation and maintenance – especially as so much of it has ended up as shelfware.

Once the dollars are added up showing favor of SaaS applications, the next hurdle to overcome is the concern over data security. Salesforce.com has delivered flawlessly in this regard. It is fair to say that SaaS providers can generally protect your data better than you can.

Beth Enslow, senior VP for enterprise research at Aberdeen Group, was quoted in internetnews.com* as stating that CIOs at large enterprises have changed their thinking about SaaS. While previously they may have viewed it as a threat to their power over IT, it is now seen as a way of fulfilling business mandates without stretching their thin IT budgets. The thought process is being encouraged by a shortage of skilled IT workers to manage and maintain traditional systems.

4. SaaS is suspected by CIOs
It is estimated that some 80% of an organization’s IT budget is spent on maintaining the current IT infrastructure. Despite the great promise of the advent of the CIO who was to get more involved in business strategy and add value to the growth and development of the business, many are still tasked with the IT equivalent of ‘keeping the lights on’.

It is hard to think strategically and creatively when you are fire fighting because the email has gone down.

CIOs have changed their attitude to SaaS for a number of reasons. Firstly, it removes the maintenance/support headache, an issue on which the bulk of his or her time and budget has been devoted. There is no support issue because hosting, servers, software and security are managed and maintained by the SaaS provider.

Secondly, in an environment where the average life span of a CIO in an organization is 14-18 months, today’s CIO needs to have some SaaS experience on his CV. Today’s CIO needs to be able to partner with the business to provide enabling technologies for implementing corporate strategy cost-effectively. The modern CIO is transitioning from a pure technologist to a key strategy or business process enabler. And SaaS is one of the enablers for him or her.

Through adopting SaaS, the CIO can become an enabler, not a roadblock to advancing business strategy, because he can deliver quickly what the business units want. And the CFO loves him because of the ability to turn on and off licenses quickly and easily so you are only using what you need.

In the past it is true that in many cases SaaS was implemented despite the CIO. It was bought by a hard pressed VP Sales who could not afford to wait while traditional enterprise software CRM was rolled out to users who could not understand it and would not use it.

The SaaS world is full of installations which began in a small sales department somewhere and, like an ink blot in a shirt pocket, spread globally through the organization. The SaaS world is full of stories where it was installed as a ‘stop gap’ until the ‘real’ software was installed but is still there being used while the on-premise software is going through its next rollout or sitting ignored by users.

5. SaaS is only for CRM
SaaS is extending from CRM into HR, procurement and compliance management. SaaS is suitable for any data intensive application which requires a central view by multiple users.

This move will be accelerated by salesforce.com’s Apex which is the first on- demand programming language and platform. With Apex, a whole new breed of on-demand applications is possible, featuring sophisticated processes and business logic, entirely on-demand and without software.

Likewise, Apex will enable unprecedented levels of customization, allowing modification of existing features, or creation of entirely new functions and capabilities. And, like other customizations built on the platform, Apex apps can be packaged and shared through the AppExchange directory. Aleady on AppExchange, salesforce.com’s equivalent of an iTunes for business applications, there are more than 575 applications.

Aberdeen Group finds that financial management, product lifecycle management (PLM) procurement and sourcing, and supply chain management are adopting SaaS. And 64% of large and midsize companies would consider using SaaS as a financial management method.

There are still some applications that will be better suited to on-premise software. However, SaaS has come of age and developments like Apex will accelerate its maturity. Many of the traditional software vendors are still in denial despite starting to talk about (pay lip service to?) their on-demand strategy.

Examine carefully the myths they would have you believe.

* www.internetnews.com , August 21, 2006; “Study: SaaS Adoption Accelerating” by Michael Hickins

About the Author
Jay Noble is President, North American operations for Saaspoint. A 25 year technology industry veteran, he has held sales leadership roles and executive management positions with market leaders including Sony, Oracle, Xilinx and Bearingpoint. During his career with Bearingpoint he led global CRM implementation teams and worked with numerous Fortune 1000 companies to develop successful go-to-market strategies. He has many years’ experience at staffing and successfully delivering highly complex CRM projects.


Leverage Your Preparation
By Linda Richardson

Preparing for a sales call, while it still takes discipline and time, has never been easier. Technology (CRMs, Google, other web resources) has dramatically reduced research time. The other side of the coin is that technology has made business more instantaneous and that has put more demand on salespeople’s time.

Although preparing for a call can be done more quickly, preparation continues to be an area where many salespeople fall short in two ways: not preparing adequately, and then not leveraging their preparation to gain the full benefits of preparation from their clients.

Some salespeople wing it. Others prepare somewhat. But the best salespeople fully prepare. Of course, salespeople realize that they may not even use some or even all of what they prepare, but this is usually the exception, not the rule.

Preparing for the Call
Preparation allows you to maximize face or phone time with clients. It is the foundation for the call. Preparation provides you with a plan. The plan allows you to be ahead of the game so you can improve upon that plan during the call. You begin the dialogue as planned and then make it better vs. trying to develop what you are going to do on-the-spot. In a call, you as the Salesperson are like a film director. You have a plan to execute, but because you are so prepared you are ready to stumble on something and make your plan better.

To prepare there are SIX MUSTS:

Set a Call Objective — Make it measurable in terms of the output you want and when you want to achieve it.
Plan to Connect — Prepare to build rapport and connect with the client.
Develop your Questions/Be Ready for Objections — Prepare your questions starting with broader, more strategic questions. Anticipate client questions and objections.
Recommendation or Idea — Organize your ideas or recommendations.
A Success Story — Develop one relevant Success Story you can tell in under a minute.
Set a Measurable Action Step — Create a clear action step/next step to ask for at the meeting.

Leveraging Your Preparation
To help you get credit for all of your preparation, refer to your preparation during the opening after you have built rapport and stated the purpose. Then concisely describe your preparation. For example, “In preparation for our meeting, I … (such as worked with our team to …), and am prepared to …” Making it clear you are prepared helps you earn points, build credibility, and often gain you more client time. Showing you are prepared also sets you up to transition to the Need Dialogue by saying, “Before I discuss …, I’d like to understand more about your …”

Preparation is the starting point. It not only improves your calls, it improves your relationships.


'How to Manage & Maintain your Merchant Account’
By Tiffany Segura

Today over 75 percent of all customers use credit cards to make purchases, so only accepting cash or checks simply doesn’t make good business sense to any type of business but especially to a telephone or internet-based business.

A merchant account is a means of accepting credit cards and other forms of electronic payments from your customers. Merchant accounts are offered by banks and other financial institutions allowing businesses to accept cashless payments. Unfortunately more than 28% of all businesses are declined or turned down for a merchant account because they were not prepared.

The bad news is that being a telemarketing based business significantly increases the potential risk for banks to process for your business. The good news is by reading this document and with a little advance planning, we can really stack the odds in your favor for being approved and minimize the chances of being denied. At AVPS, we specialize in hard-to-place merchants and high risk merchants with chargeback problems.

If you follow the below advice, you’ll increase your chances of approval:


Find out who is in charge of approving/underwriting merchant accounts and make an appointment with them.

  • Realize that it can be difficult for an outsider to understand your company’s business model. Provide any client testimonials, products, service literature, video clips, etc. When your products are actually seen your business is better understood.
  • If your product and mission statement are understood; it’s more likely a merchant account will be approved.
  • AVPS can teach you how to promote your idea and business model to a bank for merchant account acceptance and at the same time educate you on the dos and don’ts of processing to minimize your risk and maximize your profits.
AVPS utilizes different banks that cater to different markets. AVPS has the experience and knowledge to match your company’s model with a bank that specializes in your type of business.

Furthermore once we assist you in obtaining a merchant account, you’ll need to keep in compliance with Visa and MasterCard’s rules and regulations. Again this is where AVPS’s experience pays off in a big way. AVPS has over twenty years in the credit card processing industry. We already know some of the pitfalls that can cause your merchant account to be revoked and we know how to avoid them.

If you have been denied a merchant account for any reason try and try again. Don’t give up. The above tips will increase your odds of gaining a merchant account, so revise your game plan and resubmit your application to AVPS.

Tiffany Segura,
Founder/Owner of American Verification Processing Solutions


Choose the Right Software to Maximize the Accuracy
of Your Call Volume Predictions

By: Bob Webb, Pipkins Inc.

The value of staff schedules created by workforce management software is dependent on the accuracy of the expected volume of incoming calls. If the forecast for call volume is too high, there will be overstaffing of agents, resulting in wasted labor expense. Conversely, if the forecast is too low, the center will be understaffed, resulting in increased average speed of answer, number of abandoned calls, and a higher level of lost sales. In either case, staffing errors can result in lost customers and impact a company’s bottom line.

Forecasting capabilities should be a major consideration in any workforce management purchasing decision. Only sophisticated systems can perform correlated forecasting, which is forecasting for specific events that cause wide fluctuations in the volume of calls that must be processed; for example, catalog drops.
Take these three factors into consideration when making your next workforce management software decision.

Understanding The Importance of Pattern Recognition
There are two basic methodologies used to forecast workload in a call center: Exponential Weighted Moving Average and Historical Trend Analysis. Both utilize historical data collected from the call center’s ACD, and both take growth trends into account in their calculations.

The Exponential Weighted Moving Average calculates the average call volume over a specific time period (cannot exceed 16 weeks) and then bases its projections on a formula that assigns more weight to recent activity. This technique is effective for contact centers where there is little fluctuation in call volume and patterns, such as help desks and technical support organizations, but it has shortcomings when trends change. It is unable to predict a continuation of trends during periods of generally increasing or decreasing volume, or to associate changes in volume and/or call arrival patterns with specific events (pattern recognition).

Historical Trend Analysis not only accurately predicts the continuation of trends, but the more advanced algorithms also incorporate pattern recognition to fine-tune forecasts for special events like promotional mailings or national holidays. Each time a particular event recurs, the forecasted call volume is automatically adjusted to reflect the increase or decline in incoming work caused by comparable occurrences in the past, such as a historical 40 percent drop in volume on the Fourth of July.

In environments where workloads regularly ebb and flow due to marketing activities and other definable variables, Historical Trend Analysis is the only way to ensure proper staffing because it is the only methodology that can incorporate complex historical trends in its calculations. Without pattern matching to predict different customer behavior for different events, the risk of over- or understaffing increases dramatically.

Mapping Historical Data to Special Events
A key step in using a workforce management program that employs pattern recognition is regular data validation. Analysts must review the data collected by the ACD, preferably on a daily basis and not less frequently than weekly, to determine whether there is an identifiable cause for all spikes and drops in call volume.

Most unusual patterns will be related to recognizable events such as direct mail campaigns, catalog drops, TV advertorials, discount offers, competitors’ promotions, pay periods, billing cycles or holidays. Some may even be traceable to external factors such as the Super Bowl, the Olympics or a snowstorm.

If a given fluctuation was triggered by a recurring special event, analysts instruct the system to interpret that data set accordingly when producing a forecast. Conversely, if a given deviation was the result of a one-time anomaly like a product mention on the Oprah show, analysts can tell the system to ignore that data set when forecasting. These instructions are vital in producing the most accurate forecast possible.

Assigning Attributes to Specific Events
To further enhance accuracy, some forecasting tools also make it possible to describe each event in detail through the use of attributes. One catalog drop might consist of 10,000 pieces sent to women between the ages of 20 and 35 in Southern California, for example, while another might involve 5,000 pieces directed at older women in the Midwest. By logging these characteristics into the system, analysts ensure that the differing call patterns produced by each drop will be “remembered” and used in forecasting call volumes the next time similar mailings go out.

The most advanced systems can search for historic trends that parallel upcoming events both by specific match (e.g. the specific guest host on a TV shopping channel) and by a range of values (e.g. products between $50 and $100). This aids in correlating past and future events. There will be a substantial difference in response to a piece of jewelry that sells for $200 and one that sells for $2,000, for example, and only a tool that allows this information to be recorded can factor in that difference when creating a forecast.

Since all agent assignments are based on anticipated call volumes, a package with inadequate forecasting capabilities will result in a disproportionate number of wrong predictions. For call centers that rely on proper staffing to do their work, choosing the right forecasting solution can make or break the bottom line.


About Pipkins Inc.
Pipkins Inc. is the leading supplier of workforce management software and services to the call center industry. Its Vantage Point product enables managers to solve complicated operational issues in today’s multi-faceted call center environment. For more information, visit www.pipkins.com.

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