Call centres should play a key role in the marketing mix

Russell Parsons

Santander’s decision to bring their call centres back to the UK is aimed at improving its own poor customer service record but it is also an indication of a renewed focus by brands on an often over looked direct marketing channel – contact centres.

The Spanish owned bank has identified that customer frustration with geographically and culturally distant call centre operatives is one way it can remove itself from the top spot in the list of Britain’s most complained about banks.

It is not the first to pack up and head back to Blighty. BT and Powergen are among those reducing their contact centre presence in South Asia in recent months, while phone company New Call Telecom announced just last week that it was bringing its service bases back to the UK.

Of course, pure economics is a key factor here. Companies, attracted by cheap real estate and staff, rushed to setup off-shore in the nineties and noughties. The savings that were to be found, however, have lessened. Indian wages are up, while the UK recession has made a call centre career that bit more attractive.

Bottom line considerations aside, Santander, at least, realise that customers value direct verbal contact.

A parallel trend to the drift abroad is for brands to offer a multitude of avenues for customer’s to interact. Mobile, online and automated services sprung up to service customer’s multi-channel needs.

Such a strategy is right in a multimedia world where customers demand the option of having multiple touch points. Resources should be spread to suit the needs of all customers.

In many cases, however, less time, and money was spent on telephone contact centres, leading to fewer operatives and less focus.

It is not just about having an operative that can talk about the weather, soap operas or news events with empathy. Those things matter, but it is more important that there are opportunities for customers to directly engage with companies.

A well-trained, and happy staff add personality to a brand, and make continued custom more likely. In most cases contact through call centres is the only time that customers will ever directly liaise with your company.

Fantastically innovative TV, or social media campaigns are important but for consumer facing brands offering products and services that require servicing, they are not enough to satisfy existing or convert prospective customers. Direct contact via call centres manned by helpful staff are more likely to.

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