All posts in Retail

'Tis the Season to Be Jolly…or in Queue…


It’s that special time of year again, the 4th quarter. The quarter all of us call center, customer care and experience professionals live (and die) for. While many of us this past Thanksgiving planned out our shopping trips like the covert PMP multi-media-centric individuals we are (ok, perhaps it was just me…), my beloved and brethren customer service professionals were busy working. Whether they were in their retail stores, calculating their cloud storage to support their digital customers, or re-calculating their 15 minute interval call center staffing plans – the madness of the Holiday season has officially begun. So in honor of this most wonderful time of year (where as a call center professional you are guaranteed to catch bronchitis at least once from over working yourself amongst a set of snotty-nosed CSRs – and I say that with love – I buy Kleenex in bulk), I share with you some of my favorite 4th quarter meltdowns.

My Favorite Holiday Calamity

Once upon a time, years and years ago, I started a new job as a small BPO Call Center Director during the last week of August. Team of 50. Two clients. Two supervisors. Five days after I started my new exciting job, the company signed a deal with a direct mail catalog company.  The majority of their revenues were received during the 4th quarter. Within 24 hours of hearing this news I knew I needed to go from 50 to 250 FTEs by the 2nd week of November. To 315 by the 2nd week of December. And not just agents. We needed technology, networking, processes, support staff, allll the Holiday call center trimming. We accomplished our main goals. I hired an entire team who I still keep in contact with (so they can verify this horror story). We had a Workforce Manager, a Trainer, a Quality Assurance Department, more supervisors, agents, and a Staffing Agency on board.

So…What could possibly go wrong?

  1. The direct mail company forgot to mention the hundreds of thousands of faxed in orders they would also need us to support. No back order office support anywhere in the contract or SOW.
  2. And some of these faxed orders were from large Fortune 500 companies sending Christmas gifts to ALL of their hundreds of clients. Good old green screen data entry from back in the day…
  3. The call forecasts we were provided by our client were off. By over 40%. ABOVE. Calls in queue and upset customers were commonplace. I heard busy line signals in my sleep.
  4. The call center was in the basement. No windows. Heater broke – and it was 90 degrees on and off for days. We all wore shorts and baseball hats to survive the heat (in the dead of winter outside, of course) and to hide our perpetual bad hair days.

I worked a record 321 hours in 21 days straight. I got home every night and ate a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, apologized to my dogs, and cried. And then got up again and did it all over again. One would ask why, but the BEST memory that made this my FAVORITE 4th quarter story was the fact that I had temporary FTEs and supervisors, that despite the fact they knew at the end of January they wouldn’t have a job with me, worked every single day with me. Side by side. If I worked 16 hours, they worked 17. We laughed, cried, and survived together. And it wasn’t just about their overtime pay. It was about our indomitable spirit that we refused to fail the customer – and our customer was our client, their customers, and each other. It was the 4th quarter where all of my leadership education came to fruition despite the never ending holiday call center nightmare packages we were delivered.

Now I could share other stories…like the time 40% of our 800 volume was pointed to the wrong VDN and my Holiday Orders were going to Sears Appliance Repair. Or the year that we predicted that 20% of our order volume would be ecommerce orders and 80% phone orders.  Well, that year 60% of our orders were internet based. THAT was the year I learned to negotiate with my BPO providers.

But instead of sharing more of mine, I would LOVE to hear some of yours. Don’t be shy – all mistakes are merely stepping stones to successes.

Happy Holidays, and may your queues be managed and your network stable…

Court Rules Consumer can Revoke Consent to be Autodialed


The customer giveth...and the customer taketh away. Their consent that is.

The US District Court for the Southern District of California has ruled that a consumer can revoke their consent to be autodialed or receive recorded messages at their mobile number either orally or in writing.

The case is Gutierrez vs. Barclay's Bank. Gutierrez is suing the bank for violating the TCPA by continuing to call and text his and his wife's cell phone after he told them not to. Gutierrez gave both numbers to the bank on his credit card application, which by the FCC's declaratory ruling constitutes consent to be autodialed or messaged at those numbers. But after he went past due and started getting calls and texts, he orally withdrew his consent.

The court denied Barclay's motion for summary judgement (which would have ended the lawsuit) where they argued Gutierrez needed to "put it in writing". The court said there is nothing in the TCPA that requires either the provision or revocation of consent to be in writing.

While its never good to see a creditor in trouble for possibly violating the TCPA, there is a silver lining in this cloud.

Gutierrez did not argue against the FCC's ruling on Continue reading →

Strategic Defaulters and Cash Flow Managers


According to a study by Experian, the recession and housing market meltdown has spurred some borrowers to behave in unexpected ways - so different in fact they have come up with category names: Strategic Defaulters and Cash Flow Managers.

Strategic Defaulters are borrowers with prime or even super prime credit ratings that choose to default on their mortgage, not due to a loss of a job or some other catastrophe, but because they are under-water (house worth less than the mortgage) on their loan. These folks are treating the home loan like it was a bet on a Continue reading →

Welcome Calls are Effective Relationship Building Tool

Welcome calls are a great way for a company to begin a relationship with a new customer. Beyond delivering a heartfelt "thank you" for their business, welcome calls effectively bridge the gap from the point of sale to the point of service. This is especially important when the relationship is established through an indirect channel such as Continue reading →

The ROI Behind Automation

Call centers have their challenges like any other operating unit. These challenges have not changed over the last 20 years, but what has changed is the ways we can address these challenges with new processes and technologies. I view the top three ever-lasting top call center challenges as: Continue reading →

Make it Relevant - This Year's Theme for Varolii's Interaction Conference

“Make it relevant” is the theme for Interaction 2011, Varolii's annual client conference, which will be held at the beautiful Red Rock Resort outside Las Vegas from May 22/23 to May 25. Since I am going to be giving a couple of presentations at the conference, I have been thinking about what "make it relevant" means. Continue reading →