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Customer Management Debates for 2012: Call Center Managers, Do You REALLY Think About Revenue?

Brian Cantor

As we prepare for 2012, Call Center IQ wants to encourage its members to debate and discuss some of the hot, controversial topics in customer management and marketing. Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts.

One is highly-unlikely to encounter a call center leader who does not profess an appreciation for—if not a downright commitment to—the need to think through customer management challenges from the perspective of a business leader. Few would dispute that the combination of recent economic difficulty and renewed C-level interest in the customer experience has amplified the perpetual budgetary scrutiny facing customer management leaders, and as they approach new challenges in their call centers, these leaders consequently must think about the business footprint.

But how much of that translates from rhetoric into practice? Everyone knows to say their call center cannot be a cost center and that it must deliver a meaningful impact on the business, but do all actually let that logic dictate their day-to-day management?

In dealing with countless call center leaders from within our membership, advisory board and live event audiences, Call Center IQ has encountered a variety of viewpoints. Some call center leaders have begun seeing themselves entirely as business leaders and use big picture financials when evaluating their work; a call center metric like "average handle time" only matters if a compelling impact on the business can be displayed. Others are hesitant to venture so deeply into "business" and remain firmly-fixated on the call center performance measurements that determine whether or not their agents are delivering for customers; they see customer satisfaction as their end goal.

In fact, just as call center leaders debate over which performance benchmarks still matter, significant debate even exists about the type of "business impact" that matters in the call center. Some look at revenue as an end-game—how is what we’re doing on the phones bringing more business into the organization? Others, though business-minded, are mainly focused on the profitability of their call center; reducing the cost of each call would be considered a business "win."

In opening this discussion, Call Center IQ seeks to determine the extent to which customer management leaders should adhere to the "call center as a business" notion. Should strategy and operations—from agent recruitment, to call scripting to performance measurement—be dictated by the need to demonstrate profitability and a positive impact on the overall business or simply by the need to deliver what is best for the customers?

When assessing the success of a call center leader, are call center and customer service benchmarks means to a greater business end or as the actual end?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. And definitely feel free to share any specific measurements you believe are relevant for today’s call center leadership.