CIOs need to visit the call centre

Call centres have ambitious plans to bring their agents onto the web and beyond. CIOs, Simon Sharwood writes, need to pay attention.

Call centres have a bad reputation. Everyone has a story of spending far too long on hold for far too little satisfaction.

But call centres are also full of smart people who, because they interact with customers all day, know an awful lot about what they want and are trained to sell to them on the phone.

Right now, contact centres (they prefer 'contact' to 'call') are also thinking about how to win you some customers. Recognising that marketing campaigns drive people to the web, call centre folks like software vendor Genesys' Jason Stirling think call centre staff should be able to watch your web site and initiate conversations with browsers as they come in for a look. The idea is that instead of letting hose hard-won eyeballs check our competitors' offerings, a timely intervention will win you more business.

Stirling, speaking at Genesys' G-Force conference in Melbourne yesterday, even imagines elaborate fulfilment mechanisms in which retailers are made aware of leads gathered on the website.

Call centre people are very interested in this because they see it as a chance to increase their strategic importance to their organisation. So they want C-level execs to tune into these ideas and are quietly hoping that marketers recognise the power of them instead of feeling threatened.

They also hope that CIOs will help them in their quest to unleash their expertise. A CIO's role in these endeavours is obvious: there are some tough systems to build and business cases to be constructed.

So give them a call. You won't have to wait long before they pick up the phone.

Read more on CW500 and IT leadership skills

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