The High Cost of Poor Product Knowledge in a Multichannel World

Competition is unrelenting, costs are escalating, and consumers are hesitant in the multichannel marketplace. When a potential buyer calls the company for more information, the difference between a sale and an expense is the conversation with a customer service representative (CSR).

If the CSR is knowledgeable, he or she can convert the prospect to a customer. If not, the potential buyer becomes frustrated and alienated from the company. With so much riding on every conversation, shouldn’t all CSR’s be well trained on each item?

Of course, they should. But it is really hard to execute this initiative. There are roadblocks all along the way, sabotaging the best intentions.

The number one roadblock is costs. (Remember, they are escalating.) Budget meetings have a way of focusing on line items instead of the big picture. Labor is expensive. When the management team looks at the costs, their first question is “What’s the return?”

The beleaguered customer service manager shuffles through papers, and then starts rattling off statistics on number of calls handled, average call time, scheduling coverage, and emails processed. It is the wrong answer because it opens the door to the next question, “why do we need these people?” And, that moves right along to “figure out how to cut costs XX%.”

The right answer is “XX% of the incoming calls are converted to sales that account for $XXX,XXX. We have a plan to increase the return by improving our product training.”

Information is at our fingertips for every product available. The best multichannel companies encourage cross channel interaction with customers and prospects. It builds new relationships and improves existing ones.

A shopper is a hot prospect when he or she moves from searching to asking. The company’s standard for answering that call must be access to a knowledgeable person within seconds. The CSR must be able to immediately answer 90-95% of the questions asked and have the ability to find the answers to the rest.

This standard is mandatory for both in-house and outsourced call centers. The only difference is whether the trainers go down the hall or across the country to do the training. The best call centers expect you to train their staff about your products. This includes delivering the products to their facility so the CSR’s can see and touch the items.

If you choose to skimp on the training, expect to pay the price. It includes lost sales, lower customer acquisition rates, decreased loyalty, increased expenses, and reduced market share. Can you afford it?

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