How can I move smoothly from call centre selling to e-commerce?

My business has, up to now, been selling computer hardware via a call centre. I am now considering becoming more heavily involved in e-commerce, reducing the need for so many call centre staff. How do I best target the redundancies and make an effective transition to different methods of selling?

Yasmin Halai-Carter of First Impressions Last Longer says:

I go to networking events and am told that people are now going online because of the promise of lower costs, higher profi ts and a larger customer base.

This is not necessarily true. The reality can easily involve frustrating delays, marketing woes and the loss of existing customers.

Just because you will have fewer employees working the phones in your call centre doesn’t mean that you are necessarily going to be employing fewer people. It just means you will be employing different people with different skills.

The principles of business work across every distribution channel – the nuances are different, but the first thing that matters is working out what your customers want.

The next step is pretty unglamorous. You need to map the business process of the online experience from marketing through sale to post-sale customer support and payment systems.

From this you can model how you are going to support your sale. I have yet to meet anyone who prefers to be supported by FAQ or email, so you will probably need a customer helpline.

It is crucial that you stand firm to your vision and are not blinded by science. A good designer will create an architecture that fi ts exactly what you want.

Your sales staff will be busy compiling lead email addresses, and you will be getting a nice, sizable e-shot list for the launch.

After the launch, you will find that the real work starts. Customer experience has to be monitored, web traffic analysed, marketing refined and the whole experience has to be continually sold and sold again.

You will have noticed that at no point have I mentioned transitional redundancies to reduce costs – this is deliberate. I suspect that during the development there is every chance you may be employing more, rather than fewer, people.

You will need to align sales staff to telemarketing, canvassing and customer services, and it is probably only some time after the launch that you may be able to let some staff go.

The obvious place to start will be your new business sales team. Next, you will likely look to delegate your core long-term business to just a few of your most senior account managers.

However, as you would always do in any scenario, make sure that you have a solid and profitable business model fi rst and then cut it as close to the bone as you can while retaining a solid customer experience.


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