If you think the Internet has had an impact on your field sales force, it's nothing compared to what it's done to the call center.
Compared to the cowboys of field sales, call center managers have always been quick to embrace new technologies to increase the efficiency of their operations. The trouble is, those technologies were often driven by a quest for volume rather than quality of customer interactions. Certainly there have always been some bright spots-companies that stressed customer service and made phone contact a tolerable if not pleasant experience. But too often the consumer's image of the call center was of a legion of headset-equipped, go-for-the-throat telesales agents who were trained to call only during dinnertime; or of labyrinthine automated voice-response systems where customer service inquiries go to die.
It's a cliche that the Internet changes everything. In the case of the call center, the cliche happens to be true.
Customer relationship management technology, and particularly the Web, are powering a change from the call center of yore to tomorrow's customer interaction center.
But wait: Companies aren't reinventing their call centers because they can; they're doing it because they must. More than anything else, the Internet has helped shift the balance of power in the world of commerce from the seller to the buyer. And the only way to succeed in this new world order is to embrace the Big E and turn the Web to your advantage.
In fact, the customer interaction center, more than the field sales force, is poised to be the nexus of 21st century selling. The Web won't replace your sales force, but as the call center meets the Internet, entirely new forms of commerce will emerge.
This month, and in coming issues, we'll take a look at how life in the world of E-Everything is transforming the way you do business.