• November 24, 2004
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Talking Turkey to Deliver Great Service

While most employees are putting the finishing touches on holiday travel arrangements, Marjorie Klindera is gearing up for her company's biggest day of the year. Klindera is a Butterball Turkey Talk-Line Supervisor and has 22 years of experience with the turkey authority. When Klindera joined Butterball the only way that customers had to contact the company was by writing--there was no customer service line. Now, with its 1-800-Butterball number, customers can connect with either the customer service department, which answers questions about the product itself and other inquiries (including complaints and compliments), or The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, which handles calls on how to prepare turkeys. Crafted 24 years ago with a staff of just seven home economists--who actually answered calls from within the test kitchen--the Talk-Line team has expanded to include 53 specialists, each equipped with educational backgrounds as home economists or dietitians. Part of their training includes Butterball University: Every year the unit is divided into groups, with newer hires undergoing more in-depth training in comparison to their more experienced colleagues. Part of the training includes actually cooking turkeys, to help enable team members to handle cooking preparation questions. "Every year...we're always learning something new and different," Klindera says. During the last two months of the year these Talk-Line specialists field more than 100,000 incoming calls, with Thanksgiving accounting for about 10,000 of those calls. Klindera attributes the massive call volume to technology trends and accessibility. "People are used to picking up the phone to do everything and so that's part of it," she says. And, "many of the questions we answer might have been answered [years ago} by mom or grandma, [but] because our families are more scattered today, they call us," she says. Earlier in the year consumers call in with storage inquiries, including how long turkeys can remain in the freezer without spoiling. As turkey day approaches calls focus on questions like how much turkey is required to feed a certain amount of guests. According to Klindera, the most frequently asked question is about the length of time it takes a turkey to thaw. Regardless of the inquiry the Talk-Line's main objective is to answer incoming calls as accurately as possible to ensure customer satisfaction. In fact, call volumes and call lengths are of virtually no relevance to the Talk-Line. "Every call is different and every person handles it slightly differently," Klindera says. "We are really there to help the consumer." That commitment to serving the customer extends into other Butterball initiatives to satisfy the customer. For instance, the company has implemented prerecorded answers to its most frequently asked questions to avoid keeping customers on hold for long stretches of time to speak with a representative. "Sometimes the calls get backed up," Klindera says, "so we decided maybe some of their questions could be answered by [an IVR]." Additionally, Butterball established a Web site with helpful hints and recipies as another way for customers to obtain information. Whether it's Butterball or other holiday-related sites, more and more companies are using knowledge centers on their Web sites to lessen the number of incoming calls to their call centers. Even so, Maggie Klenke, founding partner at The Call Center School, expects call volume will increase dramatically during the holiday season. "The economy has turned around a little bit and I think that's why the volume will be up. How well companies are prepared for it is another question," she says. "But I think expectations are [also] up. People are busier, they are under more pressure every day, and they just have little time." Related articles: Online Holiday Sales Up 19 Percent
Jolly Holidays Businesses gear up in the hope that shoppers soon will be there.
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