Gearing Up for the Holiday Rush (1,954 words)
Since Collin Street prides itself on quality, cutting corners on product is not an option. Says McNutt: "It's a gourmet product that just happens to be a fruitcake." To wit, the whole preparation process requires about five hours per cake, from baking to hand-decorating.
Homemakers and students are good sources of part-time employment, McNutt says, but he points out that changes in the economy can make this process somewhat unreliable.
"It was a particularly large problem this year because unemployment in the area was at an all-time low," and people weren't scrounging for spending money as they often are, he says.
One key to ensuring sufficient call center coverage during the seasonal rush, advises McNutt, is to use both in-house and outsourced systems. Collin Street has 77 reps handling inbound calls in its call center, but allows overflow to be handled by an outside center. "You have to have these resources available," stresses McNutt. Juggling the shift between in-house and outside telemarketing can be a challenge.
Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik & Associates and call center consultant, concurs, with one caveat: You must find an outsourced agency that can handle requests in a "reasonable facsimile" to the way you do business in-house, she says. If your outsourced reps don't have the same access to inventory information the way your in-house people do, she says, you'll only create future headaches.
"It's all cyclical. If you start off badly, you'll end up stuck in a bad cycle, and vice versa," she warns.
For direct marketing pioneer Collin Street, the dawn of e-commerce was just a new way to receive orders, says McNutt. From there, "We've already got a 104-year-old back-end system in place," he says.
But the globally-accessible system was a great help to the company's sizable international customer base, says McNutt. One snag commonly hit by mailers who send packages overseas is misunderstanding foreign addressing methods, he says, and this problem is avoided when the customers can enter the address themselves. This opportunity is available on the company's Web site, which, says McNutt, has both changed the nature of the orders they accept from more than 200 countries as well as increased them.