February 22, 2002, 12:00 AM

How some easy fixes boosted eBags.com’s call center revenue

Training of agents about product features, as well as contests and analyzing the best agents’ performance increased conversion rates and average tickets at eBags’ outsourced call center during the holidays.

 

It may be a pure play, but eBags.com has a call center, too. Since 2000, it`s outsourced both customer service calls and the handling of phone orders called in for items viewed on eBags.com to call center reps at Finali Corp. who are charged with handling both functions for the online bag retailer.

Typically, the conversion rate on all inbound customer calls to the call center has been about 25%. But over the past holiday, special training and incentives for Finali call center reps servicing the eBags web site helped drive that number to 44%. And on top of that, the average size of orders placed through the call center hit $100, topping the average web order, which exceeded $75. The increased conversion rates and order size meant that for every dollar eBags spent with Finali, Finali generated $3.79 in sales, Finali says.

To reach that margin, training and incentives to boost agents’ sales performance had to be not only effective, but also cost-effective. “We could have gone overboard and splurged, but the cost would have negated the improved sales performance,” says Liz Wallace, Finali’s vice president of performance optimization.

Instead, Finali focused on four low-cost approaches to support holiday sales at eBags. To kick off the season 60 days before anticipated peak traffic, eBags brought manufacturers’ reps for top-selling brands to the call center to demonstrate product features to better equip the agents to discuss product benefits. Finali next analyzed the techniques of the top-selling agents on the eBags team and trained the other agents in the same best practices.

It instituted short-term, day-by-day up-selling contests during the season, geared to different bags and brands, for which eBags kicked in prizes of its merchandise and gift certificates and Finali contributed local events tickets. The rest of the contest strategy included a daily prize raffle for which agents received a ticket each time they completed an order. Finally, Finali increased daily communication of sales results by product trend and by agent so every agent could see how he or she-–plus every other agent on the team-–was doing. Though the agents’ performance wasn’t accessible through their desktops, printouts of the day`s results were available on the call center floor the next day to track performance. “Socializing it set up a little friendly competition,” says Wallace.

“The call center is often the only human contact customers have with our brand,” says eBags CEO Jon Nordmark. “By maintaining a call center staff that can think on its feet, Finali delivers real value to our customers and a measurable return on our call center investment.”

Ebags announced profits for the first time in December, posting 5.4% earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. “Part of that achievement was due to smart outsourcing like the call center,” says eBags CFO Eliot Cobb.

 

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