By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
I have long been a proponent of the necessity for outsourcing call centers to have websites. In fact, I view a website as a veritable requirement for success in today’s market. To the point, call centers lacking a website are quickly viewed as second-rate providers and not worth the consideration of first-rate prospects. With the current concerns over attracting and signing new call center clients, now is the time for site-less call centers to embrace the Internet as a means of marketing and validation.
I know that there are still call centers out there that are yet to fully embrace the Internet revolution. Sadly, I hear from them on a regular basis. As amazing as it sounds, we occasionally hear from call center owners who want to place a classified ad, but can’t because they don’t have Internet access. (Placing classified ads online is requisite for us to keep the ads affordable.)
In addition, when people subscribe to the magazine, we ask for their email address so that we can contact them if we have questions or to renew their subscription (again to keep costs down). Some people are adamant that they do not have an email address. As a result, they run the risk of being dropped at renewal time. We will soon get to a point where a working email address will be required to receive the magazine; that’s just the evolving nature of the magazine publishing business.
Now, back to the website issue. We currently list several hundreds of outsourcing call centers on the Connections Magazine website (and on FindACallCenter.com). When people submit their listing information, we require that they have a working website. The reason is simple. If a prospect is looking at online listings, they will likely make contact online as well, first by perusing the websites of potential vendors and then via email. The call centers that lack websites usually fall into the start-up category or are stuck in the past, seeing no value in the Internet.
Therefore, there is clear anecdotal evidence to confirm that there are still call centers without Internet access, an email address, or a website. How can they serve their clients, market to prospects, and stay in business? If you feel singled out and maligned by this, I urge you to take action today to embrace the Internet before it is too late, with your call center paying the price.
Website Basics: Although it can cost thousands of dollars to have a whiz-bang, high-tech, professional-looking website designed, there are less costly options. After all, we don’t all drive a Mercedes–Benz — sometimes a Chevy will do. You can make an inexpensive website yourself for under $100. The goal is for it to not look cheap. Most hosting companies offer do-it-yourself website templates that you – yes, you — can customize to provide a basic, yet professional-looking site. However, there are a few beginner mistakes that you will want to avoid:
- Stay away from line art graphics or any artwork that looks like it was homemade.
- If you need to resize a graphic, be sure to keep it proportional. Otherwise, it will become distorted, either being stretched or squished.
- Take time to proofread the text, verify spelling, use correct grammar, and employ commonly accepted punctuation. Have others double- and triple-check your work.
- Don’t get carried away with different fonts. Use one, or two at the most.
- Uppercase text is strictly verboten; people will feel like you’re screaming at them. (The one possible exception might be listing your call center name at the top of the page.)
- You might be tempted to insert a page counter or some other nifty gadget. Resist that urge. Just because those features are available doesn’t mean you should use them.
- Although not available with predesigned website templates, you might think you need to have a flashy animation on your home page. Don’t go there; the only ones who will be impressed will be you and the person who designs it. Everyone else will be irritated, and the search companies will dismiss you.
- Don’t piggyback off someone else’s domain name; get your own. This can be inexpensively obtained from your hosting company. While you’re at it, set up an email account using that domain name. Post that email address on your website. If need be, you can have this new address forwarded to an existing email account.
Search Engine Optimization: Now that you have a functioning website (which avoids all the beginner errors), you want people to find it. Aside from telling everyone you meet and listing it on every piece of literature and stationery that you have, you need to be noticed and appreciated by the search engines. This is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Although this is more of an art form than an exact science (since the search engine companies closely guard their methodologies), here’s some generally agreed upon SEO basics:
- Each page of your site needs a title tag, and each page’s title should be different.
- Each page also needs a description tag; again each one should be different from the other pages.
- Adding reasonable and accurate keywords is recommended. Although it is generally accepted that Google ignores them, some search engines will use them, so it’s a good idea. Again, they should not be the same for each page.
- Although some people still value reciprocal linking (that is, “I’ll link to your site if you link to mine”), the conventional wisdom is that this no longer helps and likely actually hurts your visibility with the search engines.
- Most of the companies that guarantee you top search engine placement for a fee fail to deliver or can’t do so for the long-term. There are experts who can do this, but they are in a minority and often hard to substantiate.
Search Engine Marketing: If you want people finding your site and contacting you about your service, the next step to consider might be Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This is when you sign up with Internet advertising companies such as Google, Yahoo, or a host of others. Basically, you tell them how much you are willing to pay each time a person clicks on your ad, and they place your ad on websites where potential prospects frequent. If you go this route, proceed slowly and carefully until you have a good understanding of how this works. I have heard stories of novices spending hundreds of dollars in a couple of hours with not much to show for it. A key thing to remember is that just because they clicked on your website does not mean they will become a client – or even contact you.
Given the current concerns over the economy and finding new clients, call centers need to do everything they can to help their business succeed. The Internet is a cost-effective and increasingly popular method. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner in this area, have the experience, or are a veteran, there are always more opportunities waiting in the rapidly growing realm of cyberspace.
Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).