The purpose of this paper is to provide advice on setting-up a Telephone Account Management (T AM) unit in TE. The paper has been structured to bring the reader from Corporate through Business to Operational issues and conclude with recommendations. Chapters 3 and 4 begin with extensive reviews of relevant academic material.
Chapter 2 covers general issues and background on the need to set-up a TAM operation. It also outlines the broad approach to the group assignment. It then goes into specifics of the objectives of the project and what it will produce in terms of deliverables.
Chapter 3 looks at corporate or strategic issues to be addressed as a prerequisite to establishing and maintaining a successful T AM. It starts with identifying the customers targeted by TAM from the billing systems, which highlights the need for relevant and complete billing data. It advises why and how high spenders on longdistance calls should be identified and prioritised for sales and defensive TAM contact. It points out why and how conflict has to be resolved between the simultaneous needs for operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
It draws on comprehensive data available from the Corporate Data Warehouse to show that TE is price competitive in the SME sector for long-distance calls, when discounts are taken into account. It identifies TE's main weaknesses in the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) market segment as lack of customer contact and lack of knowledge and understanding of their requirements. It proposes that key elements of intelligence on competition be merged into the Customer Marketing Database (CMD) and that T AMs have direct access to more user friendly price comparison tools. It advises why and how initial contact with the customer can be used to gather as much information as possible. The resulting improved knowledge of the SME customer base can be used to identify what benefits are sought by customers, conduct targeted sales campaigns and act as feedback for pricing decisions.
A comprehensive analysis of SME customer spending is provided, homing in on the high spenders under competitive threat. It recognises that segmentation based on traffic statistics, although valuable for setting up T AM, gives limited insights into customers' real needs. It shows how little TE really knows about its customers at present. It goes into simple operational improvements that can be used to retain customers. Finally, it concludes with a recommended positioning for competitive advantage in the SME sector and how to focus initially on satisfying the needs of high long-distance call users.
Chapter 4 outlines a proposed mission statement for T AMs and the reward systems needed to encourage the behaviour required to build sustainable profitable relationships and sales. TAM reward systems should be linked to reward systems applicable to operations, which should differentiate between service delivery for business and residential customers. High level TA1VI objectives then need to be translated into specific responsibilities. Clearly defined systems and procedures for taking care of business customers are required by both TAMs and Operations. There is also a need for clear definition of boundaries and linkages between TAMs, Operations, Market Planning, Business Customer Field Sales and Corporate Accounts.
Otherwise, employee - management incongruence will result, with negative impacts on employees and customers alike. This brings us to blueprinting and how it can be used to obtain consensus on how TAM will be integrated into the company structure. Consideration is given to inter-departmental "people" issues to be tackled to ensure a successful T AM implementation. All of the foregoing will require explicit high level agreement between the Directors in Commercial and Operations areas as to how TAMs will work. It will also require sustained cross-functional management commitment and action to ensure effective implementation. It then moves to "Contact Strategy" and the 5 steps necessary to link service delivery and operations with each one geared to customer requirements. It underlines the important relationship between "Defining the Service Role" and staffing. Next it considers the comprehensive research that established the criteria used by customers to assess service quality and the "5 imperatives" required for delivering it. The group recommends that TAM should initially be set-up on a pilot basis to learn "by doing" on a small scale. Reference is again made to the strategic importance of the Customer Marketing Database for the T AM operation. Research findings and recent experience with TSS are discussed in the context of how best to overcome the cultural barriers to change inherent to establishing T AM in TE. The chapter concludes with a recommendation to set-up a small inter-departmental project team reporting to the Project Sponsor to ensure smooth T AM implementation and ongoing operational developments.
Chapter 5 is focused on the operational specifics of the TAM operation (without a report on a site visit to an operational TAM in BT, which could not be arranged during the course of the assignment). It stresses the importance specification, design and testing of operational systems and the need for quality of customer contact. It describes how the site and the working environment impact on productivity, highlights required support services, and considers how the telephone equipment would integrate with other systems by describing how the set-up would work in practise. The proposed structure of the unit has Telephone Account Managers working in small teams, managed by Team Leaders, a Supervisor and ultimately a Unit Manager. The need for clerical support staff and on-site systems support is also indicated. One centralised T AM unit is recommended.
The required operational systems can be broken down into recording, administrative systems, procedures and standards. A critical component of the operation is the Marketing Database and the management of information. Several aspects of the database must be considered including the information it will hold, but it is stressed that there must be realistic objectives set for the database and it is simply a tool. Considering staff selection and recruitment highlights that the quality of the staff in the unit is probably the most important factor in determining its success. Job descriptions (supplied) identify the skills, qualities and experience a person requires to do the job effectively. The descriptions are a reference point for recruitment, training and development.
Training needs have to be identified in terms of company, departmental and individual requirements. The setting up of an operational training centre is recommended, where the training program would include induction, product training, telephone techniques, telephone sales skills, on-the-job and management training. Many of these facilities could be used for other sales people. Staff development must focus on the importance of monitoring performance and providing feedback. Motivation of staff is a critical element of managing the operation. Motivators discussed included the working environment, policies and procedures, the management style, communication, remuneration and goal setting.
Planning customer contact starts with objective setting. Contact strategies can focus on what was learnt about the SME customer base in earlier sections. The importance of the T AM's ability to deal with unpredictable inbound customer service calls is stressed.
Chapter 6 makes detailed recommendations based on the detailed findings of the preceding chapters.