In 2011, a leading tobacco marketer, expanding into e-products and vapor products, needed help to succeed in this new market. In search of a customer care and technical support boost, this company reviewed five different BPO vendors to take on the charge. During a visit to the HGS Peoria delivery
site, the client witnessed firsthand HGS’s passionate brand advocacy, with engaging on-site messaging and comprehensive product display. It was at this point in the selection process that the client decided on HGS for critical customer care support and launch of the new sales category.
This partnership has been strong, with a well-aligned leadership team to plan and achieve objectives. Since day one of the partnership, HGS has collaborated with the client to support growth. For example, as support of electronic products became more complex, the need for a dedicated assistant operations manager became evident. The client recognized the value that HGS provides with this position. This is just one example of how HGS has provided the expertise to support client mission. It’s been HGS’s partnership focus and brand-building that has helped this client survive, and even thrive—growing market share and increasing customer satisfaction, in the face of evolving market complexities.
1. Scale Support to Launch New Products
How We Do It
In 2011, HGS started with 20 agents to provide voice support for the client’s expansion into vapor retail products. HGS grew services to support the success of this category, as three years later, the client asked HGS to provide fulfillment services. Additionally, HGS provided resources for growth with a new management structure and provided assistance in early 2016, when the client looked to HGS for support of a nationwide program with redemption of mobile coupons at the cash register. This program will expand to 4,800 stores nationwide. HGS added 65 agents to the initial 20-member HGS team. Soon, the program will expand to other companies and HGS will be providing tier 1 technical support.
With the launch of an entirely new product category, HGS scaled with the client each step of the way. And HGS consistently remains positioned to match the client’s future growth needs by meeting or exceeding desired metrics. This is evidenced by expansion of the HGS team and support of a 2,500% increase in SKUs (from 12 to 312).
2. Technical Support Staff
How We Do It
Undoubtedly, the complexity of this client partner’s product has increased—moving from only combustibles to e-products. From the start, HGS realized that a different kind of agent should handle the customer care calls, which may require technical knowhow related to iPhone applications (which can be used to track spending on vaping supplies and cigarettes or finding local stores) or system requirements—such as charging or recharging issues. “We have broadened our customer service to include technical support, as we do with all of our electronics clients,” says HGS Sales Manager Alan Angelo. “The vapor product requires technical assistance, so we hire and train using testing to determine what team members will deliver optimal service.”
HGS provides a development program that encourages staff retention. Compared to our already low general population attrition, at 8%, our Technical Team has attrition of less than 2%. “Technical expertise is a key component for this client, and it’s a requirement for good service delivery,” Angelo says. “That’s how we help build loyalty for this client and their products.”
3. Event Support
How We Do It
In light of this category’s promotional challenges, primarily the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which requires a number of restrictions on cigarette and smokeless tobacco product advertising and other marketing, HGS provides support for unique programs like the discount solution, as well as other marketing support. HGS provides additional resources to help the client attract attendees for major events. HGS makes outbound calls to invite attendees to the events, which are an effective forum to help draw attention to new products.
HGS provides significant assistance with product promotions. With a recent online web promotion, we managed nearly 1 million customer submissions in a six-week period of time. This type of HGS outreach is an example of the above-and-beyond service this client looks for with HGS. To encourage agent skill sets that support this service, HGS Customer Service University training is ongoing, with focus on the level of customer care required. This course provides feedback for clear examples using voice tone, grammar and active listening. “With our Customer Service University, we have increased soft skill scores by 15%,” Angelo says. “This client’s leader encourages our approach to her own staffing preferences, which allows time for agents to undergo recurrent and refresher training to build their customer service skills. This is very important to the client, and it aligns with our service excellence focus.”
Over the course of our partnership, the client has acquired companies and expanded into other products in addition to Vapors. HGS has provided the best practices and 40-plus years customer care expertise for successful merging of objectives.
“We have a very good connection to and communication with this client’s leadership,” Angelo says. “Ultimately, this client is looking for world-class customer care. It’s one of those things you know when you deliver it or experience it. And this client knows the connection to their customers is particularly important with this product.”