HCI Direct's Silkies business traditionally has been best known as a subscription hosiery provider, but the company also uses catalog and Internet channels for casual or one-off purchases. At Silkies, change began in 2004 when new CEO Pat Corpora, former senior vice president of marketing at America Online, decided to retool the company's focus to reflect the one-to-one communications opportunity the direct marketing model afforded.
"Pat Corpora had a vision of focusing the company on the customer, which was great for me as I came on board," said Karen Arbegast, HCI Direct vice president of marketing and customer service. "One of the things he felt was critical was to join customer service and marketing together." @15251
As her title implies, Arbegast has direct authority over both the marketing and contact center operations at Silkies. "We're funneling up together instead of funneling up into different silos, and we have launched a lot of new products and services together," she said.
By coordinating messaging and timing, the combined organization was able to quickly deploy a Signature Service contact center group for high-value clients. In addition, Silkies' marketing and customer service organization rapidly launched an online "boutique" for casual ordering and self-help tools to allow subscription customers
The payoff is far more than simply the satisfaction of being an organizational pioneer. "We're not only seeing improvements in communication, but also an improvement in customer retention across most of our customer groups, and a tremendous improvement in our ability to upsell customers," she said.
To put muscle behind the joint marketing and service plan, cross-functional teams meet a minimum of every week, representing HCI Direct's various marketing and business groups. Arbegast's executive team meetings include the managers of customer service, databases, creative, business, acquisition, and retention. Marketing personnel receive customer feedback directly from the customer service reports at such meetings, while the service specialists offer the customer's perspective on marketing proposals to identity potential gaps or shortcomings before the campaigns are launched.
After spending years in traditional operationally-focused contact centers, Arbegast does not sound eager to return to the way things were.
"Our organizational structure I believe is quite unique, but I also really believe it is the future," she said. "Everybody is on the same page, with the same goal."________________________________________
Copyright © 2005 Carlson Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Peppers & Rogers Group, a division of Carlson Marketing Group.