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CRM expert advice -- top 10 Q&As of 2007's resident experts provide CRM expert advice and tips on a variety of CRM and call center topics every month. Browse this list of the most popular expert Q&As of 2007 and learn what issues were top of mind for our readers this past year.'s resident experts provide CRM expert advice and tips on a variety of CRM and call center topics every month. Browse this list of the most popular expert Q&As of 2007 and learn what issues were top of mind for our readers this past year.

   1. Calculating IRR
   2. Developing a call center quality assurance form
   3. Relationship marketing vs. transactional marketing
   4. SLA template for call center outsourcing
   5. Call center agent training or scripting?
   6. Evaluating Microsoft CRM and Siebel CRM On Demand
   7. Hosted CRM vs. SaaS CRM vs. on-premise CRM
   8. Is your call center team leader ready for management?
   9. Auditing your CRM system
   10. Call center employee incentive programs

Calculating IRR

Q: What is the formula for calculating internal rate of return (IRR)?

A: IRR is defined as the discount rate which makes the net present value of a project equal to zero. In mathematical terms, IRR is the projected discount rate that makes the net present value (NPV) calculation equal to zero. The NPV formula is defined as...

Learn more about calculating IRR

Developing a call center quality assurance form

Q: I am looking for sample quality assurance (QA) forms that can be used in call centers for evaluating call center agent performance critically and objectively. Do you know of any resources I can use to find sample documents like this?

A: The easiest way to obtain sample quality monitoring forms is by asking QA vendors. They all have sample forms and are generally happy to share them, particularly if they think you are interested in purchasing their solution. There are over 45 vendors in this market, including: NICE, Witness, Verint, etalk, Aspect, Envision, VPI, HigherGround, Interactive Intelligence, Wygant, Onvisource, VirtualLogger, CallCopy and many others.

A second way to get standard QA forms is to ask friends in other call centers...

Get more tips on developing QA forms for evaluating call center agents

Relationship marketing vs. transactional marketing

Q: How is the relationship marketing school of thought different from the transaction school of thought? Are there deficiencies in the transaction concept that the relationship school has identified?

A: Relationship marketing is all about creating longitudinal bonds with customers, which will produce stronger, long-term purchasing and word-of-mouth activity. This type of marketing will also increase referrals, price and service tolerance, plus a willingness to provide information and active inclusion of purchasers in product development...

Read more about relationship marketing vs. transactional marketing

SLA template for call center outsourcing

Q: I am planning to outsource to a domestic call center. I am having difficulty framing my service-level agreement (SLA) and the outsource contract. Could you offer some advice or a SLA template?

A: SLAs are critical for the success of any outsourcing initiative as they set expectations for both parties – the outsourcer and the customer. Many vendors have SLAs and you can ask your vendor for theirs, as a starting point. Keep in mind that an outsourcer's SLA will prioritize their needs over yours. Use this as a SLA template:

  • Operating days and hours
  • Definition of work
  • Processes and procedures
  • Agent quality
  • Agent coaching...

    Find out what else to include in a SLA for call center outsourcing

    Call center agent training or scripting?

    Q: Is agent empathy in call centers something you can improve with scripting? Or is empathy something you need to work on by getting call center agents to "feel" more empathetic on the phone, which will translate into the entire conversation with the customer? What do you think is the best approach?

    A: Empathy is a human emotion that is difficult to teach. Call center scripts are effective for directing conversations, but not for communicating empathy. To the contrary, call center agents who are forced to adhere to the exact wording of a script often sound stilted.

    Agents who express a real understanding of a customer's issue -- an emergency situation, family tragedy or the need for an immediate loan -- are effectively displaying empathy in their customer service. Repeatedly telling a customer that "you feel their pain," while reading from a script, is very different...

    Read more on call center agent empathy and customer service

    Evaluating Microsoft CRM and Siebel CRM On Demand

    Q: Could you give me a quick comparison between Microsoft CRM and Siebel CRM On Demand?

    A: Oracle's Siebel CRM On Demand has achieved success in the market by offering the same benefits as other CRM Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions: quick time-to-value, usability, and low upfront costs. Its primary functional strengths are in the areas of sales force automation (SFA) and customer analytics. Basic functionality is provided for most other CRM functional capabilities, but it lacks capabilities in eCommerce and partner channel management.

    Microsoft is trying, through its 3.0 solution, to exploit its desktop applications strength in large enterprises and promote its now-more-robust business applications to this sector...

    Find out more about Microsoft CRM and Siebel CRM On Demand

    Hosted CRM vs. SaaS CRM vs. on-premise CRM

    Q: Can you define "hosted" versus "on-premise" as it relates to CRM? I see so many different terms being used to describe CRM implementations and I'd like to hear your definition.

    A: On-premise and hosted CRM are very different from each other, to begin with. On-premise is easy, it's conventional software — what we've all become used to. It involves installing software on your own computers in your computer room and using your own IT staff to manage it.

    Hosted CRM might confuse people, though. Hosted refers to the fact that the software is delivered as a service...

    Read more about the difference between hosted, on-premise and SaaS CRM

    Is your call center team leader ready for management?

    Q: What qualities should a team leader display to be recommended as a future call center manager?

    A: The call center team leader plays a high-impact role in the call center. As a role model, the call center team leader must demonstrate excellent work habits, good judgment, thorough knowledge of products, procedures and processes, and possess excellent interpersonal skills for handling both staff and external customers. However, when evaluating a team leader's potential for a higher-level call center management position, I recommend that the following 10 criteria also be taken into consideration...

    Read more on evaluating your call center team leader for a management position

    Auditing your CRM system

    Q: How would you recommend auditing a fairly old CRM system to determine how effective it is?

    A: What's wrong with the old system? I am sure there are things that a newer on-demand system will do that your older system might not do or simply may not do as well. Whenever I run into a question like this, the first thing that pops into my head is the mission of the application. What is the mission and how has it changed over time?

    If I was auditing your system I would ask the same questions you should ask...

    Get more advice on auditing a CRM system

    Call center employee incentive programs

    Q: We are currently working on a call center employee incentive program. Is there a way to come up with a formula that will measure the percentage of calls an agent takes, so regardless of how many hours an employee works in the call center, the incentive program is based on what is done while he or she is available on the phone?

    A: While you could certainly calculate a weighted indicator of percent of calls taken tied to percent of the available shift time, this is not a metric we would recommend. First, it is very non-standard. Second, it measures things that call center employees can't control -- how busy it is, and how appropriately staffed the call center is during their shift. It could also trigger unintended behavior, like people trying to take the most calls, to the detriment of quality.

    We suggest you work with some more mainstream metrics. Start with service level for the team, and quality for individuals as well as the team...

    Get more information on call center employee incentive programs

    Browse the Ask the Expert archives for more CRM expert advice

  • This was last published in December 2007

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