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August 29, 2007
By Cara Sievers
TMC Communications believes in playing favorites and its working. Back in January 2006, TMC launched a Premier Services Program to provide an enhanced service level to its larger billers in order to help its agents maintain and retain these valued customers. Since introducing the program, customer retention has improved and attrition has decreased by 34.8 percent from 2006 to 2007, compared to the previous year, reports Melissa Marsch-Baker, TMCs director of marketing. She adds that customers in the program have increased their revenue with TMC by 29 percent.
TMCs Premier Services Program gives selected customers a direct line of contact at TMC so they can call in at any time with questions or if they cant get in touch with their agents. TMC also watches these customers orders more closely to identify trends or to notify the agent of any activity that might need attention. The extra attention TMC gives the customer is intended not only to enhance TMCs reputation with the customer, but also to help the agent maintain the relationship with these larger clients.
The program is run by Page Ramos, senior manager of TMC Premier Services, who serves as the direct TMC contact for those customers in the program. She is aided by the Premier Services Group team, which consists of about 10 people, including vice presidents and department heads. Ramos touches base with each customer in the program about once per month, and she reports that customers are surprised when she calls to check on them. They cant believe theres not a problem and shes not trying to upsell them.
Do agents view Ramos efforts as driving a wedge between them and their customers? On the contrary. I tell the customer always that 95 percent of what they do will still go through their agent. Their agent is still their main line of contact, and that Im there for anything over and above that, Ramos says.
Todd Mitter, senior account manager for Carrier Consulting, who has been a TMC agent for 10 years, says the program does not inhibit his companys role. He says TMC will honor requests not to directly contact the client, but he views the Premier Service Program as a huge plus as it gives us someone else who is calling to remind us of things pertinent to specific accounts.
Ramos analyzes billing trends and notifies agents if theres a change in usage or if a re-term is approaching. She looks at every order that comes in for the customers in the program, and if she sees activity, such as the cancellation of one or two toll-free lines, for example, she can alert the agent, who often is unaware of these types of changes to the account. In addition, Ramos is a backup for service requests when an agent is on vacation or unreachable for any reason. The customer could call Ramos to obtain a quote or execute an order. The agent had absolutely nothing to do with the deal, but he or she still receives commission on the sale.
Ramos was a TMC agent before joining the TMC team, so she feels she understand the needs of an agent and the importance of customer support to growing and maintaining business.
Bret Hickenlooper, president of SUMO Communications Inc., and a five-year TMC agent, feels his customers are more inclined to stay with TMC because they understand that TMC cares. Many customers simply have a toll-free number to call when they need help with the larger providers and they get whoever is available quite often someone who is totally unfamiliar with their account, Hickenlooper explains. TMCs proactive approach gives a customer a name and a direct line to someone who is assigned to take care of them. And the proactive approach identifies and resolves issues before they become the reason the customer finds a new vendor.
Gopesh Kumar, CEO of ZiffTalk and ZiffLeads Pay- Per-Phone-Call advertising service, has been working with Hickenlooper as a TMC customer for two-and-a-half years, and has been in the Premier Services Program since the beginning. The Premier Service is very essential for us to be a TMC customer, says Kumar. The Premier Service [Group] is able to resolve our billing and technical issues by coordinating with other staff members at TMC in timely manner. Some of these issues could not have been resolved if Page was not there.
Kumar specifically recalls a time that Ramos helped the company make a significant cutback on its telecom spend. Recently, we had an increase in phone calls to an expensive call area and Page helped us to reduce our cost by 66 percent by diverting the traffic to a least-cost carrier and not compromising the quality of service, he says.
TMC reports the need for and the appreciation of the enhanced service level to continue to grow. The program has more than 200 customers almost doubling since the beginning of 2007. Even though the service is designed to give special attention to TMCs larger billers, there are some exceptions for high-profile (usually Fortune 1000 companies) and high-growth accounts.
Read more about:Agents
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