Having Fun and Gaining Insight in the Call Center

Customer Service
Customer Service

"Recreation in Motion" is the motto for
Affinity Group Inc., a provider of media content and clubs serving the nation's recreational vehicle and outdoor enthusiasts. The company works to keep enthusiasm high even within its call center, where Affinity takes advantage of the insight provided via customer surveys.

Affinity's vice president of customer relations, Scott Willey, says post-call surveys have helped the Ventura, CA-based company improve call handling and the customer experience it delivers. The company's single call center is the direct point of contact for Affinity's five operating groups. It averages 72,000 inbound calls and 35,000 outbound calls per month.

As a club-based organization with clubs, publications, and events around outdoor activities, Affinity views its customers as members. "We want to have ongoing interactions with them," Willey says. "We want to solicit their voice to understand if we are meeting specific goals."

He adds that in the past surveys were used primarily to gauge an employee's performance. "That doesn't tell us if [customers have] had a good experience or not," he says. "There's no way of telling at the end of the call whether the customer walked away happy." Instead, Willey is interested in the customer point of view.

Working with call center provider Aspect Software, Affinity's system routes calls based on whether the caller has a general inquiry, is responding to a mailer, or has some other issue with which they need help. Once the call is completed, the member is asked to take a phone survey, which asks general questions about the helpfulness of the call agent and the overall experience. A member who declares himself less than satisfied has the option to be routed to a supervisor.

There is also an opportunity at the end of the surveys to leave a voicemail message, with no time limit. It's a way to create a "closed-loop scenario," Willey adds. "We look at the completed surveys, figure out the score, listen to information left in the voicemail, and call back if it's warranted," he says. "Even if it's something like company policy where we can't really give them what they want, we've found it's very valuable to our organization to make that connection."

"It's also important to go back to the customer and let them know about any change we've made as a result of their input," he continues. For example, its Coast to Coast Parks network is comprised of RV parks nationwide. If a park drops out of the network, members of that park who have paid could lose out. "Thanks to the feedback we've been getting, we've made changes to allow them to continue to use their benefits during a pretty liberal transition period -- one year -- as they look for other parks they want to join," Willey says. Affinity makes outbound calls to inform customers of relevant changes.

Willey says the company is now at the stage where it can modify its surveys for more customer-specific information. "Originally I was just looking to get a baseline of how we were doing," he says. "Now we can go to each of our companies (media group, events, clubs, etc.) and have them tell us what they want to ask, which allows them to get more data back."