Market Central was initially created as the contact center for Gibraltar Publishing, and was spun off in 1999. In addition to providing contact-center services for the publishing company, Market Central also served as an ISP in order to support the company's e-publishing business. The ISP business was later sold, and the money was used to Web-enable the company's contact center.
Jim Rapp, Market Central's Vice President of Marketing, says the company's experience in the ISP industry led it to focus on ISPs from the beginning. "We knew that business, and we knew the contacts in there, so people naturally gravitated towards us for tech support, for customer support, and even for some outbound work," he says.
Market Central also offers a suite of customer relationship management services, from CRM data solutions to contact center systems design and implementation. The company maintains a 900-seat call center in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and offers proprietary solutions for all aspects of data management.
The company's CRM background, says Rapp, informs all aspects of its work with ISPs. "Our goal is always to work with our clients to get their data act together, so we can have as highly informed reps as possible about a customer's issues, background, history, and other data-driven facts," he says. "That means they can do a better job when they talk to each person."
Reaching the Customer
Market Central offers a number of contact methods, including voice, chat, e-mail, and others. "We're not simply phone-bound," Rapp says. "Any method of communication you can think of, we can perform. Technologically, we're superior to a lot of the centers out there; we have a greater array of communication vehicles for any of our clients to use in servicing their customers."
While most end users still use the telephone to get help, Rapp says online chat is starting to catch on. "As long as they know that it's not going to take 48 hours to get an answer, they're happy to do a live chat session with someone, which is almost as instantaneous as being on the phone with them," he says. "It's an evolution, but we're there; whatever method they want to use, we can offer it."
If ISP customers choose to take advantage of Market Central's full CRM offering, the company can provide in-depth analysis to help them manage their customers. "We can work with you to tier your client base, looking at who the clients are that you'll spend a little more time on the phone with, or a little more money invested in, because they're the most profitable," Rapp says.
All reporting is customized for the ISP, and can be combined with other CRM services. "We have not only our own proprietary software, but also outside consultants who are PhD-level in data mining and can point out relevant tie-ins within the customer's data world that they've probably never realized are there," Rapp says.
Analyzing Your Options
In general, Market Central targets larger ISPs, though it has no specific size requirements. "We have to price it out based on the service level they want to achieve and what they're willing to pay for it," Rapp says. "It's not based on people or seats; it's really based on what it's going to cost us to provide that service internally, and what will cover our costs on it."
Similarly, pricing is negotiated depending on the level of service required. ISPs can use dedicated agents, or can simply pay per minute. Most clients, though, choose to go with the dedicated offering. "Per-minute is quite a bit more expensive if they have a lot of volume, so at some point they run a cost analysis and switch over to a dedicated agent," Rapp says.
When looking for an outsourced helpdesk provider, Rapp says it's important for ISPs to outline their objectives in advancebefore they start shopping around. The biggest challenge is to find ways of comparing things on a clear apples-to-apples basis. "Make sure, if you get a proposal from these companies, that they're all proposing on the same thing," he says. "Always lay it all out formally."
And in order to verify that the provider will match your needs, be sure to inquire about pricing up front. "If you're a smaller ISP, a lot of the big guys will throw a price at you that's out of the ballpark," Rapp says. "So don't spend time on companies whose minimum is more than you can afford. That can save a lot of time and trouble until you get it down to the companies who are really willing to work with you."
The biggest selling point for Market Centralaside from its experience in the ISP industryis its full suite of CRM solutions. "If companies are intrigued by the idea of our data services, understanding their customers better and cleaning up their database, not a lot of contact centers do that," Rapp says. "We can take them into a whole other realm of understanding their client base."