At Your Service
Last year AKC handled 600,000 calls and 90,000 e-mails, many from breeders like you.
When the AKC Customer Service department relocated to Durham, North Carolina, from New York City in October 1988, there were 12 customer service representatives with 12 incoming lines and limited information resources.
That year, the AKC Call Center handled over 300,000 calls. Most were from breeders checking the status of their paperwork, customers unsure of registration procedures, and potential owners looking to purchase a puppy. Literature was mailed in an envelope addressed by the rep who took the call.
The AKC Call Center in Raleigh combines cutting-edge technology with old-fashioned courtesy and efficiency.
Robert Young ©AKC
AKC Operations moved to Raleigh in early 1990. To better serve our customers, a new computer system gave reps access to dog and litter records. The number of incoming lines increased, as did the number of reps.
The ’90s were a time of record-setting registrations; consequently, it was also a time of record-setting numbers of phone calls. Some 60 Call Center reps fielded over a million calls in 1997, 1998, and 1999.
Unfortunately, customers usually called around the same time of day, resulting in long wait times. Also, copies of all applications were stored on microfilm. When there was a problem with an application the microfilm had to be requested, which may have taken days, then a return call was made to the customer.
Two Departments, One Mission
In 2003 AKC switched from a mainframe operation to a scanning procedure for all incoming registrations.
This system has greatly improved service for AKC customers. It allows the rep to see the registration application (litter, dog, and so on) as it was submitted, and it’s no longer necessary to call for microfilm to confirm information on the form. During the initial phone call, reps can view the application and tell the customer what is necessary to complete the paperwork. Customers no longer have to wait two or three weeks for completed paperwork, or make multiple calls to check the status of their paperwork.
Also in 2003, Registration and Customer Service were combined under Assistant Vice President David Roberts.
This cleared the way for cross-training in both departments. Call Center reps were trained to process registration applications, and to reissue paperwork not received or make corrections as necessary. The Call Center adopted a “one-stop shopping” approach to providing quick and efficient service to customers.
The new registration system has enabled AKC to process paperwork faster and increase productivity. Both departments are empowered to do whatever is necessary within AKC rules to serve the customer. Employees are continually reminded that customer service is not a department or an event but, rather, a process of creating an environment of information and assurance.
AKC believes that when full attention is paid to customers, the rewards add up for everyone.
As the department moved into the new millennium, e-mail became a large part of the reps’ job.
In the late ’90s AKC established firstname.lastname@example.org, a mailbox designed to respond to general customer inquiries submitted via e-mail. All staff members are trained to respond to e-mails coming through this central mailbox, as well as to e-mails being sent to the online registration mailboxes, which include the AKC Online Store, Online Breeder Classifieds, Online Accounts, and order-desk mailboxes. E-mails are answered within 24 hours.
In 2005, Customer Service handled over 90,000 e-mails, in addition to 600,000 phone calls. Most e-mails are registration inquiries or customers seeking information about AKC rules, regulations, and policies.
The Call Center has 31 full-time reps and five part-timers, three supervisors, and a director. The training period for a new representative is four to six weeks, as there is a great deal of information to be learned.
Turnover is low, with most reps taking positions in other AKC departments as they become available. Because of their extensive training, Call Center reps are highly desired by managers in other departments.
Great emphasis is placed on the manner in which customers are treated. The goal is to provide world-class customer service, not just meeting the customer’s need but taking the extra step as necessary.
It is of the utmost importance that customers are handled with a professional, pleasant demeanor, thereby making their experience with the American Kennel Club positive and informative.