Headsets.com's recipe for happy customers

A small retailer accelerates its commitment to hiring and training call-center workers.

By Ingrid Tharasook, FSB contributor

FSB -- Mike Faith openly admits to calling his competitors' 800-numbers and posing as a customer to see how their service is. That's how serious the Headsets.com CEO is about offering unrivaled support from his company's San Francisco-based call center.

When we spoke to him last year for our story, No Mumblers, Faith said he typically made prospective customer service representatives go through a 20-hour marathon of interviews with everyone from a voice coach to a psychologist. That interview process is still intact, and applicants are still put to test in a series of odd tasks, such as opera-singing and untangling tongue-twisters. Once hired, they have to undergo four weeks of training before they get anywhere near the phones.

Although revenues have remained flat since 2005, the company continues to invest in customer service. One of the biggest expenses has been building its team to 75 employees, bringing on extra reps during peak calling times. "We didn't want to risk losing that edge on customer service," says Faith. It has paid off in some ways. Client satisfaction is at an all-time high, up 20% from last year by the company's measures. The sales-per-employee rate has doubled within the last two years, says Faith. Headsets.com projects a significant increase in sales by the end of 2007, he says.

To keep his annual turnover rate to less than 15%, Faith has added some sweet perks. There is a $1,500 annual training stipend, a one-month paid sabbatical after three years of service - and a free trip to Sydney, in which employees are sent to vacation to work with a voice coach. In an industry in which 50% turnover is common, the CEO reckons that it is money well-spent. Top of page

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