CRA Champions Charging for Customer Care

By Khali Henderson Comments
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Laura Bernstein has been an independent telecom agent for a dozen years. She and her partner, Bob Varady, built a respectable agency, CRA Inc., based on a high-touch telecom network management model. Now CRA is packaging that service for sale by other agents, enabling them to turn customer support from a cost center to a profit center.

CRA does not charge agents to provide customer support services; instead, it enables agents to sell those services as a monthly subscription to its customers at a margin. Agents can bill customers for the services directly or CRA will send a private-branded bill and pay the agent a commission on the receipts.

CRA’s support services include repair resolution, monthly invoice auditing, adds/changes, create/control inventory, monthly wireless optimization, provisioning, contract monitoring, product consulting, technical consulting and proactive “checking in" customer calls.

CRA bundles these services into packages — Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum — as well as a la carte. It recommends charging the customer on a sliding scale from 12 percent to 25 percent of the MRC plus a one-time setup charge equal to 30 percent of the MRC.

Bernstein began thinking about how to replicate CRA’s model at least five years ago, but it wasn’t until 2010 that she finally put together a beta test with a few willing agents. It wasn’t hard to find test subjects, she recalls, since the need was so great.

“We think that the agents are in more pain than their customers," Bernstein said, explaining their challenges are multiplied by the number of customers they serve. At some point in every successful agency’s growth trajectory, the time spent servicing outweighs time spent selling. That’s when most agents start hiring and paying to provide support. Even if they charge the customer to recoup costs, they are still paying upfront.

CRA’s Telecom Agent Support Program offers solo agents an alternative to hiring and managing employees. For agents that already have staff, CRA now provides an option for them to reallocate that headcount to sales tasks. In both cases, the agents make money on selling support functions.

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