The importance of alignment between call centers and own brand teams

At S4RB we talk a lot about one team. The importance of retail own brand teams and their own brand suppliers working together, around one view of product performance and one mission to deliver success. 

The need to work as one team is just as important internally within the retail organisation as it is with suppliers. Own brand development teams who work with their own quality and food safety teams all need to be aligned. Different departments, but all with an own brand focus.

But that isn’t always the case across the breadth of a retailer. When focusing on call center (also known as contact centers) teams, the need to answer any query received is expected. From opening hours to parent-child parking spaces, from ‘where is my order?’ to ‘what is in this product?’.

So, the ownness on a call center will typically be focused on average-handling-time (AHT), first-contact-resolution (FCR) and ultimately customer satisfaction (CSAT). As such, the information required from the customer will be different from the information own brand teams need to fully understand the customer feedback. Of which being the ability to manage quality, consistency and potentially inform private brand product development.

Managing the approach

We see misalignment in two ways, and both are an opportunity, when addressed, to help own brands win. The first is all about the approach, or in more technical terms: the call center protocol.

If a customer complains about a national brand product in your store, you need to address the complaint. Firstly, to ensure no broader food safety issue and address as quickly as possible the refund or return. In some cases, directing them to the manufacturer is needed.

When that phone call is about your own brand products, the focus should move away from the operation (AHT etc.) to be all about the customer experience. The most important thing to do is listen to the customer. Ensure they have a quality experience and cement that you get quality feedback.

The metric for own brands should therefore be all about CSAT. We’ve previously worked with clients to implement different protocols, the very moment the product mentioned is identified as own brand. Indeed, we’ve also worked with one retailer to implement a completely dedicated own brand engagement center to embed the focus on own brand product satisfaction.  

The customer feedback and customer satisfaction become much more important than operational efficiency. But efficient protocols are also important to focus solely on the information required, in turn creating a smoother journey for customer and call center. With different budgets and different KPIs, it is essential that different teams are aligned on this objective. This sadly in our experience, all too often, isn’t the case.


This is a natural segway onto the second common issue, which is the alignment of the quality of data.

If own brand teams are to gain a proper view of customer satisfaction at a product level and share this with suppliers (so they too can be focused on the customer), they will need to rely on accurate data. Chris Skyers, Vice President of Own Brands at Wakefern, put this really well when he presented at last year’s Velocity private brand event.

Own brand suppliers do not need to view it as their product. Nor view it as a Wakefern (Shoprite) product. But that Wakefern and the supplier have a shared focus on the consumers view of the product. And for this to work, contact centers need to focus on ensuring the correct product code, the correct barcode or the correct universal product code (UPC). Alternatively, if the product is multi-source, the information needed is to identify which supplier the product relates to. Information which may not be essential to the call center, but is essential for own brand teams to drive a culture of quality and consistency throughout their own brand suppliers.

Seanna Risher, Vice President Private Label at Sobeys, reinforced this when speaking at Velocity Global last month. It is important that the metrics are in place post-launch to ensure that customers consistently receive the same product quality anticipated from when a product was developed and launched.


Our advisory team work with clients to provide practical tips, including how to ensure there are valid UPC’s. Ideally, how to ensure valid UPC’s for a product in question. It is not uncommon for a customer to provide a barcode that turns out to be invalid. Only to receive a follow up days later to ask if they still have the packaging so the own brand team can check details the details. Not a great customer experience at all and wastes time for the own brand team.

Contrast that experience with a customer who has called in and provided the barcode to which the customer service agent responds “I am sorry, that appears to be the barcode for milk and not the yoghurt you called about, could I just double-check that barcode with you?”.  Easily enough achieved, if call centre teams and own brand teams are aligned.

Our own brand advisory has been developed to offer practical advice and guidance, helping retailers deliver their own brand strategies and achieve their potential. Find out more about how we can help your own brand team strive to success.  

Tags: Customer experience, Supplier engagement

James Butcher

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