Getting It Right the First Time
Teaching new call center employees to use the technology in place is usually not that difficult. Changing the attitudes and behaviors of those new hires—and even veteran agents who might have developed some bad habits—is not so easy. It requires a great deal of patience, and it doesn’t hurt to be able to walk the agent through all that she said and did during the call to point out what could have been handled differently.
"Giving the technician the ability to listen to her own voice when dealing with a customer is a very powerful tool," says Vicki Sewell, senior vice president of client services and customer support at Inovis, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based supplier of on-demand business software and managed services.
So last May, the company implemented Autonomy’s Intelligent Contact Center suite—including the etalk suite of voice and desktop screen recording, agent performance evaluation, and speech analytics components—across its 100-agent technical support contact center. As a result, it has seen double-digit improvements in first-call resolutions and huge drops in the amount of formal training that agents need.
The call center, which can be reached toll-free, handles roughly 12,000 cases per month, many of which are related to very technical issues tied to the software and data services that Inovis provides. The company’s clients include more than 20,000 businesses around the world in the automotive, electronics, petrochemical, and retail/consumer packaged goods industries. Many of its client companies also have very elaborate data networks that can involve hundreds of trading partners and suppliers around the world.
Inovis’ corporate offerings include software to help clients manage their enterprise, data exchange, supply chain, ordering, and electronic purchasing. As such, questions coming into Inovis’ support center can be very complex. The call center offers multiple layers of support to deal with them. Basic calls are fielded between 8 a.m and 8 p.m., but a 24-hour support line is available for emergency and critical production down issues.
rior to implementing the Autonomy etalk solution, first-call resolutions with a level-one technician occurred about 30 percent to 35 percent of the time, with about 60 percent of the calls requiring more advanced support from a level-two technician. Since Inovis installed etalk, those numbers have flipped. Now, about 68 percent of all service requests are closed at level one.
"Level one is our lower-cost technician, the first touch point that the call goes into. If the call can’t be handled at level one, it goes to our level-two, more experienced technicians," Sewell explains. "Our goal was to get more done at level one because it’s cheaper."
Included in those numbers, though, are questions related to Inovis’ managed services offerings; those calls are handled by another department outside the basic call center. If those calls are taken out of the mix, the company still has realized an 18 percent jump in first-call resolutions through its contact center.
Considering the type of business in which Inovis is engaged, first-call resolution is important for instilling customer confidence in its products and services. The length of time it takes for the agent to find a solution to the caller’s query is also key to a successful exchange.
Using the screen recording component of the Autonomy solution, Inovis call center supervisors can evaluate whether agents were navigating the right programs, menus, data sheets, and files to identify and correct the caller’s issues, and the speed with which they were able to retrieve the information.
The solution also provides Inovis with scorecards that rate agents on professionalism, courtesy, product knowledge, and other metrics. Using that information, agents and managers can track improvements or dips in any of those areas and address them individually. Managers can also single out examples of successful client engagements as best practices for others to follow.
Using the voice and screen recordings together, Inovis "zeroed in on the amount of training it gives its agents," Sewell says. "We can see if they’re handling their cases in the most effective manner, and if they’re not, we can do point training rather than bringing everyone in for classes they may not need."
In the six months since it rolled out the solution, Inovis has received a few unexpected benefits as well. "It has also been a deterrent to unproductive behavior," Sewell reports. "If the agents know their calls and screens are being recorded, they will not use the system for personal use. We didn’t believe this was a problem, but [the solution] has led us to believe that it was more of an issue than we believed."
And while no one is comfortable with having someone—or something—looking over his shoulders every minute of the day, employees have come to not only accept the technology, but to proactively use it on their own. "Just like any other call center, we have our challenges, but the technology we put in place is helping the agents be as good as they can be. The agents are now coming in and requesting to hear their own tapes to see what they did right and wrong," Sewell says. "The techs can see where they’re excelling and where they need improving."
Incoming calls make up about 75 percent of all the call center activities. Outbound calls are also a big part of the support and sales function, but those calls are not recorded. "We only record incoming calls," Sewell says. "The whole purpose is to answer a customer call as quickly as it comes in."
Inovis also has a customer self-service portal on its Web site, and fields customer tech issues via email as well. Email and Web interactions are tracked through the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) application. Siebel rolled in that solution around the same time that Autonomy was installing etalk.
Neither solution took long to install. "They’re not overly difficult or expensive solutions," Sewell says. "It’s money well-spent for what we’re getting."
In fact, Autonomy’s etalk has been so successful in the software support area that Inovis is looking to expand it into its telephone sales efforts. The company is also in the process of bringing Autonomy’s automated survey function to its call center. Along with taking callers through a series of prompts and recording their answers, the application contains a field at the end where callers can record additional feedback.
"Today, our CRM application sends out an email survey. We hope that more customers will be responding to our requests to give us feedback right after the call," Sewell says. "It will also help us better utilize our speech components."
Getting the most out of the current technology is important for the 20-year-old company, which has seen significant growth over the years through strategic acquisitions and new client signings, especially in Asia. That kind of growth has a high price tag for a call center, so Inovis is also looking to expand the opportunities for clients to help themselves to reduce call center volume. Among its plans in that area, the company will expand the technical support information available on its Web site and create a forum for clients to discuss technical issues and help one another with problems.