Outfitted for Change

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The evolved perception of the contact center from customer barrier to gateway into the enterprise means that quality assurance within a phone interaction has become a priority. To that end, companies need to glean actionable data from their customers’ calls. Why are customers calling? What are they calling about? And how are human agents responding?

To answer those questions, Urban Outfitters, a Trenton, S.C.-based clothing retailer, installed CallFinity’s call recording, reporting, and quality evaluation systems across its customer contact centers last August.

Urban Outfitters, perhaps best known for its unique and often controversial apparel, is actually comprised of three different brands. Besides the titular brand, which has 117 outlets throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, other outlets include Anthropologie, with 100 stores, and Free People, with 19 stores. Additionally, each brand features its own Web site and catalogue.

Occasionally, the company gets in trouble for its products, which sometimes feature sayings and images that fly in the face of political correctness. So it’s little wonder that its contact center has to field an enormous number of calls that vary widely, depending on season and circumstance.

In handling these calls, Urban Outfitters has strict customer service policies. "[We’re] unique in that we answer our calls within 15 to 10 seconds," says Bryan Whitney, Urban Outfitters’ director of call center operations. "Our abandon rate is less than 1 percent, and we do not have a call tree selection. That has been our corporate philosophy since day one. The objective is that you’re calling a friend. People will be friendly when you call."

However, Urban Outfitters also viewed the contact center as a marketing tool, even though many of the calls coming into the system aren’t sales-related. An added challenge was that calls for the three different brands were all siphoning into the same contact center.

Like all quality monitoring systems, CallFinity’s had to undergo a vast customization process prior to deployment at Urban Outfitters. The retailer was particularly interested in a call dispositioning feature, which listens to calls and provides actionable business intelligence that helps enterprises understand the drivers for each call.  That solution was not part of CallFinity’s initial product set, but was added after the company’s experience with Urban Outfitters.

"The feedback we got from Urban Outfitters helped us drive a new feature to the product," says CallFinity CEO and president Jeff Valentine. "It’s now the core feature in our call recording system. Because we see every call going to every agent, we can interact with that agent’s desktop and ask at the end of the call what it was all about."

Using the call dispositioning feature, Whitney soon learned that many of the calls coming into the contact center were related to Urban Outfitter gift cards, and of those, 88 percent were from people who wanted to check their card balances. All of those calls were being handled by live agents. "[Management] didn’t want people talking to a machine," Whitney recalls. "When they heard the gift balance calls that we’d captured through the dispositioning and saw the percentages, they said it makes absolute sense [to automate it]."

So in December, Urban Outfitters added an interactive voice response (IVR) system to handle those calls. It gives customers calling for a card balance the option of going either to an agent or straight to automation. "I’d probably never have been able to do that internally because of our customer service standard," Whitney muses.

Call dispositioning is also helping Urban Outfitters identify and respond to  customer concerns and complaints about the messages portrayed on some of its t-shirts, for example. In listening to the calls, company officials can quickly identify exactly what item caused the flare-up and the parties that are lodging the complaints. Whitney can then take that information to the relevant people within the company who will use the data to determine what, if any, action needs to be taken.

"The Urban brand can have some things that can cause people some unrest at times, things that are not politically correct," Whitney says. "We know the standards and what the flow should be at different times, and we can dig down and actually listen to the call and say, ‘This t-shirt, people are saying it’s offensive for this reason’."

While the advantages of better business intelligence are clear, some of the softer benefits are not immediately obvious. For one, Whitney sees CallFinity’s solution as an excellent training tool for his contact center employees. Thanks to CallFinity’s recording solution, he now has a library of samples—including not only the call recordings but also the agent’s screen pops—that he can access to demonstrate to his staff the perfect customer service interaction for a given situation, taking into account more abstract variables such as tone and emotion in the agent’s voice. Previously, he appointed other staff members to monitor live calls. Recording every employee’s conversation has eliminated the potential subjectivity of the performance evaluation.

Deploying the solution at Urban Outfitters took roughly six weeks to complete, most of that time monopolized by the requirements-gathering phase. Once that step was completed though, "installation was overnight…really a nonevent," Valentine recalls.
Customization was another big part of the process for CallFinity. This step included determining not only how calls would be recorded, but also what data should be collected and how it should be documented and indexed.

Urban Outfitters also has to be able to locate the calls to which it wants to react. "That has to be easy, so it’s in a Web browser," Valentine says. "Urban could pull up a list of all calls. You have that criteria defined, and you get a list with a drill-down capability, which makes it easy to find the calls."

Additionally, those calls have to be easy to share so agents and supervisors can evaluate them. Valentine see this as the most important factor for a call center system.

Because each enterprise customer’s needs are unique, CallFinity has a form designer that allows the enterprise to draw up its own evaluation criteria to produce an "almost analytic evaluation of the agent’s performance."

Ultimately, Urban Outfitters expected to realize a return on its investment in CallFinity’s quality monitoring application in 10 months; adding the call dispositioning feature reduced that by about  90 days. Whitney anticipates additional savings as Urban Outfitters continues to focus on issues and opportunities culled from CallFinity’s solution

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