SendMe Does a High Five(9) Over IVR Savings

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By the beginning of 2010, SendMe’s business was pushing the edges of the company’s contact center. The direct-to-consumer mobile content provider deals in everything from ringtones and wallpapers to games, social networking services, interactive mobile trivia, and sweepstakes. Today, it’s made up of four major branded properties, as well as some sub-brands.

However, when SendMe was launched in 2006, it was a slim operation with a small subscriber base and contact center. The company went with a straightforward interactive voice response (IVR) solution from an unnamed vendor to meet its needs.

“The email just went through Outlook,” says Lisa Galli, director of operations for SendMe. “It was something that really worked for us when we were receiving a small number of inquiries.”

That same IVR remained in place for three years. But as the company picked up properties and broadened its customer base, SendMe’s needs changed. Each brand required its own customized IVR tree, and it became increasingly difficult to manage the full gamut at once—particularly because traffic was also increasing with the growing number of customers.

“It got to the point where the solutions we had were not sufficient to manage inbound customer calls and emails [and] respond to voicemails in a timely fashion,” Galli says.

SendMe wanted a new contact center capable of providing a better customer experience. The company had been thinking about switching providers, but the need for a change became critical in early 2010. SendMe’s contract with its initial IVR provider was set to expire, and the provider was unwilling to extend service beyond the termination date. As a result, SendMe’s contact center was facing a blackout for an indefinite period. A new provider had to be found—fast.

Early in the search, SendMe got an internal recommendation to reach out to Five9, an on-demand call center software provider that focuses on customer service, telemarketing, and business continuity. At the time, SendMe was weighing its options, but ultimately Five9’s offering proved the most attractive.

“There were a couple of factors [that helped sway us],” Galli says. “The recommendation definitely helped.” The price was competitive, and migrating from one solution to Five9’s system proved relatively easy.

Galli adds, “Detailed reports were something we were starting to look for that we weren’t able to get with our existing solution. And being able to see the entire queue at one time—being able to see who was working at what time, being able to see the active management within the queue.”

SendMe signed on with Five9, and work had to begin almost immediately. There was only the narrowest of time frames—less than a month—to get a new system up and running before the old one was shuttered for good.

The deployment would require a new call-routing system, a new IVR, QuickMail support, voicemail queuing, connections for agents at SendMe’s San Francisco headquarters as well as for a scattering of remote agents elsewhere, the creation of “skill groups”—a hierarchy of skill priorities based on agent expertise within the system—and a priority call routing based on call origination.

“Essentially, they were looking for a rip-and-replace of their previous provider,” says Britt Ruedi, strategic account manager for Five9 and the implementation manager for the SendMe project.

“We turned the implementation really, really, really quickly, like within a day or two,” Ruedi says. “By the time they’d signed paperwork and signed up for Five9, we’d provisioned their account. I did the initial deployment overnight and went on-site to their location to test, train, and configure the solution.”

In her first meeting with SendMe, Ruedi was already testing the system with SendMe’s staff. Tests with agents followed along with intensive training, and the solution went live the next day.

“I had to honestly remind myself [how fast the deployment was],” says SendMe’s Galli. “In our world, you could put a project in a queue and it could take weeks or months before it goes live.… We signed the contract in late January of 2010, and by mid-February we were live. In our books, that’s very fast.”

After the launch, a few optimization meetings were held, but the system was stable and largely running to SendMe’s satisfaction. The company was impressed, particularly because the provider switch had involved juggling 20 inbound numbers, and there was significant room for hiccups in bringing the lines to Five9. However, there was no downtime with any of the numbers.

“It was a very smooth transition,” recalls Galli, looking over her email correspondence during the switch. “We only had issues with the IVR we were leaving.”

Though Five9’s architecture was in place by the end of February, tuning would continue for a couple of months, with a more extensive configuration of SendMe’s internal system and a full suite of computer telephony integration.

The results of the deployment were immediate. Within a month of its launch, Galli says, SendMe saw a 15 percent drop in email contacts. Before implementation, 25 percent of customer contacts were made via email; after the first month, those had fallen by 10 percent. SendMe attributes the success to customers’ getting what they needed from their initial phone calls, as opposed to getting frustrated with the contact center, hanging up, or getting dropped and then emailing.

“If they couldn’t get us on the phone, they’d send an email. And then maybe two emails,” Galli says.

Post-deployment, the Five9 system has been a roaring success by any measure. By April 2010, Five9 and SendMe were trumpeting 80 percent cost savings in SendMe’s call center operations, most of it derived from automation. Customers were able to make changes to their service entirely from within the IVR without having to speak to a live agent.

In addition, Five9’s use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to connect agents into the company’s data center saved money. Under Five9’s scheme, agents connect from Internet-connected personal computers to Five9, which in turn routes them to customers over traditional time division multiplexing (TDM) phone lines. Dividing the calls into two legs—VoIP and TDM—Five9 could achieve savings by hosting half the calls via a much cheaper VoIP connection.

Besides savings, though, SendMe says it has delivered better contact center service to its customers since the switch. “We can QA [quality assure] our customer service representatives far better than we ever could before because we can go back and listen to phone calls,” Galli notes. “We can use the recordings as a learning tool or actively listen in to a call if we’re in the process of training.”

Likewise, Five9’s system has opened up integration potential with some of SendMe’s offerings. Originally, SendMe had regarded its contact center as simply a customer care resource. But lately the company has been able to use the center as an avenue for its sweepstakes and promotions, in addition to other means it has used historically, such as mobile text messaging and the Web.
With future rollouts of Five9’s software platforms, more features will become available, too. For instance, the company’s recent Virtual Call Center 8.0 now natively sports a speech-recognition package. Five9’s platform is more likely to grow with SendMe’s business.

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