Settling the Score

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In its early days, Health Benefits Systems (HBS), a Prairie Village, Kan.-based provider of human resources and employee benefits consulting services, was small enough that it could conduct most of its work on paper through its customer base, made up almost entirely of small businesses.

HBS established a niche in the human resources field over the years, and soon started working with larger firms employing 1,000 or more people. As its client roster expanded, the company could no longer work face-to-face with its customers—not only were there more businesses, but these businesses had more employees. Like many other growing companies, HBS had to provide its customers with on-demand phone service.

Of course, working as insourced employees for another company, HBS’ agents needed to be evaluated on their competency and ability to help a customer’s employees understand their benefits packages. In the past, HBS did this through paper surveys, but its rapidly expanding client base meant it could no longer rely on this type of feedback. Conducting business over the phone meant customers had to provide immediate feedback while they were still on the line.

"When we initially talked about how to do [surveys], looking at our standard way of doing hard-copy evaluations, looking at postage and how many we’d get back, that was when we decided there was no way we could do it in the typical manner done before," says Valerie Thompson, HBS’ technology coordinator and head of customer relationship management (CRM).

While HBS already had a Salesforce.com CRM business engine in place, it needed an automated survey built into an interactive voice response (IVR) system that would not only collect scores, but also quantify the data using the Salesforce.com platform. Using Salesforce.com’s CRM AppExchange, Thompson found Angel.com, an on-demand IVR and call center solutions provider. Working with the company, HBS developed customized, automated surveys that ran at the end of each agent/end-user phone interaction. But one problem remained: what to do with the data. Michael Zirngibl, founder and CEO of Angel.com, worked on the HBS project, and says that many companies employing IVRs need to provide the data collection engine with a context by which to interpret the information.

"We’re seeing more and more that customers have specific requirements about applications, but they have even more specific requirements about how they want to get their data percentage," Zirngibl explains. "[HBS] needed an efficient reporting system tied to the phone system that gave them real-time access to cull agent satisfaction data."

Just a few months prior to the implementation, Angel.com had developed a packaged application that collected information in its application and fed the results into Salesforce.com through its application programming interface. The system not only collected data but also made agents’ scores available in real time. "Instantly, after each call, we store and capture the information from the caller and put that into the Salesforce.com field that then customers can report on," Zirngibl states.

The HBS post-call surveys dealt primarily with three core questions: Was the call time utilized well during the meeting? Was the specialist knowledgeable? Did the specialist adequately explain the benefits program? From there, HBS developed multiple surveys unique to some of its customers and integrated a free-form voice messaging system. Not only could end users score agents on a scale of 1 to 5, but they could also leave a voice message qualitatively stating their thoughts. HBS was able to diversify its surveys, in part, because of Angel.com’s point-and-click functionality. Since the company offers hosted solutions, clients like HBS can navigate through the Web portal and make changes as needed.

The application was up and running in two weeks, and Thompson states she was able to work through the program by herself. Angel.com’s ease of use was one of the vendor’s strongest selling points, she explains. "[Angel.com] was extremely helpful, offered a competitive price, and the customer support was unlimited," she says. "The support was helpful to us because we were designing and doing things [Angel.com] hadn’t done at the time. They’ve been able to do almost anything that we asked and have walked us through it."

While Angel.com provides the IVR survey service, the vendor also plays a role in collecting and categorizing agent scores. Rather than a simple spreadsheet, Angel.com will "use the Salesforce graphing engine and reporting engine and let [customers] slice and dice the data any way they want it," Zirngibl states. From there, a contact center supervisor can view the scores and perform exception spotting, tying a stand-out rating to one agent.

HBS’ newer clients receive the most attention and resources, and for them, surveys are scored and tracked more rigorously than those for companies that have been HBS clients for years. And, of course, companies that only recently signed on with HBS will leave more feedback than those whose employees have called its agents for years.

Beyond the basic scores for each specific customer and interaction, HBS can also receive a holistic view of how its entire customer base views its agents and services. According to Thompson, the biggest benefit of the deployment has been HBS’ ability to provide hard data to new and existing customers about its customer satisfaction ratings. "We have stats to show [customers] that it’s working and that their employees love this new service," she says. "It’s a huge benefit for maintaining clients, and it’s good when we go to [customers] and try to renew our contract. [The survey service] is crucial to what we’re trying to do—maintain that partnership with a client."

Zirngibl points to Angel.com’s close relationship with Salesforce.com as a driving factor in the deployment’s success. As he explains, there is a "real trend right now to phone-enable the various aspects of Salesforce.com deployments," which translates into a need for Salesforce.com users to match up with a vendor whose technology works seamlessly with the CRM application.

And as small-to-medium-size businesses continue purchasing both CRM and speech technology applications, lower-cost vendors like Salesforce.com become the de facto business engine provider. Today, Zirngibl estimates that the company has 40 to 50 deployments in which Angel.com takes care of the IVR and speech systems, with Salesforce.com acting as the underlying business engine.

"As soon as we knew [HBS] was a Salesforce user, it was clear that it would be the logical step to close the loop and integrate the feedback data into the Salesforce framework via our service-by-phone product," Zirngibl says. "Angel.com probably has the most elegant integration with Salesforce."

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