VoIP and Voicemail-to-Text Make a Better Network
LiveAir Networks has always prided itself on providing top-notch broadband Internet voice and data services to homes and businesses within three rural central Texas counties. But its customer service was another matter: In fact, the Smithville, Texas-based firm’s CEO, James Breeden, deemed the call handling experience for both new and existing customers “unacceptable.”
One of LiveAir Networks’ main problems was that while customers submitting online requests were being serviced almost immediately, telephone calls requesting service were often lingering in a central voicemail system for days—awaiting retrieval, manual transcription, creation of corresponding trouble tickets, and routing to the appropriate personnel. Though the target for initial response was four hours for most requests, actual response times typically fell between 24 and 72 hours. “Things were falling through the cracks left and right,” Breeden says. “We did not want everyone to have to use their computers to deal with us.”
To solve this problem, LiveAir Networks engineered a custom call routing solution to integrate calls into a digital workflow. It turned to Junction Networks, one of the largest providers of hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to small and midsize businesses, to integrate its OnSIP VoIP applications with interactive voice response, call routing, and attendant menus. OnSIP is a business-class phone service accessed over the Internet designed for companies with five to 100 employees.
As its trunking service provider, Junction Networks had already been providing LiveAir Networks with OnSIP, so moving to the company’s hosted VoIP PBX service seemed like a natural progression. “We’d been doing business with Junction Networks early on,” Breeden says. “It worked very well for us, and we kept it on when we made the switch.”
The move to the OnSIP platform had been precipitated by a lightning strike at one of LiveAir Networks’ operations centers in the winter of 2008 that knocked out service to many customers.
And when Junction Networks announced a new partnership in mid-July with Ditech Networks to bring PhoneTag Voicemail-to-Text (V2T) service to OnSIP customers, LiveAir Networks was all too happy to sign on. As an existing OnSIP customer, LiveAir Networks was able to sign up for the PhoneTag V2T service and, following a simple set-up process, employees could receive their voicemail messages in text form directly in their email inbox. Along with the transcribed message, LiveAir Networks employees also can receive an attached .WAV file should they choose to listen to the voicemail.
“We found [PhoneTag] had an easy integration with our OnSIP network, and it kind of fit right into our existing workflow,” Breeden recalls. “OnSIP already sends voicemail to email, [so] it seemed natural that we could forward the OnSIP voicemail email to PhoneTag for transcription.”
“OnSIP is a robust and feature-full service for businesses looking for a reliable phone system. PhoneTag V2T is the perfect addition to the current suite of features available,” said Karl Brown, vice president of marketing at Ditech Networks, in a statement. “Voicemail-to-text is a great feature for anyone looking to optimize their time.”
LiveAir Networks also worked with Zendesk, which uses the voicemail-to-text feature to create trouble tickets and assign service reps to the problem. Once service tickets are created, they are logged and tracked using Zendesk’s hosted service request tracking system.
In addition, through its SIP connection LiveAir was able to create local numbers in each area code where it serves customers. It also integrated Skype into its phone system and, should customers dialing into the company get disconnected while navigating the IVR menu, LiveAir Networks provides a toll-free number for them to call back.
The entire endeavor “was really a customer response thing,” Breeden explains. “We needed better response times.”
With the new systems, Breeden says his company can now ensure when a customer leaves a service request by phone that technicians and client service agents will handle the call quickly and easily.
These new systems took about a month to develop and test with the company’s very small—but growing—customer base. LiveAir serves about 300 customers in a 2,400-square-mile area. The company’s call volume is also very small: It receives between five and 10 calls a day from customers calling for new service, reporting service outages, or paying bills.
“We considered hiring [someone to answer phones], but the mantra in small business today is to automate before you hire,” Breeden says. “The volume of calls wasn’t enough to hire a full-time employee to answer phones.”
Now customers typically receive calls back within a few hours instead of days. “The biggest benefit has been response time. We can get back to customers without having to get back to the office,” Breeden says.
In fact, Breeden has been so happy with PhoneTag that LiveAir Networks will make the V2T service available to its business and residential customers who are connected to the OnSIP network.
As with most speech deployments, LiveAir Networks’ implementation was not without its hurdles. First, some security bugs had to be worked out. Then a few problems with the voicemail routing had to be resolved. “The caller ID was not perfect, and we had problems syncing the voicemail and caller ID information together in the same message,” Breeden explains. “But OnSIP was very forward with us and worked with us on this.”
Now that it has perfected this portion of its operations, LiveAir Networks next plans to integrate a payment acceptance system into its automated phone system so customers can make credit card payments without having to involve an agent. The company would also like to incorporate an automatic network performance management system.
“As we grow, it is imperative that we take care of our clients in the most efficient method possible,” Breeden states. “And now that we have these solutions in place, we are in a much better position to take on the growth that we anticipate.”
That growth, Breeden says, should be steady and constant. “Most people in our service area can get slow DSL service if they’re lucky,” he says. “Growth is definitely happening for us as people are beginning to demand broadband service in rural America.”
But growth aside, Breeden still wants to keep LiveAir Networks’ small-company feel. At the same time, though, he can’t help but be proud of his use of technology. LiveAir Networks became part of a larger base of companies worldwide that are switching to business VoIP services. According to ABI Research, the overall value of the business VoIP market, which includes SIP trunking, hosted IP-PBX/IP Centrex, and managed IP-PBX services, is set to double over the next five years, to exceed $20 billion by 2015.
“Over time, speech technologies have gotten a lot better, and we want to bring cutting-edge technology to the rural community,” Breeden says. “The fact that we’re using this level of technology and providing this level of service to our customers is not too common.”
APPS AT A GLANCE
Since switching to OnSIP and PhoneTag for handling phone calls, LiveAir Networks has:
- reduced the time for customers to receive a call back from three days to a few hours;
- dramatically improved customer service without having to bring on an additional employee; and
- positioned itself for growth.