Implementation Award: Pinnacle Security
Customer: Pinnacle Security
Vendor: Aspect Software
Product: Productive Workforce and Seamless Customer Service
When a home alarm is triggered, every second counts until the police arrive. Along the same lines—perhaps not quite as dramatic, but nonetheless critical—time is also an important factor in selling that security system in the first place, especially for a growing business like Pinnacle Security.
Pinnacle, an Orem, Utah-based provider of residential security systems since 2001, relies on a direct sales team going door-to-door to sell its services around the United States and Canada. Summer, when the weather is most favorable, is traditionally when Pinnacle’s sales push goes into high gear. As recently as last year, that meant Pinnacle engaged in heavy, time-consuming recruiting during the months beforehand, when the company typically sought college kids looking to work during their time off. “It’s an extremely high ramp up—we start hiring hundreds of people a week as early as March just trying to fill the call center,” explains Bill Pratt, Pinnacle’s senior director of customer care.
The sales process typically involved two calls: Each time a salesperson was working with a potential customer, he’d have to phone into the company’s call center, where a live agent would first run a credit check before accepting the new business. “We install fairly expensive equipment—the value is close to $1,200,” Pratt says.
Assuming verification went smoothly and the customer was still interested, a second call to an agent followed to provide the details needed to get the account up and running, such as the package sold and pricing terms.
It became clear to Pratt that much of this process could be automated with a speech system, which would reduce head count at Pinnacle’s call center as well as the time each call took. Such a system would also address the variability in selling door to door. “We know how many people are out there, but if the weather is bad or we’re not knocking on as many doors, staffing gets difficult to manage,” he says. “Or we can be in a great neighborhood; it can be difficult to forecast.”
With the goal of automating at least one-third of the overall sales call volume—obviously there are other calls involved in the process, not just from the sales team, but they all hit the same group of agents—Pratt began evaluating several vendors’ speech solutions during 2009. By the end of the year he chose Chelmsford, Mass.-based Aspect Software, which integrated its Productive Workforce and Seamless Customer Service contact center applications with Microsoft/Tellme’s hosted speech solutions to provide an automated system called Voice Qualification (V-Qual) System Sales. “We were looking for a large player that [worked with companies] at our size and beyond. We wanted an enterprise solution—not just best-of-breed components, but one-stop shopping and full integration. That’s what we found with Aspect,” Pratt says. “They dealt with 10,000-plus agents at one particular company and that appealed to us, as did their integration with the Tellme platform as well as a lot of other Microsoft components. That was a big plus for our IT team.”
Implementation, including staff training time, took around three months. Now when a salesperson calls in with a potential sale, he goes into an automated system that uses speech recognition to walk him through the same set of steps that had previously required a live agent. Information is collected in “mini milestones,” Pratt explains, and is pulled up at the end of a call, which still involves a live agent—minus plenty of data entry and human error. With its new system, Pratt estimates an average savings of one-and-a-half minutes on the first call and three minutes on the second. Reduction in agent head count and costs is about 35 percent, or approximately 70 seats and $750,000 in savings, he adds.
Looking into next year, Pratt says Pinnacle will be evaluating speech recognition for other areas of its business, including tech support and customer service issues, such as billing, enabling it to operate 24/7. “We have more than 250,000 accounts that we’re monitoring daily,” he says. “We will have to find new efficiencies.”
- Reduction in agent head count of 35 percent, or 70 seats;
- Overall savings of $750,000;
- Total call time shaved by an average of4.5 minutes; and
- Less manual data entry also means fewer mistakes.