The 2012 Implementation Awards

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There's no doubt that speech analytics, outbound IVR messaging, and hosting continue to be fan favorites when it comes to speech technology. And, it's no different for this year's group of Implementation Award winners. Each of them—a university, a credit management company, an enterprise software developer, and a major U.S. airline—has leveraged at least one of these technologies to realize benefits that are as diverse as the group itself, such as cost savings, agent performance improvements, churn prevention, and revenue growth. Read on to learn how they did it.

customer: Avila University

vendor: Vocantas

product: Scaller interactive voice response system

On the typical college or university campus, as many as one in three first-year students will not stay through to their sophomore year due to family problems, loneliness, academic struggles, or financial hardship.

At Avila University, a small Catholic school in Kansas City, Mo., the student retention rate is about 75 percent—well above the national average. But administrators still wanted to help identify first-year students at risk of dropping out or transferring to other schools and address their concerns.

So this past fall, the university deployed Scaller, an interactive voice response (IVR) solution from Vocantas, to aid its student retention efforts. Avila provided Vocantas with contact information for each of the 138 first-year students and 15 students from other years who were on academic probation. To ensure adequate participation, Avila told the students at their new student orientation and during the first session of their freshman seminar (a class to teach them how to become more independent) that they would be getting the IVR phone calls. The school sent email messages to students who were not reached through the IVR, asking them to get in touch with someone at the school if they had problems or concerns.

Beginning September 26 (four weeks into the fall semester) and for six days afterward, the IVR made dozens of calls each day. The fully automated system polled the students about their needs in seven areas: time management, financial assistance, career counseling, academic advisement, note-taking, personal counseling, and tutorial help.

Calls were targeted toward freshmen because, "if students are going to leave, most do it then," says Paige Illum, coordinator of retention and the first-year experience at Avila University.

The school, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, has a student population of 1,800.

The IVR dialed one student after another until it had reached 10 students who identified an area of need from among the seven choices. At that point, the IVR discontinued calls for that day to give Avila University staff the chance to follow up with a personal phone call to each student who asked for help.

The IVR reached 53 percent of the students on the list. Of those, 38 percent identified an area in which they could use help. Several identified needs in more than one area. The system identified more than 30 students who could be considered at risk for dropping out or transferring to other schools and flagged those calls for follow-up.

Scaller relies on an automated system that asks the students a series of questions to identify challenges they are facing. Automation is the preferred method, because, as Vocantas has found, students are more likely to be honest and open with a machine than they are with a live person.

"The results provided us with early indicator intelligence as to which students [in the freshman class] were most at risk," said Darby Gough, Avila's dean of students, in a statement.

The results were not all that surprising. "Most of them were just good old-fashioned questions and concerns about the college experience," Illum explains. "They were the typical first-year concerns about adjusting to college life."

The follow-up call made a big difference. "What we found when we followed up with students after the IVR calls was that multiple issues identified in each survey call could often be resolved with just one personal phone call," Illum says.

Gary Hannah, president and CEO of Vocantas, calls Avila's results "in line with the successful results we have seen in other deployments of our IVR in higher education.

"When given the opportunity, typically students will self-identify that they need help; in fact, thirty-five percent to forty percent of students ask for help when given the chance," he said in a statement. "The good news is we typically see retention rates improve after the students receive a single outreach call from the IVR. With the diligent follow-up that Avila has put in…we expect a significant improvement in Avila's year-over-year retention results."

The initiative provides an ancillary benefit as well: Avila can now confirm student contact information, helping to ensure that the university is able to effectively reach students in the event of an emergency.

The results:

  • Reached 53 percent of the freshman class within a few days;
  • Identified more than 30 students who could be considered at risk for dropping out or transferring to other schools; and
  • Followed up with each of the at-risk students to address their concerns.

customer: Cabot Credit Management

vendor: Nexidia, Noble Systems

products: Noble Contact Center Suite, Nexidia ESI 9.1

Cabot Credit Management offers independent specialist services in debt purchase, contingency collections, and customer tracing. The group is divided into four businesses, Cabot Financial, Cabot Financial Ireland, Apex Credit Management, and Apex Discovery. (Cabot Credit Management is the parent company of Cabot Financial and Apex Credit Management.) The company employs more than 825 people at several offices in the United Kingdom.

The company handles more than 3 million customer accounts, has more than $10 billion face-value of owned debt and at any point in time manages over $1.54 billion in assets in its contingency business, in excess of $26.2 million cash collections per month.

In 2012, Noble Systems, in Atlanta and the U.K., partnered with Nexidia to expand the debt collections success of Apex Credit Management across the company to Cabot Financial.

Although Apex looked at several solution providers, it ultimately decided to work with Noble and Nexidia.

"We invested heavily in other analytical tools to segment and score our debt portfolios," says Richard Furlong, contact strategy manager at Apex Credit Management "A lot of time and effort is spent ensuring we speak to the customer at the right time."

Noble Systems is a global provider in unified contact center technology solutions. The scalable, integrated Noble solutions include advanced automatic call distributor and predictive dialing, unified contact processing and integrated IVR, recording, messaging, quality/monitoring systems, scripting, and real-time reporting and management tools.

Apex used Noble Contact Center Suite (CCS), a unified multichannel communication system that enables small to midsized contact organizations to manage contacts, information flow, and workforce in a single solution.

Additionally, Apex used Nexidia's speech analytics solutions ESI 9.1, which enabled the company to analyze every call, providing more accurate insight for compliance, performance management, and overall call handling.

Apex says it has increased cash collected per agent hour by 30 percent and improved conversion rates by 15 percent. In addition, it has saved an average of 30 hours per month for each team leader within the first seven months of implementation.

The solutions allow the company to be proactive instead of reactive when dealing with customer dissatisfactions, and this supports a better customer experience all around, according to Apex.

"Speech analytics has such a proven success in Apex that it was just common sense to bring it into the Cabot Financial business," Furlong says. "The lessons learned in Apex on how to maximize collections revenue through right party connections, targeted coaching, and increasing conversion rates will enable us to maximize the return on the substantial investment of our purchased debt."

Apex said that the improved efficiency has allowed the company to halve the amount of time team leaders spend trawling for calls. This time has been reinvested into agent coaching, doubling the amount of time this is done.

Agent conversion rates shot up 15 percent, improving Apex's first call resolution and reducing collections costs.

Additionally, improved quality (account resolution/call completion) conversion rates climbed 15 percent. Written complaint volumes were reduced as well.

"Our clients are forever moving the goalposts in terms of what is compliant and what is not. However, now that we can effectively monitor 100 percent of calls, we can give our clients peace of mind that we are protecting their brand and dealing with their customers fairly and appropriately," Furlong says. "Plus, the ability to demonstrate compliance on 100 percent of our calls…will play a key part of every purchaser audit. Ultimately, we envision all 530 [members of our] collections staff using the system."

The company's return on investment was realized in just seven months, while its throughput quadrupled.

"Apex and Cabot both pride themselves on innovative ideas and use of technology, and we felt speech analytics was the final piece in the jigsaw for our business," Furlong says. "We felt this would be the best way to ensure compliance, brand protection, and revenue generation."

the results:

  • Increased cash collected per agent hour by 30 percent;
  • Improved agent conversion rates by 15 percent;
  • Account resolution/call completion conversion rates grew 15 percent; and
  • ROI achieved in seven months.

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