2024 Vertical Market Case Studies: Speech Technology in Waste Management

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Republic Services is the second largest provider of waste disposal, recycling, and composting services in the United States. The Phoenix-based company serves more than 13 million residential and commercial customers from more than 1,000 locations in dozens of U.S. states and Puerto Rico. Its 17,000 trucks make about 5 million pick-ups per day, and its 75 recycling facilities process about 5 million tons of materials per year.

Its 1,200 contact center agents manage all aspects of internal and customer-facing support work, with customer insights filtered to other functions, including sales, IT, and marketing/social media.

Not long ago, the company decided to shift its focus to put the customer experience at the center of everything, but its customer support system was largely manual, making tracking and reporting on customer interactions difficult. “We were missing a tremendous volume of calls and insights,” recalls Morgan Gray, a senior manager in Republic Services’ customer experience field management department.

Amid evolving expectations for customer service, it decided that it needed knowledge management, quality management, and case management capabilities.

“We were in the midst of an evolution within our organization that really put customer perception front and center. We call it customer zeal, and in order to execute on this new mentality, we had to refocus on quality,” Gray says.

The implementation of a quality program became priority No. 1. With previous efforts focused on manual performance metrics rather than customer-centric metrics, management at Republic Services understood the best way forward was to start over. Agent attrition was high, calling for a redesign of its agent tier structure to offer specialized support to customers and create opportunities to build expertise among agents.

Republic Services was already using NICE’s Workforce Management suite, including Employee Engagement Manager, and realizing the benefits of reduced manual outputs and forecasts. So when it looked for a vendor to supply its new technology, it stuck with NICE.

“We knew that restructuring and building a quality program from scratch was going to be difficult, but because we were already using a portion of the NICE suite, the decision to expand was easy,” Gray said.

Republic Services went all-in with NICE, adding NICE Enlighten AI for Customer Satisfaction, Quality Management Premium, NICE Interaction Analytics, and NICE Value Realization Services (VRS), giving it AI-enabled omnichannel speech and chat analytics, AI-enabled agent soft-skill behavioral analysis, data-driven quality management, and sentiment analysis capabilities.

Republic Services also participated in NICE’s CXi Jumpstart program, which focused on the customer care center and provided a holistic view of the company’s technologies, people, processes, and operational practices. NICE’s VRS transformation consultants identified many opportunities and prioritized them into a transformation road map to guide strategic initiatives.

Armed with baseline data on agent performance and customer sentiment, Republic Services set objective targets to automate interventions and improve agent performance. “Through reporting and analy­tics, we were able to very naturally raise the bar, and NICE Value Realization Services helped us to modernize our quality program,” Gray said. “Whereas before we missed out on opportunities to improve agent performance, now we have Enlighten AI and Interaction Analytics insights to guide coaching. We’ve been able to set higher expectations and improve proficiency to really take our service and customer satisfaction to the next level.

“Enlighten AI and Interaction Analytics have given us the ability to cast a wide net to identify critical call types, while NICE Quality Management allows us to evaluate and act in ways that really move the needle,” Gray said further.

NICE Enlighten AI for Customer Satisfaction and Interaction Analytics provides Republic Services with the insights to create next-level, data-driven strategies for quality management and customer experience. Enlighten AI automatically scores agent soft-skill behaviors, and by embedding this analysis into its quality program, Republic Services has been able to deliver more timely and effective agent coaching.

As a result, Republic Services increased the number of coached actions by 120 percent in just three months. A renewed focus on the customer enabled Republic Services to reduce its negative to extremely negative customer sentiment by 33 percent in approximately six months. And customer retention rates now stand at 94 percent.

“We feel positive we have the correct evaluation questions in place because we continue to see improvement in sentiment month-over-month,” Gray says. “We’ve also seen a 30 percent reduction in repeat calls and a decrease in average handle time and non-talk time despite a 17 percent increase in seasonal call volume.” Republic Services attributes this to agents being properly coached so they can handle calls faster and more efficiently. Additionally, performance reports are delivered to agents in an easy to-understand, color-coded format several times a week to support a culture of continuous improvement.

Coupled with precise interactive voice response and high-quality data-driven management support, the employee experience has improved, as evidenced by a reduction in attrition.

By building on existing workforce, quality, and analytics programs, Republic Services plans to expand channel delivery for personalized and proactive customer service. It also intends to build on its new quality and knowledge management program to expand its offerings and improve its performance.

With NICE Enlighten AI and Interaction Analytics, the company will move from random evaluations into targeted category and question-level listening to better support customers, marketing initiatives, and varied geographical concerns.

Armed with those new insights, the company will continue to evolve its quality management functions with even more expanded, in-depth agent reporting.

“We’re at the point where we’ve tackled the low-hanging challenges, and now we’re moving to focus on some of those bigger, hot-topic challenges,” Gray said. “The next phase of this for us is to start to broaden what we’re communicating, how we’re communicating, and who we’re communicating with as well as continue to improve sentiment.”

Republic Services also plans to build out self-service options on its website. While currently offering live chat and online bill pay, the company is actively building a back-end database to bring its new knowledge management and IVR capabilities directly to the customer. 

The Payoff

After deploying speech and chat analytics, quality management, and sentiment analysis solutions from NICE, Republic Services achieved the following results:

  • A 120 percent increase in coaching activities in three months.
  • A 33 percent reduction in negative to extremely negative customer sentiment in six months.
  • A 30 percent reduction in repeat calls.

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