Reducing the Cost of Every Dialogue

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Dialogue Marketing provides outsourced contact center and customer relationship management services, including customer service, technical support, and business process support, to about 50 firms in the automotive, e-commerce, financial services, insurance, telecommunications, retail, logistics, and information technology industries. With such a diverse client base, it’s like having 40 or 50 different business models. Dialogue Marketing, which is based in Auburn Hills, Mich., wanted to be able to pull all of these business models together within its own business environment, and so it turned to an all-in-one IP communications software suite from Interactive Intelligence to help it reach that goal.

"We were looking for a package that offered a way to make us more agile and nimble," says Michael Lipinski, chief information officer at Dialogue Marketing. "We wanted to become extensions of our customers’ business units [fielding their calls for issues like new customer activation, registration, order taking, and payment processing and needed to adapt to our customers’ business models."

Dialogue Marketing had been using the Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center (CIC) solution—an all-in-one application suite that manages all contact center interactions, including phone calls, Web chats, faxes, and email, on one platform architected for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Voice over IP (VoIP)—for  about seven years. Less than a year ago, it upgraded from CIC Version 2.4 to CIC Version 3.0, and also added Interaction Dialer, a CIC add-on application for outbound/blended dialing and campaign management. Interaction Optimizer, another add-on application for workforce management, allowed it to replace a manual agent scheduling process based on spreadsheets.

Components of the new CIC suite include:

  • an IP PBX;
  • an automatic call distributor with built-in multichannel queuing;
  • a speech-enabled interactive voice response (IVR) system;
  • scoring and quality monitoring;
  • outbound campaign management;
  • customer self-service automation;
  • workforce management (WFM);
  • supervision and system monitoring;
  • remote agent capabilities; and
  • unified communications messaging and voicemail.

The switch from CIC 2.4 to CIC 3.0 was a major upgrade that drastically changed Dialogue Marketing’s business processes. “It was like putting in a whole new system,” Lipinski says. “There were substantial differences, but we needed to get 3.0 to put in the workforce management solution. That’s really what drove us to it.”

In addition, because of a rapidly growing workforce, “We decided to automate staffing to more effectively schedule agents during peak times,” Lipinski says. “Interaction Optimizer will enable us to do this, while also helping us better forecast scheduling needs and manage paid time off.”

CIC 3.0 also has allowed Dialogue Marketing to migrate most of its calling to SIP trunking, consolidate and streamline its infrastructure across three sites, and cost-effectively add staff as needed. The application suite currently supports Dialogue Marketing’s 1,000-plus employees across contact centers in Auburn Hills; Troy, Mich.; and Orem, Utah. A fourth facility will be opening soon in Provo, Utah.

“CIC’s single-platform, all-in-one architecture has also helped us maintain incredibly efficient staffing levels with an agent-to-administrator ratio of 400-to-1, thus further reducing costs,” Lipinski says.

While workforce management is the largest addition in CIC 3.0, the latest version of the application suite also offers multichannel capabilities, including management of email and the Web, and enhanced security through the ability to encrypt the audio portion of the calls.

CIC’s open, all-software, SIP-based design has enabled Dialogue Marketing to quickly adapt to rapidly changing client requirements and a growing client base, according to Lipinski. “I don’t see how we could have grown so quickly with any other communications system,” he says. “Due to CIC’s flexible and scalable architecture, we’ve never had to tell a customer we can’t do something because of technology limitations.”

That’s the true benefit of CIC, according to Rachel Wentink, senior director of product management at Interactive Intelligence. “It’s an all-in-one platform, but it’s not all-or-nothing,” she says. “An organization like Dialogue Marketing has such a diversity of clients. They never know what their customers will ask of them, so flexibility is important.”

Dialogue Marketing uses its own call recording program developed in-house, for example. It has also greatly customized the CIC solution to suit its needs.

“The real ROI for us has been the ability to do a lot of tight integration with the other systems we have running here,” Lipinski says. “It has allowed us to say yes to every customer who has come our way. We have business now that we wouldn’t have gotten without the ability to customize the way we do.”

Because every client will bring a unique set of business needs that deal with acquiring, supporting, or retaining their customers, Dialogue Marketing has its own in-house software development team. It also has a network of strategic partners that can work closely with the software development team to create custom call center software solutions designed specifically for every program.

And while there are always obstacles during any new implementation—especially one involving so much customization that can come back to bite a company—Dialogue Marketing’s transition to the new system was relatively painless. Lipinski says there were no major issues, but, rather, small hiccups along the way. “It was nothing that caused us any grave downtime or affected our operations,” he says.

Another overall benefit, according to Lipinski, is CIC’s single-platform architecture. “Because all the Interactive Intelligence applications run on the same platform, we are able to minimize cost and complexity even as we add the most sophisticated functionality,” he says. “Having all the integrated pieces in one system is a huge benefit. We run our telecom department with a fraction of the personnel that our competitors have, without a lot of overhead to support it.”

Still, Lipinski doesn’t count the value of the software in terms of dollars. Instead, he looks at it in terms of the flexibility it delivers.
For Wentink, that’s all in a day’s work. She says Interactive Intelligence has made its application programming interface available to lots of developers and customers so they can blend CIC 3.0 with whatever else they are using. In this way, companies like Dialogue Marketing “can be creative to serve their customers,” she says.

Dialogue Marketing has done “some really nice and sophisticated things, particularly with our Interactive Dialer,” Wentink adds. “They do accounts receivables management, lead generation, and a lot more.”

The combination of CIC 3.0’s “unique, ‘all-in-one’ architecture” and Interactive Intelligence’s responsiveness to Dialogue Marketing’s needs “has led to a great partnership that we look forward to expanding,” Lipinski says.

Part of those expansion plans includes adding Interactive Intelligence’s reporting and lead-generation products. The company is also looking to expand its operations into South America, possibly even later this year.

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