In this month's Executive Roundtable, Customer Inter@ction Solutions' '
editors speak with William R. Hennessy, president and CEO of Stratasoft, Inc.,
and Steve Chase, senior product manager, contact center solutions, of SER
Solutions, Inc. Both were asked to share their opinions about the past, present
and future of dialing technologies.
CIS: How has the legislative climate of state
and, potentially federal, do-not-call lists impacted the development of dialers
and dialer products? Do you view that the constantly changing legislative
environment is becoming burdensome to the development of new products or the
updates of existing products? How do you reassure your customers that the
products won't fall prey to obsolescence?
Hennessy: Do-not-call-lists have been around for a long time and
Stratasoft has conscientiously designed our solutions with 'do-not-call'
embedded technology since their inception to ensure our products meet or exceed
compliancy requirements. We have engaged in partnerships with Gryphon Networks,
Call Compliance and DNC Solutions that offer full, comprehensive do-not-call
services and our technology is plug-and-play to those services. There are
several other federal requirements ' dropped call goals, minimum connect times
and recorded messaging should a live agent not be immediately available ' that
have been standard features of our StrataDial system since 1997.
We value our customers before, during and after the sale and we act responsibly
as a manufacturer to ensure that our product complies with the latest
legislation, offers the latest technology and features and is patented. We make
these enhancements and new features available to our customers. The legislative
environment, the competition and our customers' desires and wants serve to
inspire us to create new capabilities for our contact center solutions. Our
feature-rich capabilities, such as predictive dialing, auto-attendant, automated
call distributor, IVR, voice mail, CRM tools, scripting tools and Web
connectivity offer our customers greater flexibility in multipoint
communications with their clients.
Our customers are protected from obsolescence because all our new capabilities
are incorporated in new software updates, which we generally release twice per
year. All customers under a Stratasoft maintenance program are eligible to
receive the updates at no additional charge. We inform our customers about any
new developments through direct contact, monthly e-newsletters, Web site links,
an annual users' conference and StrataNet, an interactive customer resource on
our Web site.
Chase: The introduction of new federal regulations illustrates the
dynamic environment in which contact centers operate today. First and foremost,
center operators require flexible solutions to effectively address ever-changing
regulatory mandates. However, this addresses only part of the challenge facing
contact center operators ' compliance with the regulations will have a
significant impact on productivity. At SER, we have taken a unique approach to
legislative compliance. Not only are we constantly monitoring legislation so
that we can ensure our solutions meet the mandates within the required
timeframes, we are developing new and innovative solutions that allow contact
center operators to recoup compliance-related productivity losses ' losses due
to conservative abandon call rates, the reduced size of the target audience due
to state and national do-not-call lists, etc., which are significantly
increasing the cost of operations. SERmonitor and SERvalidate, our automated
call validation and quality monitoring solutions, enable contact center
operators to recoup compliance-related productivity losses by dramatically
reducing the costs associated with manually monitoring agent activities such as
script adherence, order validation, regulatory and legal compliance.
CIS: How have dialers and dialing technologies
changed for the better in the past 10 years? What advances have allowed your
technologies to become more user-friendly, and enable users to be more
productive and profitable?
Hennessy: There's no question that technology has revolutionized the
contact center and vastly improved efficiency, productivity and return on
investment. Our philosophy has been to use technology to offer custom contact
center solutions that do not require highly skilled employees and
labor-intensive implementations. We consider ourselves a contact center solution
in a box.
The Windows platform has allowed for a graphical interface that is both more
appealing and functional. Our users are able to easily design databases, screens
and scripts that are easily customized to their specific needs and access
multiple databases using our user-friendly CRM tools. In minutes, they can
create applications and present custom screens to their agents that typically
require weeks of programming on competitive systems. We also provide Web-based
applications as part of our solution, including agent access to the Internet,
chat, Web collaboration tools and e-mail management software to ensure that our
customers' contact centers meet the communication needs of their clients. Even
with this substantial level of functionality, the overall operation and
administration of our products is very simple, thereby dramatically reducing the
overall operational costs associated with using the product.
For those companies looking to integrate into their existing enterprise, we
offer an Application Programming Interface (API) and an ActiveX control. This
allows our customers to tightly integrate to their in-house applications, such
as their collection system or customer service applications because our product
supports multiple applications and campaigns running simultaneously.
Chase: Since agents are the most expensive resource in any contact
center, achieving the highest level of agent productivity is critical. In the
past 13 years, SER has led the industry with the introduction of patented
dialing algorithms which enable contact center operators to maximize the number
of live connects and agent talk time by effectively eliminating unwanted
answering machines, ring-no-answers, busy signals, etc., and minimize agent wait
times between calls. The synchronization of our sophisticated software and
switching technology ensures that the instant the switch detects a live answer,
it connects the call to an available agent, ensuring the agent hears the
customer saying 'hello' concurrent with the agent being presented with all the
relevant customer information.
Additionally, SER has kept pace with technology changes by offering a new
standard of flexibility and control, with CPS WebAgent. It provides a
browser-based alternative to the standard character-based agent interface and
utilizes the type of graphical and navigational characteristics typically found
on Web sites. The WebAgent screen enables agents to view and enter call-related
information within a Web browser running on a personal computer.
CIS: There is always talk of the high burnout rates
among outbound teleservices representatives. How do your technologies help
Hennessy: We often find when we change out a competitive product that the
agents are the first to compliment us on our system. We find these systems are
insensitive to the agents and the customers as there are insufficient monitoring
and reporting capabilities. Stratasoft is keenly aware of the value of providing
a system that provides extensive real-time monitoring of agent screens (through
our own technology, StrataQA) and real-time statistical information to which all
supervisors and managers have access. We distribute our management tools to
additional users at no additional cost because we feel it is important that all
managers and supervisors have access to these tools, which allow them to
identify potential burnout situations. There are many alarms built into the
system that will alert supervisors and managers when agents are exceeding
thresholds, typically indicating 'burnout' behavioral patterns. Of course, we
work directly with our customers to address these types of issues, which
attributes to our high success rate on new releases.
Chase: Certainly, job frustration is one of the main reasons for agent
turnover. If agents are not fulfilled and motivated, productivity and
profitability suffer. At SER, we have taken a holistic approach to increasing
agent satisfaction and productivity. This includes the ability to design a
number of real-time reports for monitoring campaign activities ' providing
real-time data on the performance of agents, campaigns and overall dialing
results. As a result, supervisors have all the information they need to
fine-tune scripts and other aspects of operations when necessary.
In addition, SER's automated quality monitoring software, SERmonitor, provides
contact center supervisors an automated agent monitoring capability to evaluate
and improve agent-customer interactions. SER delivers solutions that enable
contact centers to monitor and validate 100 percent of their calls and
automatically track and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) at a fraction
of the cost of manual processes. The ability to monitor all the calls, provide
objective scoring of KPIs and provide timely feedback and coaching to the agents
can significantly improve job satisfaction of both the monitors and the agents.
CIS: Have you found the challenge of adapting your
technologies to stringent new call abandonment rules, for instance, those of the
state of California, to be very difficult? What technologies or standards have
you put in place so that your customers can ensure compliance?
Hennessy: The design of the StrataDial system makes it easy to comply
with the California abandonment rule passed in October of 2001. Our system
allows conformity on the fly. StrataDial is not just a predictive dialer; it is
a contact management system. Predictive dialing is an integral module within the
contact management system. The predictive dialing module employs a pacing
algorithm that is goal-oriented and integrates with many other features and
modules on the StrataDial system to allow our customers to set our system to
fully comply without any programming or costly system upgrades. The system can
be set up and left to use its own calculations, or the supervisor can guide the
dialer toward the performance he/she would like to see at any given period of
Chase: One area of significant concern at the recent ATA conference in
Washington D.C. was the productivity losses expected with new and proposed
abandon call rate limits. At SER, we have a tradition of offering specific
capabilities related to regulatory compliance while increasing agent
productivity. Our dialing algorithm, which the Meta Group recently called the
'best in the industry,' can adapt to these stringent requirements and still
ensure the contact center remains productive. In addition, our contact center
solutions provide the detailed event information and report management necessary
to prove compliance with the FTC's recent mandates.
CIS: How can your customers best put to use the
reporting capabilities that are a component of your dialer products? How do
these reports have a direct impact on customer satisfaction?
Hennessy: StrataDial provides more than 30 standard reports, which
directly impact a contact center manager's ability to effectively plan and
measure call activity. There are standard reports for system, campaign and agent
productivity. We also report the overall performance and productivity of data
and lists. Many other reports regarding call disposition, call details, call
analysis and sales tracking are also available. Other reports provided with the
system evaluate call flow peak periods, which can be used to appropriately
manage staffing levels for inbound and complement the management of outbound
calling campaigns. Real-time graphical and numerical statistics on all types of
calls (outbound, inbound, manual calls, call backs and preview dialed calls) are
available and in a variety of formats, including pie charts, bar graphs, line
graphs, etc. Furthermore, because our system is built on open standards, all of
our statistical data is available for users to use with third-party report
writers, such as Crystal Reports Writer, MS Access or MS Excel to generate
custom reports. Customer satisfaction is achieved by providing timely and
accurate information in the easiest, quickest and most familiar manner.
Chase: SER's SmartStat is designed to increase the overall productivity
of the contact center by providing supervisors and managers the ability to
perform in-depth, real-time analysis and reporting on the performance of agents,
campaigns and overall effectiveness of the contact center. In addition, we have
leveraged this capability with SERmonitor, our automated quality monitoring
solution, to provide new visibility into the actual conversations between agents
and consumers/customers. As a result, agents can now be measured, coached and
provided with incentives to ensure true customer satisfaction.
To The July 2003 Table Of Contents ]