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November 1998

Digital Recording And Quality Monitoring Equal Efficiency


Efficiency in call centers during the past few years has been associated with automation and the growing implementation of self-help devices such as interactive voice response (IVR) and the implementation of computer-telephony integration (CTI). In an attempt to make call centers more efficient, customers are given the opportunity to request information or retrieve data on their own through powerful IVRs that reference databases and respond to customer inquiries with synthesized voice. To increase the efficiency of real-time response, call centers have implemented CTI. Linking caller information (PBX-provided or through customer-entered digits) and call event data (a trunk has been answered and the call is being sent to an agent) with customer database information, CTI servers can perform database look-ups, database routing and provide "screen pops" with customer information to the agent's desktop. The resulting call center efficiency is acclaimed throughout the industry.

In the monitoring and recording application within the call center, the properly designed solution can produce efficiencies no less measurable. The typical application for quality monitoring in the call center promises any number of efficiencies for the weary call center or customer service manager. Typically, a good, quality monitoring product will provide for better trained, more productive agents whose tenure tends to be longer than those without training and constructive feedback. Scheduled monitoring allows for agents to be recorded without staffing up on quality supervisors who manually dial up extensions all day, hoping to capture whole calls so they might judge agents' interactions with customers. Recorded conversations afford the agents the ability to hear what actually took place on a call as they are reviewing the comments the supervisor offered.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the market has shown that the ability to combine critique with playback - recognizing it is worth a few thousand dollars a channel - provides a roadmap for agent improvement and customer satisfaction. While these efficiencies alone are valuable, many customers are looking for other ways of enhancing overall benefits from recording and monitoring that will help the business in general while spreading the cost of the investment over more than just the call center.

Quality Monitoring And Dispute Resolution
A major retail organization believed there would be efficiencies gained by moving from manual monitoring of sales and customer service agents to a quality monitoring system with scheduled recording. During the application analysis, the customer indicated it would be very useful if the recordings could be used for dispute resolution. Because such an application requires full-time recording as well as quality monitoring, it usually requires two separate boxes. Leery of the cost of two separate systems, the retailer was excited to hear it could purchase a single-platform system running multiple recording and monitoring applications. Recording of all calls and the quick retrieval of disputed orders through the system's flexible and hierarchical storage technology promised to reduce the number and size of all accommodation "giveaways." Because of a very generous and forgiving policy regarding disputed phone orders, the store was crediting hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and having to inventory millions in special-ordered merchandise.

The Customer Side Of Recording
Confident they could realize significant savings through more efficient order taking and a platform that was more economical to buy and maintain, the management began to ask for optional applications that were previously considered a luxury. Once they were recording all calls, the natural progression was to archive by the nature of the call and even by the caller's number - especially the frequent caller's number. Management now began listening to the way the sales calls were being handled and as well to track frequent callers - such as comparison shoppers and key competitors. The data gathered afforded the marketing department intelligence they could never capture before. The company began to track sales calls after ads appeared to determine if their ads were confusing or if there were any trends among customers seeking variations in what the company was offering.

Utilizing computer-telephony integration to their PBX/ACD and an API, the call center could now link customer account number to a recorded call. Combined with rules-based recording API, the store could record the experience its best or most frequent buyers had, as well as record and analyze the calls from those buyers who traditionally called about "big ticket items." Armed with this new information at its disposal, management began an initiative to call the frequent buyers and the "big ticket" customers to determine what they thought of the experience with the call center. The customer feedback can now be compared to the supervisor scoring of recordings resulting in an enhanced agent evaluation performance process.

Efficiencies In Dollars And "Sense"
The president of the company is elated. He is more confident that his management team has a better handle on customer care. Marketing has more competitive information. Losses due to giveaways have declined by nearly 30 percent. Call center supervisors now review their agents' performance on a scheduled basis some five hours per week instead of real-time almost all day. The time saved is now spent on coaching and mentoring. There is just one maintenance bill to pay for their single platform, multi-application recording/monitoring system. And the president still downloads recorded files to his office (out of town) over the Internet to listen once a week to how his customers are being treated.

A success story? Yes, but not unique. A catalog merchant employed the same platform to monitor agents and record the accuracy of orders. A MIS help desk for a major insurance company monitors customer support, also recording and cataloging by type of calls so they can determine where the weaknesses are in MIS services and training.

Ted Lubowsky is vice president and general manager of Comverse Information Systems. In his previous management positions, he spent 15 years in the sales and implementation of call center systems to Fortune 1000-type customers. Comverse Information Systems (CIS) is a world leader in the development, manufacture and marketing of digital recording and quality monitoring systems for call centers and other organizations. A wholly owned subsidiary of Comverse Technology, Inc., CIS's world headquarters is located in Woodbury, New York.


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