Customer-Service Calls Turn Marketing-Research Device

How Speech-Analytics Tools Are Helping Brands Improve Performance

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NEW YORK ( -- How many times have you called a customer-service number, heard that cold, automated voice intone, "This call may be recorded for quality assurance" and thought to yourself: "Yeah, right."

Any marketer with half a brain will certainly be monitoring those calls and learning from them, especially now when customer service has come to serve as a form of marketing. (Just ask JetBlue or Geico if you think it hasn't.) But some companies are taking things a step further -- much further -- and are monitoring calls for more than the purpose of improving your experience. By using speech analytics technology, they're monitoring and studying calls to identify cost and operating efficiencies, re-shape marketing efforts and, ultimately, drive more revenue.

What you can learn
How to measure quality assurance and then some:
  • Monitor customer-service calls with speech analytics to provide insight into problems with your marketing, employee training and products.
  • Make sure customer service reps are trained to answer all questions on products new and old and aren't abruptly ending calls to keep their handling times to a minimum.
  • Know who your frequent callers are and why they're calling. This can lead to positive changes that result in greater loyalty and less wasted costs.
  • Rogers Wireless, one of Canada's largest wireless providers, is using a tool, called Impact 360, to track things such as how many times the competition is mentioned in calls made to its service center; gauge a customer's tone by capturing key words such as curse words; and how often words referencing its marketing campaigns are mentioned.

    Impact 360 was developed by Verint Systems, a Melville, N.Y.-based technology-solutions provider.

    Matt Ariker, VP-customer base management and marketing analytics at Rogers Wireless, said the company uses Impact 360 to identify problems with marketing campaigns, help drive product and application enhancements, adjust its compensation policies and programs, improve performance and identify gaps in its training of service reps.

    Ryan Hollenbeck, senior VP-global marketing at Verint, said the tool can identify anomalies and search through all of the calls made to find where specific words came up. "Those specific instances can be pulled, replayed and analyzed for any trends," Mr. Hollenbeck said. "Those trends are then pushed back into the customer-care unit and marketing organization."

    When Rogers launched its "MY5" calling-circle program, customers were only able to make changes to their group by calling customer service. Mr. Ariker said Impact 360 found that the average handling time spent talking about changes to MY5 was 38 minutes, creating a two-pronged problem for Rogers -- unhappy customers spending a lot of time on the phone with service reps and handling time that was costing the company a lot of money.

    "For us, a marketing program is the complete end-to-end experience," Mr. Ariker said. "So we went back and redesigned the actual product, adding an interface on the handset and online to allow customers to change their [five] on their own. It gave them what they wanted faster, provided a better experience that gave us better product retention, more loyalty and reduced costs."

    Mr. Ariker said Rogers, before turning to the system, did not have a quantitative approach that provided a clear understanding of who called, what they were calling about, how often they called and what happened on those calls.

    "This tool lets us ascertain and diagnose all of the drivers behind why people are calling down to a very detailed lowest common denominator," he said. "And we have linked that information to our invoicing, billings and other care systems. That gives us a handle on whether they are high- or low-value customers, how long they have been with us, what products they have, how often they call, what rep they spoke with and is it the second or third call related to the same questions. That gives a holistic picture we can use to figure out how we should change programs, procedures, products or strategies for any and all of the organization."

    Rogers has also been able to identify hardware and application problems and improve its performance management and quality control of its service people. "We have spent a lot of time and money training people on the new phones," Mr. Ariker said. "But most calls are about the older phones so we have changed our whole training approach to make sure we are training people for what people are calling about."

    Anne Patton, communications director at Verint, said the average customer-service call costs a company about $6 and runs about three minutes, depending on industry sector. She said shaving even 10 to 20 seconds off of each call can create significant savings. "If you multiply that 10- or 20-second call reduction, by the thousands [or] millions of calls a company takes annually, savings can be realized into the millions-of-dollars range," she said.

    Impact 360 also showed Rogers that its own compensation program, like most other companies', for its customer-service reps rewarded low average handling times. "But it was the wrong model," Mr. Ariker said. "We found people had low AHTs because they either hung the phone up or gave the call to someone else."

    Mr. Ariker said the goal was to shift from qualitative data to quantitative and identify "$100 million worth of unknown call drivers that could be fixed. We exceeded that number by a lot," he said. "We're only an $8 billion company, so that $100 million means a lot to our bottom line."

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