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Customer Satisfaction at 30,000 Feet
Nuance Natural Language–Based IVR Connects US Airways Passengers to Better Service

US Airways operates more than 3,200 flights per day to more than 200 cities in North, Central, and South America; Europe; and the Middle East. The fifth-largest U.S. airline, it serves approximately 80 million passengers each year.

As a result of various buyouts and mergers, its contact center was using multiple interactive voice response systems. The systems had nine voices and a variety of cumbersome touchtone and speech menus. Its technology offered little insight into call containment, deflection, and average hold time.

What's more, an agreement with the Airline Customer Service Employee Association required on-shoring of all reservation agents by November 2011, which would require US Airways to implement a more integrated and cost-efficient IVR.

So in July 2011, the airline launched a new IVR system based on Nuance Communications' OnDemand hosted platform. One of the highlights is natural language call steering, which allows callers to state why they're calling in their own words. In addition to offering a faster, easier call experience, using natural language call steering, callers are more likely to finish tasks within the automated system, leading to higher containment rates and freeing agents to focus on more complicated caller issues.

The solution offers personalized call handling with proactive information delivery, automated collection of trip information, improved prompting, additional self-service options, and comprehensive performance monitoring and reporting. The system can handle both inbound and outbound customer care interactions and includes mobile care solutions that enable wireless callers to complete self-service requests and transactions using their mobile phones.

For the application, US Airways needed a single voice that reflected its brand. "Wally" emerged as the voice talent of choice. Wally's automated voice features new innovations to Nuance Vocalizer, Nuance's spoken output engine, which help to gracefully morph syllables, words, or phrases into the sounds that precede or follow them. The result is smoother, more natural-sounding audio.

New capabilities allow callers to use the automated system to confirm itineraries and seat assignments.

The system also distinguishes itself by identifying callers who are members of the US Airways frequent flyer program, called Dividend Miles, based on their phone numbers, and then tailoring the interaction based on that information. The system can greet callers by name, pull up information about their next flights, and even anticipate the reasons for their calls. It also helps shorten the call time with agents when making or changing a reservation by asking callers tailored questions about their trips and then transferring that information to the agent via CTI screen pops.

"The more we know about our customers and the reason for their calls, the more efficiently we can provide the assistance they need and allow them to get on with their day," says Kerry Hester, US Airways' senior vice president of customer experience.

The switch to the new IVR took place over two days, and the system was handling 100 percent of calls right away. A month later, when Hurricane Irene hit, the system saw a sudden spike in call volume; an assessment of airlines' hold times by STELLAService found US Airways' system had the lowest hold times of the top 10 airlines.

Just five months into the deployment, US Airways already noticed a 5 percent increase in call containment, which it expects will lead to at least $1 million in savings every year.

The application also comes with a bevy of reporting and analytics tools that give US Airways visibility into many key metrics, including containment, transfers, and task completion.

"We have worked with Nuance to develop a service experience that provides an intelligent understanding of our customers and their travel needs. By integrating those insights with cutting-edge speech recognition technology, we are providing our customers with the convenient, quality care they have come to expect," Hester concludes.

Since deploying a natural language call steering IVR from Nuance Communications, US Airways has achieved:

  • A 5 percent increase in call containment;
  • A savings of at least $1 million a year;
  • A smoother, more natural-sounding IVR;
  • The ability to tailor interactions based on the caller's phone number; and
  • The ability to predict the reasons for customers' calls.

Salesforce Service Cloud Hits the Right Note
Yamaha Is Mastering Customer Service with Social Media Integration

Yamaha of America has always had an ear for music, but for most of its existence, when it came to customer data, it lacked an eye for detail.

For Yamaha, a provider of musical instruments and audio and video equipment, everything was locked in disparate and outdated applications, systems, and databases.

Then in July 2011 it rolled out the Salesforce.com Service Cloud and Sales Cloud applications to consolidate customer data across its sales, marketing, credit, operations, and artist relations divisions, as well as service and support. Now communications are integrated across all departments, enabling employees to address customer concerns in a timely manner. The company can also better manage customer profile data, Web behavior, surveys, marketing campaigns, and contracting.

"Wow! Look at all this information that we can now do stuff with," says Jeff Hawley, director of the customer experience group at Yamaha of America. "There's a whole new treasure trove of previously latent data."

Yamaha worked with Salesforce.com partner WisdomNet to create a security model and customized applications for a wide range of user requirements. It also worked with Deloitte Consulting to bring online a customized integration between Salesforce, Facebook, and Twitter, essentially adding a social component to its contact center and customer service processes. Now, if someone tweets about a problem with an instrument, the software can find it, convert it into a case, and route it to the appropriate person or department for a response. The applications can match the social media posts with information in the customer database and pull that into the case record so that the agent doesn't have to ask for the information again when she picks up the case file.

"Service Cloud is the big piece that fell into place so that our social media cases flow in the same way as phone or email does," Hawley says. "Our time per case is down. It's very low now."

For Yamaha, the average response time for customer posts on social media sites like Twitter is about one-fifth of the average email response time. The company frequently grabs, responds to, and closes social cases within an hour of the original posting.

Social media interactions, Hawley adds, "are now a pretty big chunk of our channel split…and will soon surpass email."

Social cases have increased from 10 a week to more than 10 a day, and the number continues to grow.

The same system has also helped Yamaha with its marketing efforts. The company has benefited from improved tracking and management of customer information and activities associated with sales calls, trade shows, and cross-channel marketing initiatives. And customer service scores have increased because marketers can "look at marketing data to see how to better serve our customers," Hawley points out.

The company has seen customer satisfaction with its Web site alone increase by 7 percent. Hawley says that gain is tied directly to new customer connectivity through social media.

Previously, Yamaha was getting 20 positive comments through social media per month, according to Hawley. Now they're getting hundreds.

Yamaha recognized that customers expect companies to know them and remember their histories. Consolidated customer profiles stored in Salesforce help keep track of customers and their social and nonsocial interactions. "They all feed into Salesforce, whether they go through the phone, are sent through email, or post to one of our social media handles," Hawley says.

Yamaha is also working to bring a frequently asked questions knowledge base and user forum online. The expectation is that this capability will lead to a lot more one-and-done self-service cases, where customers post questions and find answers on their own without company intervention.

Rob Rose, a principal at Deloitte Consulting, commends Yamaha for transforming its customer support processes and taking advantage of Salesforce to deliver customer support via social media channels.

"This new system and approach has really changed our entire view of social service," Hawley says, "and it's just the start."

Since adopting the Salesforce.com Service Cloud solution, Yamaha of America has been able to:

  • Increase the number of cases handled via social media from 10 a week to 10 a day;
  • Increase customer satisfaction with its Web site by 7 percent; and
  • Increase positive social customer service Web feedback from 20 comments a month to hundreds a month.

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