• June 1, 2006
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

A Sign of the Times

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Many callers reaching out to a contact center are greeted with the sound of an IVR prompting them to press specific keys, which will route them to their desired location. But for nonprofit Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD), an organization that provides social and human services programs and telecommunications relay services, providing its hearing-impaired callers with that voice channel is not an option. The nonprofit launched the CSD Video Relay Service (CSDVRS) in 2002, enabling hearing-impaired people and video interpreters to communicate by way of American Sign Language using a video connection. Interpreters voice the conversation to a hearing person using a standard telephone. CSD partnered with CosmoCom to deliver the VRS service nationally. For Mark Ekse, senior director of research and technology at CSD, the primary CosmoCom portion of CSD's VRS deployment in 2002 was CosmoCall Universe, a unified IP contact center suite that includes multichannel ACD, email response, IVR, CTI, predictive dialing, multimedia recording, and administrative tools. One problem with the previous system was that callers couldn't tell whether or not they were connected or in the call queue. "Consumers who were new to VRS or hadn't placed a lot of calls didn't see a visual message that said 'You're in queue' or that provided some other information. They weren't sure whether that connection had really happened or not," Ekse says. Looking for a tool to open up communication and provide consistent high video quality while offering platform stability, CSD selected CosmoCom's CosmoCall Universe Interactive Voice and Video Response (IVVR). IVVR went live in July 2005. It enables video menus, which allow faster, more accurate navigation of the self-service environment, according to Steve Kowarsky, executive vice president. It also enables video content, which turns caller hold time into an advertising revenue opportunity with video messages. "When calls are routed to an agent, he receives all available information about the caller and the caller's needs," Kowarsky says. In the case of CSDVRS, "where video interpreters facilitate telephone communication between hearing people and hearing-impaired people using sign language, IVVR enables the kinds of greetings and caller options that most call centers provide with IVR for hearing callers." CSD callers are getting the picture. Since incorporating the contact center on-demand provider's IVVR functionality into its VRS platform, the nonprofit has seen its call-abandonment rate fall by about 40 percent, according to Ekse. He notes that customer support calls related to consumers' uncertainty about the actual connection and queuing of video calls have also decreased by about 45 percent. The IVVR provides a way to communicate to deaf consumers that their video call has indeed been received and is currently in queue, according to Ekse. "The ability to present messages in American Sign Language...as part of the IVVR also allows us to inform our consumers of new features and expanded services that are part of VRS." The Payoff By deploying CosmoCom's IVVR, CSD:
  • realized an approximate 40 percent drop in its call-abandonment rate;
  • reduced video connection queries by about 45 percent; and
  • can offer the types of greetings and options common with traditional IVR.
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