• December 1, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Getting Connected with Surveys

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Broadband is big business, and one of the biggest names in that business is Covad Communications. The San Jose, Calif.-based company was first to market with commercial digital subscriber lines (DSL) in the United States back in 1997, and today claims to own the largest national broadband network. But having the longest, fattest pipe isn't enough for success -- Covad needed to listen to its customers. When you serve 235 major markets in 44 states, that means you need big ears as well. Sometimes the issue is with technology, but sometimes it's the people who install it; resolving problems for customers can be difficult if you have no feedback on what's wrong. The company asked HyperQuality, the provider of its contact center performance management system, to hook it up with something more. HyperQuality sold them HyperSurvey, an email-based survey product that gathers customer responses about a company's multiple communication channels, from phone to chat. The surveys are intended to increase revenue, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction through process analysis that yields actionable intelligence. HyperSurvey supports more than 20 languages, and the messages are customizable in appearance and theme. Covad has another survey system, one generated by internal resources at headquarters, but it lacks some key value points. "The problem is that it's hard for agents to wait until the survey is completed or to be held accountable for change," says Erin Pauley-Ackman, Covad's senior manager of customer operations. "Not only does it take a while to get the survey results, the survey itself is relational: It's more about the company's overall branding and industry position. Consequently, contact center agents don't necessarily get specific 'actionable' items they can work on to improve their performance -- unlike HyperSurvey." As HyperSurvey was being released in April 2007, Covad agreed to act as a launch partner. "Together with HyperQuality, we initiated a provisioning survey and a repair survey," Pauley-Ackman says. "Our customer perspective is most important to us. All of our strategic imperatives are centered around the customer. The provisioning surveys, directed at B2B Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) customers to gauge their satisfaction with installation, went live at launch; the repair surveys came online in June, targeted at customers with Tier 1 and Tier 2 support calls. The provisioning surveys gather feedback on sales, provisioning, and installation, with an opportunity for the customer to go into detail on what was especially good or bad about the experience. This aspect increased internal employee accountability. Customers who had negative experiences received calls from dedicated account handlers to try and rectify the situation and improve the experience. Customers calling in for support receive the repair support survey, and the unhappy ones also hear from dedicated personnel to help resolve issues. The survey also gathers data on call-handling time, agent satisfaction, transfers, and first-call resolution, providing insight into what most needs improvement. HyperQuality provided a lot of support to make sure the Covad surveys would do what they needed to. "Our contact at HyperQuality, Kip Rapp, brought extensive experience to the table in terms of designing and implementing surveys," Pauley-Ackman says. The two companies established goals for the survey, and Rapp's team honed the questions to match Covad's feedback. "By the time the surveys went out, we were extremely confident they would uncover the information we needed," she adds. Both surveys are achieving response rates of about 20 percent, Pauley-Ackman says. In addition, she says, "We've discovered a great deal of 'low-hanging fruit' in the provisioning surveys. Most of these were items we were able to tackle right away by reviewing and fine-tuning our training methods within the installation process." Covad is all about the customer, according to Pauley-Ackman, and the surveys provided another benefit in that area. "This program allows us to focus not only on monitoring but also on the direct feedback from customers," she says. "With the combined services of both agent evaluation and customer surveys, HyperQuality has proven instrumental in moving our business to new performance levels." The Payoff: Because of improvements driven by HyperSurvey data, Covad achieved:
  • a 19 percent improvement in customer satisfaction scores;
  • a 29 percent improvement in first-call resolution;
  • an 18 percent improvement in total problem resolution; and
  • a 52 percent increase in "likelihood to recommend" responses.
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