• May 1, 2008
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

The Right Numbers

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With two distinct business units covering very different markets, Launchpad Communications understands the value of keeping sales leads separate. A Los Angeles-based direct marketer of real estate listings and medical/pharmaceutical supplies to more than 100,000 consumers and small-to-midsize businesses, its contact center handles more than 2 million calls a year in response to direct advertising campaigns on behalf of its clients.

Ninety percent of those calls are sales-related, made by customers responding to a mail or advertising campaign. The other 10 percent are service-related; about 170 agents field those calls -- 50 for the healthcare products and 120 for the real estate listings.

For sales calls, the number that the customer dials corresponds to a specific ad or product, so it's important, first, that each call gets routed properly and, second, that agents know what the call is about before picking up the phone.

Customers were being routed to specific agent groups trained to handle individual products or services, which often left some agents waiting for calls while others were swamped. So, in September, Launchpad implemented a number of systems to correct that. Among them was a CRM application from Oracle's Siebel division, automatic call distribution from telephone carrier Mitel, and CT Connect from Envox Worldwide. CT Connect provides the computer telephony integration middleware that unites Launchpad's CRM data and contact center operations.

Now, "when a call is answered, Siebel is able to determine which ad it relates to and direct the script to respond," says Chris Holbert, Launchpad's chief information officer and chief operating officer. "It's all recorded and available to the agent as a screenpop. They know before they answer the call what they need to present to the customers to service [the customers'] needs. It makes it easier to [open] the call on the right note from the start."

Agents do not have to be specially trained on specific products because the screenpops give them all the information and scripting they need. As a result, Launchpad was able to eliminate the silos between agent groups; each agent can now handle a wider variety of calls. "From a service perspective, our agents handle about 25 percent more calls than they did previously," Holbert explains.

And the agents are handling the calls faster and better. Call resolution improved 32 percent, customer service ratings improved 1.2 points on a five-point scale, and costs per call were cut in half. Also, training time for new hires was cut by 40 percent, Holbert says, "because there's just one look and feel to all the applications."
In replacing all the previous disparate systems with the new ones, there were some integration issues at first, but the biggest difficulty was building agent support for the change. "We had to change their mindsets," Holbert says. "They were comfortable doing it the old way, even though it was so inefficient."

Holbert had to get agents to understand that change was imperative and the new systems would make their lives easier. "We're more efficient now; we need fewer people to do the same work. We're servicing customers better now without having to create a bigger team. We would have had to add five more bodies if we had not done it," he says.

Launchpad can now collect and analyze more data in less time, and is better able to gauge the effectiveness of its marketing campaigns almost immediately. As a result, the company can better target ads and adjust its sales messages on the fly, seeing how the changes affected sales -- all in a matter of hours. This has increased revenues for both divisions.

Moving forward, Launchpad will enhance its ability to collect caller information (such as age, gender, geographic location, etc.) before the call is transferred to the agent. "This way, we can match the customer with the agent to serve [the customer] best," Holbert says. "It will mean a better experience for the customer--and for the agent, [it] will work better within their skill set."

The Payoff

By employing a Siebel CRM system, Mitel ACD, and Envox's CT Connect, Launchpad Communications:

  • improved call-resolution rates by 32 percent;
  • improved customer service ratings from a 2.2 to a 1 (on a five-point scale where 5 is the worst);
  • cut costs per call by 50 percent;
  • reduced agent training time by 40 percent; and
  • gained productivity, as agents now handle 25 percent more calls.

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