• July 1, 2014
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

iCruise.com Sees Smooth Sailing with 8x8

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ICruise.com helps roughly 80,000 passengers a year book trips on ships operated by some of the most well-known cruise lines sailing today. Destinations include Alaska, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Hawaii, Europe, and the Panama Canal.

While most customers find the travel agency via the Web, only 20 percent complete their bookings online; the rest call in to speak with live agents, who handle roughly 20,000 calls per month.

But the phone had been a sore spot for the 10-year-old company, based in Delray Beach, FL.

"We started with a basic PBX, which limited our growth opportunity and ability to track how business was going across all our brands," recalls Uf Tukel, who co-owns the company with Don Walker. "We had a very high number of abandons, people who just got tired of waiting on hold."

In December 2012, iCruise installed 8x8's Virtual Office and Virtual Contact Center across its 120-employee sales and customer service operations in its corporate headquarters and more than 60 remote locations.

8x8's hosted system handles all inbound and outbound calls and includes call recording, call tracking, skills-based routing, unified messaging, presence, and instant messaging. ICruise is currently adding click-to-call functionality; once that roll-out is complete, the company will likely add live agent chat.

"8x8 offered a total communications solution with all the features we needed," Tukel says.

The system has completely transformed the business. "We are doing a much better job of handling the calls we're getting," Tukel says.

Now, 95 percent of calls are answered in two minutes or less. Previously, only about 80 percent were answered within that timeframe.

In the customer service area, which makes up about 20 percent of the total call volume, average talk time per call has decreased by 17 percent, from six minutes to five minutes.

Also key was the integration of the 8x8 Virtual Contact Center solution with iCruise's CRM system, named Compass, which iCruise developed in-house. The travel agency can now use incoming call data to differentiate its brands and present agents with the call-handling script matched to each call. 8x8's real-time API also annotates the Compass system with caller information, including location, phone number, and the advertisement that generated the call.

"The system has given us the flexibility to manage and report on our multiple brands," Tukel says.

Through the CRM integration, the system can automatically generate outbound calls to clients. Agents can now easily place "bon voyage" and "welcome back" calls to customers just by clicking on the phone number in the customer's account record. There's no need to look up phone numbers or switch to a different communications system.

Those calls have increased by roughly 25 percent, which Walker says is "very significant. 8x8 allows for more relationship-building."

ICruise records all inbound and outbound calls and uses those recordings to train employees, improve agent performance, and enhance the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Managers can organize and listen to calls by agent, queue, or distribution channel.

That has helped the company better manage agent breaks and off-line status, which Walker says had been an issue. "Now we can track both. Agents are now in an active, working status eighty-eight percent of the time," he says.

Additionally, while in the past an agent in an active status might have ignored an incoming call and let it roll to the next agent as much as 50 percent of the time, that issue has been virtually eliminated. Ninety-six percent of all calls are accepted now, Walker says.

Tukel and Walker also credit 8x8's hosted solution with helping them prepare for the seasonal storms that sweep southern Florida. When the office loses power, employees can use their smartphones, tablets, laptops, or home phones. "Customers don't even realize that the office is closed, because our phone service is seamless," he says.

And, as an added benefit, the system is easy to use. "We can set up any additional phone lines and channels very easily," Tukel adds. —Leonard Klie

Since deploying the 8X8 Virtual Contact Center and Virtual Office, iCruise has seen:

  • average talk time decrease by 17 percent, from 6 minutes to 5 minutes;
  • 95 percent of calls answered in less than 2 minutes, up from 80 percent prior to the implementation;
  • agents in an active, working status 88 percent of the time; and
  • 96 percent of all calls accepted.

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