Varolii's New Collections Products Get Collected

For many companies, technological innovation has been both a blessing and a curse. They have more channels through which to reach out and communicate with their customers than ever before. Counterintuitively, this has also made it more difficult to know which of those frequent touchpoints happens to coincide with a company's most critical moment of outreach. Keeping this in mind, at Varolii Corp.'s first annual customer conference in Chicago this week, the on-demand communications provider made generally available two new products, each one aimed at locating customers and communicating with them on their terms.

Speaking about the challenge of reaching customers, Jeffrey Read, executive vice president of field operations for Seattle-based Varolii, says, "You need a comprehensive way of communicating with those customers now to get through all that noise -- different channels, the mobility factor, and all [other] elements are a large level of difficulty."

The first new product, Total Solutions, is available in two specific deployments: Total Collections and Total Customer Service. Read says that there are three main competitive differentiators in the Total Solutions product set:

  • tight integration;
  • multiple applications; and
  • a preprocessing element.
The goal of the back-end integration, Read says -- as well as more than 140 prepackaged applications available with Total Solutions -- is to alleviate the reliance on technology staff and resources. "There are never enough [technology] people, time, and budget to get everything complete -- [Total Solutions' integration strength] allows for maximum flexibility and minimum IT." Still, Read stresses that Total Solutions is not a one-size-fits-all solution -- the prepackaged add-ons allow for customized versions of the solution. The preprocessing element allows Varolii to segment and cleanse a company's existing data, something that Read says remains persistent issue. "There's always a problem in corporate America related to quality of data," he declares.

Drew Kraus, research vice president at Gartner, says that the bundling option with Total Solutions is a tremendous advantage, and will draw the attention of prospective customers. "It's the prepackaged nature of [the offering] that is so key here," he says. End-user companies, he adds, "are going to be quite interested in having something like [Total Solutions, which] lowers the barriers to entry and helps them to get their first applications up and running."

The second release is Varolii Predictive Analytics (VPA), which the company describes as a "next-generation" solution -- one that measures, and then makes recommendations, about the following:

  • optimum messaging, such as whether to use a female voice, a male voice, or both in a series;
  • ideal calling frequency; and
  • self-service or agent-interaction options.
"Predictive Analytics brings together the art of the experience we have...with the science of our analysis of each different [end-customer] moment," Read explains. The combination, he adds, means the analytics software can "give the best, most-effective advice." Read says that VPA is filling a need that exists regardless of the economic situation, but it has a particular relevance given the current financial downturn. "Right now, in a slowing economy, there is a need to collect from your collections customers better, and all of a sudden volumes are going up since more people are moving into default," he says. "Companies need to initiate service and retain customers better; they can't afford to lose them."

Kraus, noting that both Total Solutions and VPA are proivided as on-demand, packaged offerings, says Varolii is well-positioned to gain market share with these latest releases. "What I'm finding is that companies are being more judicious about which applications they bring in, and what capital investments they make," he explains, acknowledging that the industry looks hard at the return-on-investment (ROI) metric. "Now, companies are looking for ways to get some of the quick wins as opposed to long, strategic projects with long payback periods. When you do have a package solution like this under a pretty well-bounded application, you tend to have more-provable, fast ROI."

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