• September 22, 2010
  • By Koa Beck, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Call Weighting

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Even within a telecommunications industry burdened across the board by high churn rates, Sprint was grappling with its own unique share of demons: high repeat-caller activity, rising churn at retail stores, and ineffective self-service. But, with the help of ClickFox, a customer analytics provider, the $32-billion-a-year company committed to developing an in-depth understanding of what it was like to be a Sprint customer—and in doing so uncovered some issues that were negatively impacting customer satisfaction and retention. The newfound visibility into the complete customer experience is already helping Sprint turn things around.

Anna Convery, chief marketing officer at ClickFox, says the process began with one question: “How difficult is it to interact with Sprint?” ClickFox, she says, looked at “not just the service [but also] the customer experience across channels.” In particular, she recalls, the initial focus compared the experience at Sprint’s retail outlets to that of the Web site and Sprint’s interactive voice response (IVR) system. “After that,” she says, “we then focused on knowledge and information for agent optimization and agent training.”

Splitting agent optimization into two phases, Sprint first concentrated on improving its agents’ skill sets and knowledge to ensure “they were aligned correctly with what the customer needed,” according to Convery. 

One clear concern was that Sprint contact center agents were receiving calls that could have been—and perhaps should have been—answered within the self-service IVR, at a retail store, or at Sprint.com. After identifying and improving those pain points—what Convery calls “broken areas of interaction”—fewer calls ended up requiring agent involvement, allowing Sprint to cut costs considerably. “Sprint is one of the companies that’s able to service the customer better with fewer agents,” Convery says.

And it’s not just Sprint or its supplier that’s crowing: The May 2010 edition of the American Customer Satisfaction Index acknowledged Sprint’s achievements, crediting the company for displaying “the largest improvement, gaining 11 percent to 70 a year after a similarly large 13 percent jump.” Research firm Gartner also recently awarded Sprint its CRM Excellence Award for “Customer Experience.”

By leveraging analytics to clarify self-service within the IVR system, Sprint has kept millions of calls per year from going to agents, easing the load to such an extent that the company was able to shutter 30 vendor-operated contact centers. 

There are other signs of improvement as well: The share of calls requiring agent-to-agent transfers dropped from 30 percent to 20 percent, even as the average number of calls per subscriber decreased from 4.7 to 4.2. And Sprint still hopes to find other benefits. “We’ve moved on to other phases,” Convery says. “We’re starting to look at revenue optimization…[and] new additional areas to increase our analysis with the Sprint team.”  

THE PAYOFF

Using ClickFox’s analytics to improve interactive voice response self-service, Sprint has: 

  • increased the number of calls handled by the IVR, reducing calls to customer care by 39 percent and enabling the closure of 30 vendor-operated contact centers, which translates to millions in annual savings; 
  • improved its first-call resolution rate from 61.5 percent to 71 percent;
  • increased customer satisfaction from 74 percent to 84.9 percent;
  • reduced agent-to-agent transfers from 30 percent to 20 percent;
  • reduced calls per subscriber from 4.7 to 4.2; and
  • reduced customer churn by 73 percent.


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