• May 25, 2009
  • By David Ginsburg, vice president of product management, InnoPath Software

Cutting Call Times and Keeping Care Agents

Until recently, there was a store in my town called "Life Is Good." They sold shirts and socks and whatnot, all with whimsical logos on them. The store closed, and while I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with the world around us, frontline contact center representatives probably won't miss the name. Life isn't that good for CSRs who deal with increasingly difficult calls while operators hold the line on hiring. It doesn't make for job satisfaction, and though the unnaturally high churn rate amongst CSRs could be urban legend, there is probably some factual basis.

Consider caring for smartphones. More than 65 percent of all new phones sold in the United States are BlackBerries, iPhones, Windows Mobile devices and others-but they aren't all sold to your high-end enterprise customers. Instead, they're sold to your average Joe upgrading from a feature phone, and the first time something goes awry with email, the camera, or the battery, Joe is on the line with the help desk. Twenty or thirty minutes and an exhausting interaction later, the problem may or may not be fixed. After a call like that, operator expenses are impacted, the dissatisfied customer is more likely to change operators, and the whole experience doesn't lend itself to long-term CSR retention. This last point is especially dire since the operator is at risk of losing the very skill sets they need most.

Fortunately, for the mobile part of the industry in particular, there is now a better way. A vendor-neutral technology called mobile device management (MDM) equips frontline CSRs for the first time with an over-the-air link to the phone. Through the link, CSRs can now reach out and see just what is happening on the device, streamlining troubleshooting and increasing first-time issue resolution.

Take this example: A customer calls in with an issue. The first step is to "pulse" the phone for vitals, much like a doctor's assistant asking your name, temperature, and insurance information. The pulse returns a set of hardware and software parameters from the phone, including the brand, model, battery, signal, memory, network, running applications, and OS version. It sets the stage for the next step in troubleshooting. The CSR is no longer running blind, and has avoided having to ask the customer a bunch of repetitive questions to even begin the process. This also helps clear up subscriber misperceptions about what may be the issue at hand. For example, what the subscriber considers to be slow email response may have nothing to do with email and more to do with network coverage.

Based on the pulse, the CSR may now make take the next step. The pulse was initiated from a task-based care portal, clearly outlining what actions the CSR can take and the expected responses, meaning that required training is minimal. The technology helps detect a variety of issues and their causes-for example, that reception issues may be due to an out-of-date OS, that the battery may be draining quicker than expected due to Bluetooth settings, or that the user has entered their Web proxy information backwards. The technology enables the CSR to check the phone's application settings, comparing them against the operator's "known good" configuration, easily resolving issues with mobile email or MMS. Through the standards-based technology, updates and corrections can be automatically pushed to the phone. This ability lets the CSR avoid having to talk the subscriber through arcane menus and settings, which may save 5 to 10 minutes on a typical call.

With this new over-the-air connection deployed by a typical operator, up to 15 percent of all calls are addressable via MDM in some form or another. Savings are 10 minutes per call on average, and with second-line CSRs costing $1 or more per minute, the operator will save $10 or more on each and every call. The law of large numbers now kicks in, and with an operator fielding millions of calls a month, MDM will result in savings of tens of millions of dollars annually. Couple this with increased customer satisfaction, more effective uptake of new, high margin services, and positive impact on the CSRs, and the savings are greater still.

All of these over-the-air interactions are based on a set of standards that unifies smartphones across brands and operators. This ensures interoperability between multiple vendors and reflects the best research of the operator, handset, and contact center communities. With MDM, life is good.

About the Author

David Ginsburg (dginsburg@innopath.com) is vice president of product management for InnoPath Software, a mobile network technology vendor. Ginsburg is the author of several books on internetworking and is a former chair of the Broadband Content Delivery Forum. For more information, go to www.innopath.com.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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