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In order to make the customer experience better, Alexander Forbes has given its contact centre a makeover.

Read time 3min 50sec
David Klinck, Alexander Forbes, says it's no secret that a good customer experience has a clear impact on a company's bottom line.
David Klinck, Alexander Forbes, says it's no secret that a good customer experience has a clear impact on a company's bottom line.

Consumers are more empowered than ever, and their expectations are higher too. Creating a positive customer experience should be a top priority for contact centre managers, but organisations often battle to provide consistent cross-channel services. On top of that, one-size-fits-all approaches, combined with inefficient call centre agent interactions, only serve to frustrate customers even more.

Increased efficiencies

To improve customer experience and reduce churn, Alexander Forbes is aiming to up its first call resolution rate and has overhauled the contact centre in its financial services division. The company has implemented a standards-based, multichannel software platform that has been integrated with its business systems to provide real-time and historical information so that agents can answer queries and resolve customer issues quickly.

"Customer experience has been shown to have a clear impact on a company's bottom line," says David Klinck, contact centre manager - financial services, at Alexander Forbes. "We wanted to improve our service levels through better quality management and reporting. But we've also managed to reduce our contact centre workforce by 40 percent due to increased efficiencies."

The company first implemented an early version of Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Centre (CIC) in 2002, when it served as a basic message centre, and has upgraded the system over time.

The latest upgrade to CIC version 4.0, a VoIP-based contact management solution, gives Alexander Forbes a more powerful architecture, user tools to enhance the customer experience and improved quality monitoring and reporting abilities.

Real-time stats

The company's financial services division's main focus is to administer employee benefits for institutional clients. "Providing impactful service for customers is one of our key objectives, and the contact centre plays an important part in allowing us to achieve that," says Klinck. "We can now monitor quality retrospectively through pulling calls and quality-assuring them, and also through live quality assurance where team leaders listen in to calls to hear how agents are dealing with clients."

The solution improved contact centre efficiency levels by providing live, real-time stats. For the agents themselves, the transparency is great because they can look up at the stats boards at any given time and see how the contact centre is performing as a whole, and how each agent is performing individually.

The solution improved contact centre efficiency levels by providing live, real-time stats.

Klinck says the monitoring is helping drive a more customer-focused behaviour and culture. The enhanced monitoring and reporting capabilities have also enabled Klinck and his team to schedule staff based on trends, and the company's customer satisfaction surveys have become more positive as a result.

Ten key customer experience stats from around the globe

1. 82% of consumers say the number-one factor that leads to a great customer service experience is having their issues resolved quickly. (LivePerson)
2. 62% of organisations view customer experience provided through contact centres as a competitive differentiator. (Deloitte: Contact Center Survey)
3. According to a CEI Survey, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience, but only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. (Forbes)
4. Executive dashboards and customer journey mapping are the two customer experience activities that had the largest increase in focus since last year. (Temkin Group)
5. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%. (Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet Murphy and Mark Murphy)
6. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. (Customers 2020 Report)
7. 84% of companies expect to increase their focus on customer experience measurements and metrics. (Temkin Group)
8. According to IQPC's Executive Report, 79.7% of respondents said the contact centre is involved in defining the customer experience. (Executive Report on Customer Experience)
9. Customers are increasingly frustrated with the level of services they experience: 91% because they have to contact a company multiple times for the same reason, 90% by being put on hold for a long time, and 89% by having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives. (Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey)
10. 70% of customers will do business with you again if you resolve their complaints. (Ruby Newell-Legner)

"We engage through e-mail, fax, SMS, and even through our reception area," he says. "We have a rather unique dedicated walk-in centre to serve customers who prefer face-to-face interaction. When someone walks into our reception area, their details are captured by our receptionist, and are sent to a walk-in centre consultant. We measure the time from the minute they meet the receptionist, to when they get served, to when that interaction is completed on CIC, so that we can measure the time it takes to serve customers."

Beyond financial ROI

Server virtualisation has also made capex much cheaper, with the company having merged four physical servers into one. "Virtualisation has not only lowered costs, but has also simplified server management and consolidated our datacentre operations. In addition, our system can be restored quickly in the event of any disaster."

Klinck says return on investment in the system cannot only be measured in rands and cents. "We're not selling two-year contracts," he adds. "Our customers have 30-year relationships with the organisation. The contact centre is one of the key elements we have in place to build those relationships. The level of monitoring we have is helping us take practical action, like making sure we speak to people in the simplest possible language, which is important when you're dealing with financial services products."

Alexander Forbes is now looking to add CIC's Interaction Process Automation (IPA) module to its contact centre system. A workflow tool, IPA is a process automation platform that orchestrates processes across people, departments, and existing core business applications.

First published in the October 2014 issue of ITWeb Brainstorm magazine.

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