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A delivery service configures its way to savings: outbound IVR saves Go Configure $70,000 in its first year.

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Talk about stress: Go Configure, which handles nationwide delivery and assembly of fitness and sports equipment, game tables, office furniture, and outdoor products for such retailers as The Sports Authority and Dick's Sporting Goods, expected its business to triple during and immediately after the holidays. Adding to the pressure, the Lisle, Ill.-based company recently added a repair service on all of the products it delivers and installs, and also runs a small local courier and messenger service, which would see its own seasonal spike in business, out of the Chicago area.

But despite the added strain on the company's resources, Dawn Rivera, Go Configure's operations manager, wasn't the least bit worried. On the contrary, she expects to continue slashing overhead costs and effectively handle the surge without adding to her contact center staff.

That's because Go Configure, a unit of delivery service provider Don't Shoot the Messenger, has been using Ifbyphone's hosted outbound interactive voice response (IVR) service for the past year to handle all of its outgoing calls for appointment scheduling, confirmation, and follow-up surveys. "By using [Ifbyphone's] solution to automate the notification and confirmation process, we have been able to double the efficiency of our staff and reduce the cost of staff and overtime by 60 percent," Rivera states. "Without this technology, we would not have had the opportunity to grow our business without increasing our staffing expense."

All told, Ifbyphone's outbound IVR places about 1,000 automated calls every day to Go Configure customers. "We get about 200 orders nationwide a day, and each one requires at least five or six phone calls," Rivera explains.

Here's how the process works: When a store that contracts with Go Configure receives an order, Go Configure calls the customer to schedule a delivery. The company calls again a few days later to confirm the appointment, and then again the night before the delivery to remind the customer. Then when all is said and done, Go Configure places a follow-up call to survey the customer about the delivery and installation experience.

Prior to implementing the Ifbyphone solutions, Go Configure's operators made all of the outbound phone calls themselves. It was a nightmare, Rivera recalls.

And its previous IVR was a mess. "We had an internal IVR on one of our servers, and it was a lot of work to do any kind of change or update," she says. "Then when we added appointment scheduling, it became too much for the application to handle."

That was when the company first turned to Ifbyphone, which is based in nearby Chicago. "Our owner was searching the Web for services and came across Ifbyphone," Rivera recalls. "It was something that fit for us."

The hosted Ifbyphone applications were up and running for Go Configure in less than a month. "The whole thing was fairly quick from start to finish," Rivera says. "Our in-house developers were able to do the work themselves. Everything was pretty straightforward and easy to follow."

WAIT, THERE'S MORE

Go Configure uses Ifbyphone's technology in additional ways, such as to handle numerous calls back and forth between the company's headquarters in Lisle, Ill., its satellite locations in Chicago, New York, Miami, St. Louis, and Charlotte, N.C., and among the 300 independent contractors it uses to run its delivery and repair service. It also uses the IVR to route calls coming into its 50-agent contact center. Many of those calls are escalated to a live agent from the automated solution, but some come in from customers wanting to confirm an appointment or check the status of an order. "Hopefully, 90 percent of the calls go through automation, but we do get some people who do not like their appointments when they receive one of our calls, and they want to speak to a person to change it," Rivera says.

Some of the incoming call volume will be alleviated when Don't Shoot the Messenger completes construction of its Web site, which will feature a section where customers can schedule a delivery or pickup appointment and check an order status.

Also in the works, Go Configure plans to expand its follow-up survey--which currently asks two basic questions about its service and accepts only touch-tone responses (i.e., press 1 for yes and 2 for no)--with additional questions that can be answered by voice. It will likely turn to Ifbyphone, which offers a suite of hosted business productivity applications, including IVR, voice broadcast, phone call tracking, and a virtual call center, to provide the more advanced surveying application.

Finally, Ifbyphone also provides emergency routing of calls, which Rivera calls "a big advantage" given her company's nationwide reach. "Because all of our numbers have been ported over to Ifbyphone, if something were to happen and our lines went down, we could reroute calls at our site with a simple change that we could make through Ifbyphone's Web service," she says. "It gives us an emergency backup, especially in Florida where bad weather has been a problem."

In the year since it went live with Ifbyphone's IVR, Go Configure has saved $62,000, which it would have spent to hire two additional contact center agents. It expects to save at least an additional $8,000 a year in overtime costs.

Since Go Configure has had Ifbyphone up and running, the only issues have been with the phone carriers, not with the vendor's products or services. For example, static on some telephone lines made it difficult for the application to recognize the customers' inputs.

"It has been a great solution for us," Rivera says. "We're saving a lot of man-power hours. The amount that we've spent on Ifbyphone is much less than what we would have spent on people to do the same job."

Ifbyphone's low-cost, hosted, cloud-based telephony solutions start at about $50 per month, with usage fees of pennies per minute. The company's solutions are tailored for small to midsize businesses (SMBs), though it does have several larger clients, as well.

For Ifbyphone, Go Configure is just one example of how SMBs are using its suite of hosted business productivity applications to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of processes, such as outbound call scheduling and customer surveys.

"Go Configure is proof-positive that SMBs can expand and enhance their business operations, including customer care, using our phone automation services," said Ifbyphone CEO Irv Shapiro in a statement. "Like other Ifbyphone customers, they are accomplishing these core goals at a time when most companies are struggling to keep the lights on."

App At a Glance

SINCE TURNING TO IFBYPHONE FOR ITS OUTBOUND IVR AND CALL ROUTING, GO CONFIGURE HAS:

* doubled the efficiency of staff while reducing the cost of staff and overtime by 60 percent;

* saved $62,000 it would have spent for two additional contact center agents; and

* saved $8,000 in staff overtime.
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Title Annotation:deployments: SUCCESS STORIES; interactive voice response
Author:Klie, Leonard
Publication:Speech Technology Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:1141
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