February 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Speed Dialing

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That leaves a large percentage of those initial calls that don’t close in a sale as candidates for Infinite Mind’s follow-up outbound sales program. Infinite Mind fields a dedicated team of agents for those outbound calls, and that’s where hosted call center service from Echopass Corp. comes in. Via the web, Echopass delivers an on-demand technology platform to support the team’s needs-including an automated dialer that distributes leads among the agents, web chat capability and e-mail functionality for the agents. The hosted platform incorporates technologies from other providers, integrating with its client companies’ customer relationship management system or knowledge base as the situation requires. Echopass guarantees service-level agreements for everything on its platform.

Hosted call center technology delivered over the web emerged as the right solution when the outbound sales team, now numbering 60 agents, grew to 10 to 15 agents, says Infinite Mind CEO Steve Glick. At the start, the outbound agents used a spreadsheet to track calls and manually dial the leads, but as the program grew, “We realized we had to buy a dialer and start feeding leads into it to make it easier to manage, or find a service,” says Glick.

Glick can log on from any browser to monitor agents’ calls, run regular reports or pull custom reports on call activity. “We have the ability to track when an agent is on the system, which allows us to measure their efficiency,” says Glick. For about $250 per agent per month, compared with what Echopass estimates at $10,000 to $15,000 per agent for a marketer to buy the same technology to equip agents in-house, hosted technology delivered online allows Infinite Mind to keep expanding outbound business at its call center, and capture on follow-up sales that would otherwise be lost.

With more than $1.1 billion in annual sales of health and beauty products-of which the web represents a reported 79%-Quixtar Inc.’s 450-plus-seat call center is hopping as agents provide answers and clarifications pre-sale, and customer service post-sale. The web-enabled center supports multiple means of communication with customers-and therein lies the challenge of keeping it all straight.

To function efficiently, Quixtar’s call center needed a unified view of all of any customer’s interactions with the call center, and it found that in software from eGain Communications Corp. When agents receive a call, they type that information into a separate customer relationship management system. EGain’s integration with that system automatically populates that same call log, by customer, with any e-mail received from that customer and any response to that e-mail by an agent.

“EGain’s solution helped us with getting a holistic view of all transactions,” says Aaron Sundman, call center support specialist at Quixtar, an e-commerce and direct marketing subsidiary of Alticor Inc., which also owns Anway. Sundman also notes that the software is useful in tracking the call center’s performance in e-mail response timeliness.

The eGain software shows how long an e-mail has been waiting for an answer and tags it with a deadline by which it must be answered to meet Quixtar’s service level goals.

No re-typing

To further speed e-mail response and streamline call center operations, the eGain software pulls preformatted answers from a knowledge base when an agent requests one: a web service calls the knowledge base for the answer the agent requests, then automatically populates the agent’s e-mail response with that answer. “No one has to re-type it,” says Sundman. “The answers in the knowledge base are controlled by one group, so eGain interacts with the knowledge base in that way for a consistent answer every time.”

Sundman isn’t disclosing hard metrics on how eGain and its web services application are improving call center efficiency, but he says one way to measure its effectiveness is in the fact that by maintaining a rapid turnaround time on customer’s e-mail queries, the call center actually receives less e-mail. “There is less follow-up e-mail from customers wanting to know when we are going to answer their question,” he says. “So when you get caught up on e-mails faster, you actually have less work for yourself. It keeps customers happier as well.”

mary@verticalwebmedia.com

Click Here for the Internet Retailer Guide to Call/Contact Center Products & Services Guide

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