Contact Center: Quit smoking. Lose weight. Manage debt. What are your New Year’s Resolutions? According to USA.gov, the most popular New Year’s resolutions also include getting a better education.
Online learning is growing at more than nine times the rate of on-campus instruction, making it the most rapidly developing trend in higher education. Our customer, Academic Partnerships, is the industry leader in helping universities bring their academic programs online to reach a global audience as well as make higher education more accessible and affordable.
Brad Davis, Contact Center Load Manager at Academic Partnerships, is responsible for the interactions made in recruiting qualified students and supporting enrolled students through graduation. I sat down with Brad for a Q&A session about how his business uses inContact products and what their goals are in 2015.
Allison Potter: How do you provide immediate service to your students or potential students?
Brad Davis: Our goal is to make sure that the student gets what they want. They're contacting us for a reason. They've reached out and said, "Hey, I have an interest." We want to further their interest because continuing their education changes their life. We need to facilitate that change as much and as quickly as possible. We can discuss their interest, find out their next steps in their education and make sure they get to the right people immediately.
inContact’s Personal Connection dialer allows us to do that. We take those leads that come in, run them through our dialer and we try to reach those students within the first five minutes, with the intent of the student being in front of their computer.
AP: In what other ways do you use the Personal Connection™ dialer?
BD: There is a lot of flexibility with the inContact dialer. We don't have that awkward pause when you make the outbound dial to the customer. Instead, we make a connection to that student right away so we don’t run the risk of any hang-ups at all. As a result, we’ve been able to increase our dials tremendously and increase our contact rates.
As far as from a customer service perspective, I think the dialer does a couple of things. One, it allows that interaction with the company at an immediate pace. But also, it removes the main challenges around leaving a message by facilitating automated outbound messages. With the agentless dialing feature we can provide basic information like when the next registration date is or student loan payment due date. Additionally, agentless dialing messages increases the amount of students that we can send over to live agents and gets them further into an application enrollment status.
AP: How do you determine your lists and campaigns for the dialer?
BD: In our business, we have new leads that facilitate through our different sources. If someone has just went onto a school website and said, "I'm interested. I want some information," they click a button. That lead, in turn, comes into our dialer through our CRM system. Academic Partnerships will make that outbound call right away.
The other way that we use our dialer is creating a list of what we call Rehash Leads; leads that we've worked on in the past. Maybe the potential student didn't want to take the next step at that time. We'd go back, talk to them now, and see if they're ready.
The dialer will take all those Rehash Leads and make a number of calls. You can do hundreds of calls in an hour if you want to, depending on how fast you do it, which is a big plus. You don't have the ability to do this manually without hiring a lot of people.
AP: Are there other dialing campaigns that you're involved with right now or want to work on in 2015?
BD: We are looking at doing some agent-less dialing in the future. We're going to look and see ways that we can use the broadcast messaging. Or even do some outreach where we don't require live agents to be logged in. We can just use the dialer and facilitate callbacks.
AP: How are your agents working the inbound and the outbound calls? Are they switching back and forth?
BD: Yes. We have one group that is fully blended. They take both inbound and outbound calls. We have other groups that are pretty much on a manual outbound scenario through inContact's outbound skill set.
AP: How do you maintain a high level of quality service when these agents are blended?
BD: We have a quality team that goes through and listens to the recordings. They look for certain keywords and certain attributes to the calls that they expect to see. Perhaps an agent was speaking with a challenging student and they weren't really sure how to handle the call. We can take those recordings within the contact history that inContact provides and share it with those agents. We let them listen to themselves and provide coaching so we can improve those call techniques.
AP: What about managing the transitions between inbound and outbound calls?
BD: The agent window is a great way to do that within inContact. It has the ability to demonstrate whether it's an inbound call or an outbound call. It will tell you what scale it's coming from. It will also display the phone number and student's name.
We have scripting that's built-in to that dialer, as well. You can build pop-up scripts that will walk you through the phrasing needed for each student. Depending upon which direction it's coming from, inbound or outbound, our agents know which way to start their conversation. From that perspective, the transitions work very well.
AP: How do you schedule your agents?
BD: We took on inContact’s Workforce Management and are still learning the tool, but to me, WFM comes into a couple of things, scheduling and forecasting. You can look at the amount of calls that you're receiving and put the right amount of bodies you need at the right time of day to get those calls answered.
WFM also allows you to facilitate the necessary outbound dials you need to make and, if you set your targets, provides the ability to go back and check your results. You can really see if you're meeting your expectations. If not, you can make the necessary adjustments and try again.
In our business, we talk to students about four and a half to five and a half hours a day. There’s just not a lot of room for any free time or any dead time. We consider that a very positive thing; that we are talking to potential students and getting them through to the next step in their new endeavor.
AP: What are some of your business goals and plans for 2015?
BD: From an integration standpoint, we are integrating the dialer with WFM. We also use our Dynamics 2013 software. Going forward, this transition is going to be a very strong plus for us, especially with our customer base. It’s been proven to work and I think the results have spoken for themselves. Also, in working with inContact, we've been able to successfully integrate our CRM to document our notes coming from the dialer, which we haven't been able to do before. We are looking forward to enhancing that ability as we move forward.
What are your contact center goals for 2015? Please feel free to share in the comments below or ask us any questions!