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Service identifies cell phone numbers of call center customers

Albert McKeon

Shaving a half-minute off a call center customer call can make the difference between a pleasant and not-so-pleasant customer experience.

This spring, Vizio measured a 30-second drop on its call center’s average handle time (AHT). The HDTV and electronics manufacturer credits the time reduction to an unlikely source -- the White Pages.

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Not the clunky phone book that’s annually delivered to households and businesses, but WhitePages Pro, the Web-based service that provides basic information such as name, address and phone number to call center agents just as they start a conversation with customers.

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“When you’re taking close to a million calls a year, that’s a big savings in staff time,” Scott Patten, the senior director of Vizio’s call center operations, said of the 30-second decrease.

“That’s proven the return on investment to us. But the even better thing is customers are like, ‘Wow.’ They think it’s pretty cool that we’ve got this information.”

Patten hopes that the latest feature from WhitePages Inc. can make a bigger impact.

Info from WhitePages Pro helps cut average handle time

WhitePages Pro gets its information from its parent company, WhitePages Inc., which offers basic contact data on more than 200 million people. The company operates a free website, WhitePages.com -- which allows anyone to find people and businesses on the Internet, much as they would with a phone book -- and a paid service called WhitePages Pro.

WhitePages Pro’s newest feature is a data set that helps call centers identify mobile phone numbers with what the company says is nearly 100% precision.

On the same pop-up screen that provides names, addresses and landline phone numbers, call center agents will also see if a number is tied to a cell phone carrier.

Access to more customer data equals improved customer experience management

Knowing the customer uses a cell phone will make a big difference to call center operations, according to Alex Algard, founder and CEO of WhitePages.com. That’s because regulations prohibit call centers from dialing a cell phone without the user’s consent, he said.

“In a call center environment, they want to add a caller to a database and reach out to them. If it’s a cell phone number, they need to ask permission to reach out to them again on the cell phone … or send a text message,” Algard said.

The cell phone data is part of the WhitePages Pro package, which can be Web based or used through an application programming interface (API).

Started in Algard’s Stanford dorm room as a hobby 16 years ago, WhitePages Inc. has a database of more than 300 million phone numbers. The database’s reach extends beyond the old-fashioned White Pages that phone companies publish, he said.

Phone books have the information of less than 80 million people, and those entries are based on who pays the phone bill at a residence, Algard said.

WhitePages.com has built its database through partnerships with a “broad range of sources,” enabling the company to acquire hard-to-get cell phone numbers, he said. “It’s not 100% coverage, but it’s greater than anyone in the industry.”

Vizio gave WhitePages Pro a test run early in the year, and went live with the program in April. The company has an internal call center in Dakota Dunes, S.D., that employs 210 agents and an outsourced call center in Magna, Utah, that has 175 agents.

Patten had used WhitePages Pro when working for another call center, so when he came aboard Vizio, he and the staff decided to use it at their two centers.

WhitePages Pro unveiled its cell phone offering in May. Vizio’s call center agents have seen it work, but Patten didn’t know yet how it directly affected average handle time. Nonetheless, he has seen the statistics affirming the drop in average handle time since the company implemented WhitePages Pro, so he’ll accept every new advantage he can get from the program, he said.

Most calls to Vizio focus on support issues. “Even if they’re minor issues, no one wants to be on the phone long with technical support,” Patten said. “If we can reduce the average call time, we’re happy.”


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