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DATA DETECTIVES

What a Call Center Company Learned From Big Data

In which a company that needs scores of new hires finds a simple, cost-effective fix
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You could start by saying that the latest generation of data-crunching and predictive technology tools are proving themselves valuable to businesses of all sizes. But maybe it's better to start by saying Dialog Direct had a problem.

The company, which provides customer service support for large organizations, was opening a new call center in Grand Rapids, Michigan and had one month to hire 140 employees for a training program. They needed almost 150 friendly, helpful, patient people with the ability to learn the skills needed to handle complex questions and unruffle ruffled feathers over the phone.

Sound simple? It wasn't. Traditionally, the company's human resources and operations staff needed at least two hours to make a single hire, according to chief marketing officer Jack Wilkie. So hiring those 140 employees would take more than twelve full 24-hour days of company labor to complete--an impossible task in such a short timeframe.

Seeking a solution, Wilkie came across an interesting cloud-based platform called Evolv.

The cloud-based platform combines big data and workforce optimization in a way that cuts in-person interview time by 75 percent. The process Evolv came up with for Dialog Direct was simple: A candidate filled out an on-line application--which included a voice sample and a realistic preview of the phone calls an employee will experience in addition to more traditional questions, like previous experience and technical ability. Evolv's predictive analytics algorithm graded their prospects based on how similar candidates performed in similar roles. Evolv then assigned a color to their profile: green for interview; yellow for interview while noting potential issues with that applicant; and red for no interview. "It shaves an hour and 45 minutes off the process," Wilkie says. The new call center had its staff in record time--just a few weeks.

After the hire Evolv helped Dialog Direct, which has 5,100 employees and annual revenues in excess of $200 million, make steady improvement across several key measures: employee attendance was better; call times were reduced, and Dialog Direct delivered a higher percentage of first-call resolutions to its customers. Evolv identifies future top performers with 80 percent accuracy, says Wilkie. "Employees who come through Evolv have outperformed former candidates that we have hired in every metric we set up for clients," Wilkie says. "And they stay longer."

The results, which include a seven percent jump in retention, are saving the company millions per year. While the initial outlay to license the technology was "a large number for a company our size," the CMO admits--without discussing any more specifics regarding cost--the package paid for itself within the first year, and the data grows richer each time the system is used.

Then Dialog Direct needed to recruit 600 people for a call center in Denison, Texas--population: approximately 22,000--that was staffing up rapidly to support gourmet food company that did the bulk of its business during the fourth quarter. "There's no way in the world we would have done that with our traditional hiring methodology," Wilkie says. "We found the people. They were terrific." In that situation, Evolv saved Dialog Direct over 900 hours.

This not only benefits the bottom line, but also reduces time certain managers--team leader's, in company parlance--lose to hiring, crucial for a company that aims to have team leaders spend 70 percent of their hours coaching its agents manning the phones to be knowledgeable, helpful, and patient. With Evolv's help, "we can bring people with no experience in customer service and make them superstars," Wilkie says. Big Data can't provide the human touch--yet--but it has helped one company whose livelihood depends upon it to deliver it better and more quickly than ever.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Jun 9, 2014




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