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The Formula for Success: Improved Quality = Lower Costs and Higher Revenue

On August 27th, the Associated Press put out a short story about Sprint cutting 800 customer service jobs. Contact center job reductions are not exciting news, but the justification for these specific cuts is noteworthy. Sprint is quoted as saying, “As customer satisfaction improves and, in turn, calls to customer care decrease, our staffing needs in this area decrease.” The point is that service quality matters, at each step of the customer journey. Improvements in these areas can yield substantial cost savings, as Sprint has proven.
Contact centers, customer service departments, back-office operating environments and most other people-intensive departments are constantly being asked to reduce operating costs. The obvious way to realize cost savings is to reduce headcount. The problem is that if this is done without concurrent changes in processes and systems, it often hurts service quality, service delivery and the customer experience. For a contact center, this means that customers have to wait longer to have their call or email answered. Fewer sales or service people in a retail branch mean that prospects and customers have to wait longer for help. But the situation gets worse. Cuts made to improve productivity typically result in the remaining people being asked to handle the same amount of work with fewer resources; as a result, employees rush customers and prospects, and pay less attention to detail. This creates a cycle of poor service quality, frustrated staff and disappointed customers. It’s a phenomenon that we’ve all seen and experienced too often, as it is disappointingly common.
This is not to say that companies should not strive to improve productivity. They should – but there is a right and wrong way to do it. Sprint, finding itself caught in the cycle of poor service and quality, as reflected in their all-time-low customer satisfaction ratings in 2008, decided that it was time for change. Senior management finally determined that it was time to fix their service problem. Sprint made many substantial investments in quality-oriented applications in their contact centers, retail branches and other operating departments. They trained and empowered their staff, and have prioritized changes that enable employees to resolve inquiries and issues during the first touch. While there is still substantial room for improvement, as reflected in Sprint’s recent customer satisfaction scores, they are now being rated similarly to other US cell phone providers.
Lessons Learned at Sprint

There is a lot than can (and is) being said about Sprint’s service turnaround, but here are some of the most significant lessons learned:

  1. It is possible to change and improve the service culture of a company, but this process must start at the top and be supported by all employees.
  2. Service quality matters during every step of the process.
  3. It is essential to track and measure what happens to customers and prospects during every touch point in the customer journey.
  4. Companies must look at the service experience from the perspective of customers, who see the company as one organization and do not care which department is to blame.
  5. Employees should be rewarded and recognized for doing the right things.
  6. Investments should be made that enhance quality and the customer experience while improving productivity and reducing operating costs.
  7. Outstanding service and support will reduce customer and agent attrition.
Sprint has proven that improvements in service quality and investments in staff can yield substantial cost savings and improve a company’s bottom line. As importantly, the right investments will enhance productivity and reduce operating costs while improving customer retention and increasing sales.


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Ask the Experts

What exactly is “big data”?

“Big data” is a popular catchphrase that is being used in the market to describe the vast amounts of structured and unstructured data generated, captured and stored by a specific business activity. The term first became popular in the context of the massive amount of information collected by websites. However, “big data” also clearly applies to the volumes of data generated and collected by contact center systems.

Contact centers are among the primary generators of “big data” in most companies because of the huge amount of structured and unstructured information that passes through them on a daily basis via, phone, email, chat, short message service (SMS), social media, Web forms, self-service applications, surveys, social media, etc. Call detail records (CDRs), which refers to the data captured by contact center infrastructure solutions (automatic call distributors (ACDs) and dialers), include transaction-level information about everything a customer or prospect does during their interaction, from the nanosecond their interaction arrives at an organization, to the steps taken in the self-service interactive voice response system, through the agent experience (if applicable), noting when a caller is put on hold or transferred, until the call or interaction ends. Once referred to as cradle-to-grave tracking and reporting, in today’s world, CDRs are “big data.”

Most contact center managers want to use CDRs to analyze and understand the customer journey as well as agent and department performance. However, given the massive amount of data generated with each call (or other type of contact center interaction), it is difficult to filter through the “noise” to find the information that would be useful for overseeing and improving the organization’s performance. For contact centers, the “big data” challenge is to determine how to structure, aggregate, and convert data into key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that can be used to inform data-driven decisions.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at