Recent changes in telecom, such as Do Not Call compliance and wireless local number portability, as well as changes in the telecom consumer base are complicating the pursuit of telecom sales and driving a push for increased quality in third-party verification, according to leading TPV vendors that are stepping up efforts to help telecom companies to close deals in an even more competitive environment. Efforts to enhance quality include offering completion-rate guarantees, providing customers with round-the-clock service and expanding language support.
“There’s an increasing demand, I think, for higher completion rates and verification rates,” says Jim Veilleux, president of TPV provider VoiceLog LLC. “Clients are looking for that because with things like the Do Not Call list and some of the other obstructions that are going on in telemarketing, it”s just more and more important for the clients to get as many good sales as possible…and keep them.”
To that end, VoiceLog recently introduced its new live-operator verification system, “Perfect Finish.” Among other features, the service guarantees savings and boasts a 90/15 service level, meaning 90 percent of calls are answered in 15 seconds or less. “Although speech recognition is a strong contender for user friendliness, nothing beats a well-trained agent,” Veilleux says.
3PV Inc. COO David Brinkman echoes a similar note. In February, the company reported delivering completion rates averaging 98.3 percent for previous 12 months to all customers deploying its Martina speech-enabled verification technology in combination with 3PV’s agent-assisted verification solutions.
In its emphasis on quality, Brinkman says 3PV audits all verifications through a live agent review process, and does not bill for incomplete verifications (which, he makes sure to emphasize, are different from unconfirmed verifications). 3PV also keeps its programmers and technical support personnel on-call 24/7. “We view our role as being the protector of our customers and their end customers,” Brinkman says.
Deemer Stacy, president and CEO of Data Exchange Inc., says his company emphasizes quality in recordings by eliminating the use of one centralized recording device. “The most important thing we do is record,” he says. “It’s scary for us to sit here and depend on one recording device. If it’s down for an hour and we’re doing 500 calls an hour, we just lost 500 recordings.”
Stacy says every floor station now has its own recording device. “Every station on the floor digitally records the transaction, saves the transaction. Then we have processes that check immediately to make sure that recording fits with that data stream, as well as every hour it goes back and checks.”
Data Exchange primarily offers live verification services, and every automated verification is backed with a live review.
The Verification Company, in the business since 1994, concentrates on offering personal service, as its distinction in quality. David Figueroa, vice president of business development, says part of that shows in customers’ accessibility, because they can call The Verification Company before and after business hours. Figueroa’s company also says it has a zero hold time.
“A lot of our stuff is customized,” Figueroa says. “We may not be the largest third-party verification company, but we want to be known as the ones with the most personal service. Anything the customer wants, it is our command and we produce it.”
In addition to Do Not Call restrictions that make every prospect conversion even more critical, WLNP also is intensifying competition for wireless customers. While regulators do not require wireless carriers to verify sales through a third party, TPV providers anticipate that may change. In the meantime, VoiceLog has rolled out a speech recognitionbased third-party verification package that lets wireless carriers confirm customers’ decisions to move their wireless number from one service to another. VoiceLog says the program gives wireless carriers a tool to document customer change requests as a safeguard against slamming complaints by competitors, customers, or state and federal consumer protection agencies.
VoiceLog also offers a TPV variation to satisfy the federal E-Sign Act, which makes electronic signatures as valid and binding as traditional signatures. VoiceLog allows a customer to sign an electronic cellular service contract via the phone, without requiring a physical signature. Wireless TPV starts at 50 cents per order, but service providers that offer bundles of local, long-distance and wireless will benefit from special discounts.
The impetus toward quality comes not just from within the telecom industry, but also from global cultural changes. U.S. Census data indicate by 2005, 53 percent of all kindergarten-age children will speak Spanish. Records from the 2000 Census show high percentages of people living in America speak English “less than “very well,” with languages of origin ranging from Spanish to Asian and Pacific Islander. This change means companies need to be able to serve the increasing numbers of customers who do not use English. VoiceLog, The Verification Company and 3PV are working to expand language support to meet the rising demand.
VoiceLog’s new Free Speech TPV not only allows users without touchtone telephones to access the service, it can support any number of languages, including Cantonese, German, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese and more. VoiceLog currently licenses English and Spanish and, Veilleux says, can add dozens of other languages very easily.
Veilleux also notes the speech-recognition technology is delivered on a voice XML platform, allowing the company to quickly develop custom applications for clients. Users undergoing the verification process mostly will answer yes or no questions.
Most of VoiceLog’s customers are in the United States, Europe and Canada, but those customers require verification services from people throughout the world. Veilleux says VoiceLog even employs a man who lives in Katmandu who reviews automated verifications in Hindi, Japanese and English.
The Verification Company recently expanded to include customer access to live Spanish services. “It just affords a tremendous opportunity - not just for telecom companies, but for any company that wants to market to that particular segment,” says David Figueroa.
In an earlier company press release, Figueroa spoke to increased immigration into the United States from Mexico, Central America and South America. “There are very real cultural differences between the average American household and the household where Spanish is the main language,” he explained.
“Hispanics tend to feel more comfortable speaking with a live-verification agent in their native language rather than responding to a computerized voice regardless of script length, content or friendliness of the voice prompts.”
Figueroa sees the issues of languages as providing the biggest changes within the third-party verification market. “Right now there are many pockets of different ethnic cultures that have that language barrier, whether it’s Japanese or what have you,” he says, stating only that The Verification Company is considering introducing even more language services.
3PV recently added Mandarin language support to its flagship Martina speech-enabled verification platform. The technology now supports automated verification in English, Spanish and Mandarin. “We also support Russian, Hindi, Vietnamese and more in a non-speech-enabled environment,” says Brinkman, adding that 3PV will convert more languages into speech-enabled verification as needed.
3PV also has its new FastTrak product, which the company deploys within 48 hours. FastTrak provides verification in three languages, complies with FCC requirements and uses what 3PV calls intuitive scripting. “It’s been very well accepted by our customers and they recognize the value they get,” Brinkman says of FastTrak.
|3PV Inc. www.3pv.com
Data Exchange Inc. www.dxc-inc.com
The Verification Company www.verificationco.com
VoiceLog LLC www.voicelog.com