No matter how adept a firm is at dealing with its customers, misunderstandings can and do occur – particularly for those dealing with clients over the phone, where there is rarely any record of the issues discussed.
To counteract that problem, many larger organisations – from insurance companies to travel firms – operate voice-recording systems, which play a vital role in preventing minor disputes from snowballing into full-blown litigation. Now that recording technology is becoming more advanced, experts are championing the use of such systems for smaller firms. One of them is Allan Fairhurst, technical director of voice-recording system reseller NeXT Replay.
‘These systems are aimed at all types of businesses – in fact, they’re relevant to pretty much anyone who deals with customers over the phone,’ Fairhurst states. ‘Typically, your average customer dispute takes at least three or four members of staff to resolve and that is a major cost to the business. But, if you have the facility to listen back to what was said instantly, you can identify any problems and resolve them far more easily.’
Steve Medd, of call centre-based travel agency Fast Track Holidays, agrees. ‘Since the company started in 2001 we’ve always had a problem with resolving customer complaints satisfactorily, as we could never be sure on exactly what was agreed during the sales process between customers and ourselves,’ he elaborates. ‘This led to the company having to sometimes pay out large sums of money to customers, without being certain we were at fault. Since we implemented a recording system, however, the impact has been fantastic. We can listen back to calls, resolve issues swiftly and, if customers still disagree we can even let them listen to the audio file themselves.’
Cost versus benefit
This issue of dispute resolution is clearly important. But with some hardware-based systems costing in excess of £50,000, the price tag may be prohibitive and many will also question just how relevant the technology is to them if they aren’t processing call-centre volumes.
The balance of cost and benefit represent an equation each business must work out for itself ‘It was always something we knew we would like to have,’ Medd recalls, ‘so it was purely an issue of cost for us. With some systems, the expense of installation in comparison to the likely return on investment just isn’t economic for a company of this size.’
Making it work
Dispute resolution aside, Medd hints that there are other benefits to voice-recording systems, too. Business owners may, for example, choose to download and listen to a random selection of calls each week to see how customers are being dealt with and to pick up on lessons that could be passed on from worker to worker. If, for example, one sales employee is outperforming all others by some margin, bosses could analyse his or her calls to see if there is any discernible reason for their strong performance.
Conversely, with underperforming employees it would be possible to try and isolate the reasons why they are falling short and correct any problems.
Of course, there are other ways to achieve this goal that don’t involve installing a dedicated system. Simply listening to your sales people mid-pitch, for instance, is likely to turn up a fair number of pointers cost-free. Nonetheless, Medd insists that ‘it’s proven very effective for our management team. We can listen to our sales staff, monitor their performance and we can also play conversations back to them individually. They’ll sit down with a training manager and work out the issues they need to improve on. [Without listening back to their own calls] they can be sceptical of the process, but hearing conversations again really helps them buy into the training process.’