Recording conversations between call center agents and customers/prospective customers need not be a luxury that only large insurance companies can afford. Westhill Insurance Services (London, British Sterling 3 million in revenue), with only 35 employees, knew it could benefit from a call recording system - if it could find the right system.
Founded 20 years ago as an independent company, Westhill provides motorcycle insurance to 95 percent of its customer base. The carrier offers insurance for motorcycle owners in England, Scotland and Wales, and it takes more than 1,000 inbound calls every day. As in the United States, motorcycle insurance is a highly competitive sector of the market in the United Kingdom, and customers constantly are shopping for quotes. Call center agents typically are the point of contact, and they have only one opportunity to demonstrate that their company's products and service are better than the competition's.
Westhill has 20 call center agents who are charged with answering questions from potential customers and handling customer disputes. The latter often originate with customers who claim that they had previously informed the insurer about a speeding ticket or accident on their record.
"The problem was that we couldn't verify what people were telling us," says Mike Elkin, the carrier's director. "A person could make a claim nine months after the incident happened, and we had no choice but to believe them." In order to protect its interests in disputes and properly train its staff, Elkin says that Westhill decided to seek a phone recording system.
Elkin began vetting communications recording solutions in the summer of 2002. He subsequently invited three vendors to demonstrate their offerings on-site and give a quote.
One vendor's system was tried out for a month, but didn't meet expectations. Though Elkin declines to name the vendor, he says retrieving calls with the solution was complicated and often the customer was hard to hear. Additionally, an appliance had to be attached to each of the agent's phones - an adaptation that was very unpopular. Modifying the system to avoid that feature was judged to be too costly by Westhill.
"We decided to give it a last go with the ASC [White Plains, N.Y.] Marathon recording platform before putting the project on hold," Elkin says. "We installed it in just one morning as an out-of-the box, two-week trial. It worked so well, we purchased it in January 2003."
The Marathon system is attached to the junction box through which all calls are routed, making any attachments to call center agents' phones unnecessary. A communication recording device the size of a PC sits on a table in the corner of the call center. Agents interface with the system visually through a front-end workstation.
The system comes standard with four weeks of storage space on its hard drive, and Westhill has begun an archive of DVDs that each store two weeks of calls. Now, when a dispute occurs, the company can locate the conversation in the archive by referencing the date, phone number and the individual caller.
The Marathon system has paid for itself in just a few months, according to Elkin. He credits the solution for contributing to a 40 percent increase in sales since its implementation. The system's ability to support reviews of call center agent performance and facilitate training has resulted in better practices, Elkin asserts. The solution also has demonstrated that the company is in the right in about 90 percent of disputes, and many disputes can now be settled conclusively - managers can simply replay or e-mail audio of the call in question to the complaining customer.
Additionally, the call recording system has led to increased workplace stability and lower employee turnover. "The call center agents know they are protected," Elkin points out. "It's not easy when customers disagree and even scream at them. Now, the stress level is lower, and the call center agent can tell the customer, 'We're happy to play the call for you.'"
Case Study Closeup
Company Name: Westhill Insurance Services (London, British Sterling 3 million in revenue).
Lines Of Business: Motorcycle insurance.
Vendor/Technology: ASC (White Plains, N.Y.) Marathon recording platform.
The Challenge: Implement call recording system for training and dispute resolution.