The magic of listening to customers

Posted by David Scult

The Magic Of Listening To CustomersOne of the best parts of my job involves talking to Fonality customers. It helps me keep focused on what they need and want. When I speak with people using our service, I almost always come back with new insights into how Fonality is being used and how we can make it even better. Customers teach us larger lessons, of course; and two of the most important revolve around product usability and innovation.

"One of the best parts of my job involves
talking to Fonality customers."

We have a number of customers that are insurance agencies, some of which have been with us for more than a decade. They average about three offices and employ about a dozen people. Many of these employees are in their first or second jobs and lack extensive sales training. When an agent first told me, "David, your phone system is spectacular as a training tool," I have to admit I didn’t really get it. And there you have Lesson 1.

Customers will discover value you never expected

Insurance agents use our phone system to support business practices that were honestly a complete surprise to me. In addition to new agent training, they use it for benchmarking and drawing correlations between talk times, call volumes, and overall agent performance. So it’s a management tool as well as a training tool.

They use our daily and real-time call reports to see that Agent A has made 36 outbound calls and had 14 inbound calls, as well as what his or her average talk time is relative to peers in the office. They then benchmark call performance to metrics such as number of policies or items sold. Many of them absolutely draw the correlation that certain call volumes and average talk times have a higher probability of generating at- or above-quota performance.

Managers also have visibility when a new agent has been on the phone for an hour and a half. That's probably not a great sales call, and he or she might need some assistance. In addition, they can record calls and play them back later for training purposes. Their use of some of our Contact Center Solutions in nontraditional Call Center use cases has been a really good education for me. In the long call scenario described above, a manager can barge the call to help the agent. What’s really exciting is that these agents figured out these scenarios mostly on their own. Now, we market these capabilities very actively.

Customers continue to tell me our truly differentiating capability remains HUD, our Heads Up Display. When I joined Fonality, the software had started to look dated. Being a software veteran of almost 30 years, I wanted to modernize it. That led to Lesson 2.

Customer needs should guide innovation

After investing time and money modernizing our HUD architecture, achieving feature parity and introducing new capabilities, we learned a humbling lesson: It didn’t matter to customers that the architecture and look were a bit dated. To them, we were trying to fix a tool that wasn’t broken.

So it really is true: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Our customers already loved this capability called HUD. Fortunately, as we've introduced the more modern version, thousands already appreciate the benefits that go along with it. But we needed to have both versions coexist, and new customers wanted a much more modern experience!

"It really is true: If it ain't
broke, don't fix it."

We learned once someone is comfortable with a solution, they're not wildly receptive to change. So, we try to be supportive and acknowledge that. We tell them we want them to continue to enjoy the technology, and we aren’t going to force an upgrade on them. That’s why we’ve kept HUD Classic while continuing to innovate with HUD Web.

The work doesn’t end with feedback. Customers who want to keep the conversation going need tangible proof we’ve acted on their input. An example is our install template. We thought we were extremely easy to work with our Smart Start technology, a website that we would invite new customers to go to. The site guided them through questions to assist us with their set up.

Well, it turned out that many small businesses that are new to VoIP didn’t really understand many of the questions and got frustrated with the tool. In speaking to customers, they would say, “You are the experts, why don’t you configure the system how most similar small businesses would want their systems set up?” We embraced this change, and it has dramatically accelerated our install process and improved our initial customer satisfaction.

Sharing knowledge and insights

The lesson here is that customers expect us to be the experts. That’s why they are subscribing to our service. We can’t be afraid to share our knowledge and insights with them. In the long run, it only can improve the quality of our service.

So be the experts your customers want you to be. Just don’t forget to listen to them. That’s how the magic happens.

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