start small and think big
East Hartford, CT (PRWEB) December 20, 2006
In the late 1920s, when Reuel T. Call entered the gasoline business, he was clearly an early pioneer. He was one of the first visionaries to adopt a self service business model amidst an industry laden with full service pumps. At a time when gasoline supply was certainly not plentiful, he developed his own independent brand and converted his stations to the Maverik brand. The fact that he may not have supply didn't deter him from this objective. To address this obstacle, he boldly built two refineries and thus entered the refining and distribution sector of the petroleum business.
With his new refineries and a fleet of trucks, he began to provide product for his own locations. He also served as wholesale distributor to many others who saw the value in an independent brand. This enterprise would spread across the west as Maverik Country Stores (although the company has since dropped the "country stores" from their name), a corporate-owned and operated chain with 180 stores in 7 western states.
While Reuel T. Call passed away in 1994, Maverik continued to be a family run business, which true to their name, bucked against industry expectations. As the business passed from Grandfather to Father to Sons, they decided they were going to keep blazing a new trail -- this time utilizing the advantage of superior customer service to differentiate them from the competition, in a way not yet utilized in the industry.
Customer service in the convenience store business isn't just about serving the people that walk in and buy a fountain soda or a gallon of gas -- indirectly, it's about servicing the managers and assistants who are running the stores. Keeping them operating at a high level will affect the direct customers. Maverik wanted to improve how they handled incoming service calls internally, from store to corporate.
What they had in the beginning was not quite a call center -- they had 4 people answering the phones, 4 computers, and 4 phone lines. Maverik then hired John Patterson to be the call center manager. Coming over from Continental Airlines, John had a distinct vision for how he could improve things. He knew the owners wanted to reach 300 stores in the next five years. He knew if he could build them a world class call center, he would be doing his part towards meeting that goal.
His first task was to leverage technology to bring his call center up to date in terms of the phone system. He upgraded to a new 3com VoIP phone system. He then visited another industry contact center to study how far ahead they were of where he wanted Maverik to be. He wanted to understand how they were using technology to differentiate themselves. He found that their quality monitoring and agent evaluation system seemed to allow them to fine tune agents' performance. John then contacted a former co-worker at Continental to get another opinion, and hopefully a referral, on a call recording and quality monitoring system.
The Continental contact told John to contact one of the largest quality monitoring system providers -- a company that had recently acquired a large workforce management company. He had left a message with them to contact him about call recording and quality monitoring for Maverik. After weeks had passed without a response, he decided to do some web searching for other vendors. He found a midsize company out of Connecticut named Coordinated Systems, Inc. (CSI) and he read their website. Their product, Virtual Observer (VO), seemed to match every requirement he was looking for. Easy to use, yet robust, compatible with his 3COM VoIP system, and a modular feature set so he wasn't forced to purchase every feature -- he could "start small and think big".
He had found his quality monitoring and call recording system. The sales process with CSI had been highly consultative in nature -- no traditional sales pressure, and John was very comfortable every step of the way. The price was affordable enough to capture every call. Approximately 2/3 of his calls are internal, from the Maverik stores themselves -- store personnel requiring support or help with timely matters. The other third of his calls are external -- from customers and card holders. Maverik's branding efforts include a popular "Adventure-themed" prepaid purchase card program. Now he would be able to lift the customer service performance levels to world class highs.
The implementation and support of the new quality monitoring system went very smooth, exactly as the CSI sales rep had foretold. A CSI support engineer arrived in Utah, and the training cycle was 2 days. The calls had been logging before they even arrived. By the end of the first month, VO had logged almost 9000 calls. John had only anticipated 6000. The system had more than enough capacity, so it wasn't a problem.
The system proved to show an immediate return on investment as during the second hour of recording, the system captured calls from people who had purchased gift cards with bad checks. They had called in to ask why their cards had zero balances. Maverik had zeroed out the balances of the bad cards as soon as the check had bounced. The perpetrators then called into Maverik customer service for help when their cards weren't working. An informed Maverik customer service agent asked them for their names, addresses and phone numbers. They obliged, with VO recording the conversation in the background. Maverik now had a recording of the information they needed to provide police with so they could catch the criminals.
Almost as quickly, VO also helped solve an internal dispute between a store and a CSR over perceived "rudeness". A store manager had called in for help from a customer service rep. The manager claimed the service person was "extremely rude". After reviewing the recorded call, Maverik was able to clearly make a ruling on the dispute and clear the rep of misconduct.
With the capture of the fraudulent check users and the internal dispute resolution, John was easily able to convey some quick success stories to the Maverik owners. Combined with the productivity gains of the new operation, the country store chain had really developed a world class call center.