I had coffee this afternoon with Wes Hayden, president of LiveOps, a virtual call center company that has more than 20,000 agents on call throughout the United States, working on behalf of veteran infomercial vendors like Ronco, Miracle Blade, and Tony Robbins.
Hayden said retailers, financial services companies, and anyone else trying to hawk their wares to the public have found this system cost-efficient, transparent, and a good substitute for offshore call centers, which have created a backlash among many American consumers.
The software-as-a-service model offered by LiveOps also allows vendors to increase capacity when campaigns are running, without having to hire and train their own staff or lease office space.
Hayden told me turnover of LiveOps agents is 10% per year, compared with 100% per year for the traditional call center industry. He says the agents appreciate being able to choose when they're on call -- the system lets them narrow their availability down to half-hour increments.
The platform also gives them training that bumps their profiles and gets them more business from LiveOps customers.
All they need is a telephone, a computer, and a broadband Internet connection. (I suppose that's one more reason to support Obama's 21st century version of the rural electrification program.)
When customers call that toll-free number, the preliminary answers they give on their touch-tone phones (press 1 for English) help the LiveOps software route calls to agents with the right kind of language skills or special licenses (especially critical for financial services offerings like insurance).
Agents with the highest conversion rates and up-sells get more calls routed their way, and because agents are paid per-call, they are especially motivated to sell that extra Obama coin for just a few dollars more.
Meanwhile, vendors get to track the performance of a given campaign in real time, and can drill into reports to see how individual products or even particular agents are performing.
The reports are typical Salesforce.com-like dashboards, hardly state of the art reporting, but LiveOps VP of marketing Azita Martin told me, "in the call center industry, this is pretty hot."
Vendors pay LiveOps per agent per minute, and can add extra capacity when they need it. Hayden told me LiveOps has handled one million calls for a single customer in a three-hour period.
That means you won't be put on hold while agents are assisting other customers.