Posted by & filed under General.

Integrate Exotel with your Helpdesk Software to Never Miss a Customer Call

Every business that works with Exotel, irrespective of the size or nature of their business, wants to ensure one thing – never miss a customer call.

It doesn’t matter if that call you missed is from a potential client or an existing one. For a potential client, your competitor is just as enticing as you are. For an existing one, it’s a missed opportunity to be there for your customer at the first instance. Not missing a customer call is the absolute basic thing to keep in mind while setting up your business phone system.

Also, keeping track of missed calls is not as simple as the admin of a team or the manager of a company getting an SMS or an email saying a call was missed. If you have a small team, it might be possible for the manager (I’m using manager and admin interchangeably) to keep track of these missed calls. Maybe, if you have a team of 5, these emails or SMS-es can still be of a sane manageable number.

What if you’re managing a team of 10 agents? Even if each of them miss 2 calls a day, you’ll be adding 20 emails to an already full and overflowing inbox. And how does one keep track of these missed calls and ensure they’re returned?

We, at Exotel, get about 100 incoming calls and make about 100 outgoing calls on a normal day. There are crazy days when the calls just don’t end, and we lose track of the numbers.

While you see all the calls you’ve missed inside your Exotel dashboard, it may not your top priority to return calls when you’re answering or making calls back to back.

 

missed calls inbox

 

At one point, we were missing more calls than we should be at Exotel and we were so caught up in the everyday job that we weren’t paying close attention to this number. That is where Exotel’s daily email reports acted as a huge wake-up call for us. We made it possible for our customers (we eat our own dog food, and that makes us customers of Exotel too!) to set a value for each call. And using this value, the daily report calculates the volume of business you lose due to missing calls.

 

daily email report

 

When you receive an email like this with such clear numbers, it’s hard to not act on it.

(You can set the value of a call for your business here .)

So, if your call volumes are similar to our’s, how do you keep track of missed calls?

Here’s what we do:

1. Our aim is to never miss any customer calls. So, the rule is, if the phone rings, it will be picked up, and someone will speak to the customer.

2. I looked the number of calls we received through the day to assess our busiest hours. I did this for about 10 days.

Distribution of incoming calls by hour

(here’s a break down of all the information we send in our daily email reports)

We receive the most number of calls between 10am and 8pm. We received calls as early as 7am and up to even 11pm at times. So, I split up our customer support engineers and sales engineers into 3 teams. Team 1 works from 7am to 1pm. Team 2 works from 1pm to 7pm. Team 3 works from 7pm to 1am. All 3 teams work 7 days a week. So each agent works for 42 hours a week, which is how much a person should be ideally working.

3. Since the volume of calls was very high between 10am and 7pm, I have backup agents for this slot.

4. In addition to the backup agents, I add myself as the last person on the list. So, I received a customer call, I knew that someone was missing calls or that the call volumes were very high.

But here’s the clincher. Even if we did miss a call by some freak chance, I wanted to make sure we called them back without wasting any time.

Here’s how we took care of that:

Our support email address hello@exotel.in, which we managed via Freshdesk received an email with details of the call we missed.

App builder allows you to send an email directly to a user or a group about calls you missed — we sent this information to our helpdesk software

 

Using Exotel’s App Builder, you can create or edit call flows in a matter of minutes even for the most complex call logic. What I did was to ensure that hello@exotel.in received an email with the details of the call we missed. So, even if one of the admins or I miss the email, the ticket is there for the entire team to see.

 

 

Missed calls appear as tickets in our helpdesk software and these have strict SLAs in place

This ticket has all the information that my team needs to call this customer back.

Since the missed call appears as a ticket on our helpdesk, we can even track SLAs on these call-backs.

This integration is possible with any helpdesk software like Zendesk, Zoho, Groove, etc. In fact, a lot of these helpdesk softwares have single user plans that are free. So, all you need is a single user plan that can be accessed by the entire team.

P.S.: Watch out for part 2 of this post where I tell you how we make calls right from inside our helpdesk software

When we integrated our ticketing system with our phones, here’s how the number of calls we were missing came down.

no of callbacks to do

If you’d like to set up something similar for your business, give us a call at 08088–919–888 and we’ll help you get started!

Posted by & filed under Cash on Delivery, Exotel, Product.

cash on delivery verification using exotel

I was browsing through some e-commerce related news the other day, and I chanced upon this . It is wonderful to see one of India’s oldest organization, more than two centuries old latch on to the Indian e-commerce juggernaut. E-commerce companies are trying to reach a considerable number of customers who are still not buying online or still are not comfortable about paying online using a credit or a debit card. And the path they have embarked upon to reach out to them is “Cash on Delivery”(COD). The e-commerce players themselves believe that COD is the biggest enabler for the growth of e-commerce in India. According to this article, over 50-75% of transactions go through in cash in India. If India Post alone collects over Rs. 280 crores via Cash on Delivery, you can imagine the size of this market.

If you think about it, there is nothing new about Cash on Delivery. Cash on delivery has been around for as long as we can remember. Remember the grocery shop down your lane? He makes your life so simple and delivers the goods to your doorstep and takes the money from you. All you need to do is pick up the phone and read out your order. It works well for him because he knows you well. He can trust you; he knows you’re not going to say “No, I did not order that” or “Nah, I changed my mind” . And even if you do, he knows how to have his revenge. Ouch!

While e-commerce companies want to make it easy for their customers to order via Cash on Delivery, they face a lot of issues in the form on cancellations and bogus orders. Companies try to optimize and streamline their operations and supply chain and these cancellations cost money and are a real pain to handle. When companies do not use cash on delivery verification, the operational costs become prohibitive and as a result, some companies have grudgingly moved towards purely online payments.

Let’s say, you get 100 cash on delivery orders in a day. Out of which, say, 30 are bogus or invalid orders. Even if you have to pay Rs. 100 on an average as two way handling charges, you end up spending at least Rs. 3000 a day on invalid or bogus orders. For the sake of this calculation, let’s say, you get 30 bogus orders everyday for a year. You spend over Rs. 10,00,000/- on operational costs on just bogus orders.

Using Exotel’s Cash on Delivery verification app, even if you’re able to weed out at least 80% of the bogus orders, your losses due to such orders comes down by 80%!

Quite a few of Exotel’s customers have implemented COD verification using our simple to use APIs. Some even take it a step further and ensure that the customer is home using phone calls before sending the delivery guy on that final mile. And here is how you can do it too.

Let us assume a customer places an order online for George Orwell’s brilliant book “ Animal Farm” and the order id for this order is 1984. He also gives  gives his phone number as 9901-SOME-NO.

3 easy steps to verify the user’s order:

STEP 1: Get your Exotel API key. Here is how .

STEP 2: Setup an app that will help you do the verification using the App Builder. There are 2 ways to do this verification and you can do either.

Option a. Create an automated IVR flow which requests the user to key in the Order ID. The entered keys can be passed to your CRM using the Passthru app where you can verify if the right order id is entered.

Option b. The app could read out the order saying “You placed an order for ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell. Press 1 to confirm the order. Press 2 in case you did not place this order.” The key pressed can be relayed to your CRM that can record the option selected and take necessary action

STEP 3: Use the Call API to initiate a call between 9901-SOME-NO and the app that you created in the previous step.

And that’s it you are all set to expand your customer base significantly while keeping your costs in check.

Happy Scaling!

Posted by & filed under CRM, Exotel, General, Product.

Most of us find the few steps between intent and action to be annoyingly long. We’d like to complete the repetitive, routine stuff asap and get to the important ones.
Yes, we are impatient
So it is with making a call as well. For eg: Once you’ve decided to call up a person from your mobile phone, the steps that it takes from your intent to actually talking to that person is pretty boring. Like picking up your phone, unlocking it, searching for the contact and then calling the number. So things like speed diallers, bluetooth + voice commands become really useful tools to reduce the time it takes to make calls.

If you’ve used Exotel, you would probably have made outbound calls. How many times have you seen a number on a web page or a web app and wanted to call that number? You’d have to open up your exotel dashboard, copy the number, paste it in the call widget and then click ‘Call’. Now assume you’re making 20-30 calls a day. That’s quite a bit of of time spent dialling the number. We wanted to make it easier for you to make outbound calls. So ….we’ve just launched the Exotel chrome plugin .

What does it do?
Exotel’s chrome plugin provides a way for you to make outbound calls from any webpage that you are browsing. With this plugin you can now make calls directly from your CRM web-page or a google spreadsheet without having to copy-paste the number and call from the exotel dashboard.

Once the plugin is installed whenever you view any webpage, the plugin automatically detects phone numbers on the page and places a small green phone icon just before the number. Like this:
Exotel Chrome plugin at work

Clicking on the Call button will initiate an outbound call to the highlighted number.

You can read more about the plugin here .


Would it really help me?

If you are an Exotel user and you have a web based CRM like Salesforce, Zoho or Kreato, you are likely to find this plugin very helpful. Also, if you make more than 20-30 calls a day , this plugin could free up 10 minutes of your time everyday for more useful tasks like listening to your customer calls !

Click here to install the plugin.

Posted by & filed under Call Center, CRM, Product, SMS.

Languages

 

In what language do you converse with your customers who call into your call centre? In what language are your marketing and sales calls? Is it predominantly in regional languages? If yes, why leave out your SMS communications in English? Using Exotel, you can send out SMS is any of the languages, be it part of your call flow, or from the dashboard or as just a SMS campaign. Some of our customers have done some very good integration with SMS, and have experimented with sending out regional SMSes and have found encouraging results.

A case study in numbers

 

Unicode

 

 

One of our customers, an NGO uses SMS-es extensively to reach their members for fund raising. For one of their campaigns, they tried a SMS blast to their members in their regional language. The results were extremely encouraging for them. There was a 8.1% increase in the response rates compared to campaigns in English, referral growth saw an increase of 23.6% and an impressive 13% of their inactive members responded to the SMS. 13% in their case amounts to 1,31,000 members and they had been inactive for greater than six months. For them the ability to get back the inactive users was a big win.

 

Possible Pitfalls

Talking to your customer in their language has its own charm and pull. At the same time, you need to get it right. It needs some good research about your customers and target audience. If you are responding with an SMS from the call flow, you need to be absolutely sure that the caller does know the language in which you are responding. A naive implementation that responds with an SMS based on the region of the caller can go wrong easily.

Bangalore is a wonderful place. When I first moved here one of the striking things I noticed was that most of the locals spoke many languages. I remember once walking into a clinic with my dad, and the doctor greeted us in our mother tongue much to our surprise. He said a considerable number of his patients were from other states and he gets it right 70% of the time, and when he got it right it helped him break the ice quickly. Ah, I digressed a bit there, but it is a nice “Bangalore moment” story in a way related to this post. If your callers are from Bangalore, and you send them SMS-es in Kannada, a good part of your customers might not be able to read it. Another issue you need to consider is the handset of your customers – while most of the smart phones render unicode(regional) SMS-es well, the older phones do not. The SMS-es would show up garbled. Hence know your demographics well. A little research on who your customers/users are would vastly help to get it right.

 

 

Integrate, Experiment and Measure

One of the advantages to use cloud telephony products rather than a in house black box to manage your call center is the ability to integrate with different other software components, and hence the ability to dynamically respond to calls. Exotel provides some powerful features that makes this integration simple. A lot of Exotel customers have done deep integration with popular CRMs like SalesForce, SugarCRM, Pipedrive, Zoho, as well as their own in house software. They record every call and SMS interaction there and also uses the data in their software to dynamically control their call flow – for example respond with a customized SMS, or connect them to a particular department. The other advantage is it lets you measure.

When you send your SMS in local languages, measure how many folks react to it. Your call to action might be a visit to the website or a call back. Measure your ROI, in case your responses drop , experiment with the content (do this irrespective of whether it is in regional language or not), tweak it and test. In case you have not integrated with a CRM, you can still measure if your call to action is for your customers to callback. In such cases, use different numbers in your SMS message for people to callback. You can measure by just seeing the number of calls you get on the number. Go ahead, talk to your customers in their language using SMS, measure and see if it works well for you.

Posted by & filed under General.

I was sitting alone at home one day with nothing particular to do. Many clashing thoughts in my mind started to slowly calm down and I reached a moment when I was finished analyzing thoughts that were bothering me or needing my attention (at least at that moment). At that bliss, my senses were in full control and I was able to observe the faintest sounds and the lightest movements. I felt rejuvenated and excited. I then wondered, as a society, Do we give importance to “Alone time”? I defined Alone time as: When you don’t have anyone around for companionship and have nothing in particular to do. You are at a comfortable place, such as your home. I wanted to find out and mailed a quick survey to fellow citizens at Exotel. Here is what the survey had:     Quick survey Quick survey 1 Quick survey 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what came out it:

  • 86% of us thought we needed “Alone time”. 
  • What was surprising was 73% of us thought we already have enough alone time. This was a bouncer for me! Perhaps people are able to find time for themselves in their  busy lives. Perhaps, I need to get a better with my time management!
  • During alone time, people predominantly wanted to (in decreasing order of preference):
    1) Read (By a large majority)
    2) Travel (This is surprising! I didn’t realise so many people liked travelling alone!)
    3) Stop thinking (Which was reflected in things like watching TV, Do something mindless etc)
    4) Reflect on work related stuff.

I assumed that people didn’t have enough alone time, but I seem to be mistaken. I shelved my original plan of announcing “WFH Wednesday” as that does not seem necessary. Also note that people want to do completely extreme things like “Stop thinking about work” and “Reflect on work related stuff”.