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Cigars International Rolls up a Bundle of Workforce Optimization Features to Help Bring Their Vision of the Customer Experience to Life

East Hartford, CT (PRWEB) January 29, 2013

When Cigars International first launched their call center, there were four agents working on the sales side and another four answering customer service inquiries. As the center grew, agents still handled both sales and customer service calls of varying degrees. “Sales calls can be as simple as placing an order from a customer who know exactly what they want or they can be complex consultative type sales calls. Representatives will make recommendations to fit a certain taste profile or budget. Customer service calls can be as simple as tracking a package or as complex as explaining the science of cigar humidification and troubleshooting their humidors. Customer service calls can also include setting up returns and sending out replacements. We have a number of different promotions on a daily basis, some lasting just for that day or for the remainder of the week. Representatives are expected to be able to field any inquires about current promotions,” said Steve McDevitt, Sales and Customer Service Manager for CI.

Over the next 18 months, they implemented a training program which created a new concept: the universal agent, capable of handling all types of calls, and eventually expanding their skill sets to also blend in the email and web chat channels. Focusing on the customer experience, CI then set to ramp up their quality and training processes with a call recording and analytics system which would be able to do much for them than they ever imagined.

After a lengthy search, CI chose Virtual Observer due to it’s “ease of use, ease of implementation and of course value for the dollars spent,” offered McDevitt. Implementation and training went smoothly and the responsiveness of the VO support team has made CI’s staff very pleased.

“With any e-commerce firm or direct marketing company, understanding how customers are getting to you is key in determining where to spend your marketing dollars. Listening to calls and refining our approach to finding out that information has been extremely helpful in what’s working and what’s not,” McDevitt responded when asked about VO’s value.

When asked about the scoring and evaluations process offered by VO, McDevitt said “we used the evaluation tools in VO and there are 4 key areas, opening and closings, conversational technique, product knowledge and cross-sell/up-sell. VO has provided us with the opportunity to improve aspects of each of those areas. Screen capture and evaluations – these two features alone have improved the overall quality of our calls, which has resulted in more efficient calls and high average orders.”

CI has seen a direct impact on agent performance since implementing VO. Trainers, supervisors and leads are able to identify training needs more quickly than they could before.

CIs contact center handles 2150 calls per day, on average, and boasts exceptional answer times, with 80+% of calls answered in 40 seconds or less and an abandon rate is .5%. The contact center management spends a significant amount of time, resources and money on continual training. A primary focus is having representatives be more conversational in their calls as opposed to just being order takers. “We encourage our representatives build relationships with customers. It’s not uncommon for a representative to have list of customers that only deal with them. We are always seeking to improve the customer experience,” McDevitt added.

Once structure was in place our initiatives evolved from process improvement to quality improvement. All initiatives now are focused on improving the customer experience, regardless of their method of contact (phone, email, live chat, online account interface).

With the quality monitoring process on track and continuously improving, Cigars decided to invest in a more aggressive technology, phonetic-based speech analytics feature of the Virtual Observer suite, to help take the quality assurance process to the next level. When asked about return on investment from speech analytics, McDevitt answered “One really important insight was a change needed in our training model. We suffered from the ‘whisper down the lane’ syndrome. Even though we were providing comprehensive training materials with talking points. Even though we delivered those materials several different ways (classroom, desk side, email). We found that shortly after training the talking points took on a life of their own and became something else. Often times wrong information would evolve. It would have been days or weeks before we would have uncovered this, with speech it was in one afternoon. While we still have the same training materials and methods of training, we’ve added good and bad calls with screens captures. We also added mock calls/role playing.

The value in the resulting data generated by the speech engine is not limited to the Contact Center. “We’re just touching the tip of the iceberg on what Marketing can get out of speech. We’ve used it a number of time already to gauge the customer response to a marketing effort. We’ve used it a number of times to hear what our customers are saying about a particular topic or item and then we’re crafting promotions based on those findings,” McDevitt added.

About CSI
Coordinated Systems, Inc., (CSI), enjoying our 40th year in business, has thrived on building high-quality, long-term relationships with customers and partners. CSI’s flagship product, Virtual Observer (VO), is a call recording and workforce optimization solution for contact centers. VO supports Avaya, Cisco, NEC, Mitel, ShoreTel and many other leading phone systems. VO provides an extremely high value to price and tremendous customer satisfaction. For more information, please visit

About Cigars International, Inc.
With new retail locations and an exploding e-commerce site, Cigars International, out of Bethlehem, PA, Starting in March 2008, Cigars International launched a program matching customer purchases with a matching donation to our troops. The program, with customers buying a Cigars For Troops sampler (see attached), resulted in a match of over 18,000 cigars and will be distributed to deployed military troops. The campaign was advertised in various national publications, offering customers 3 premium cigars for only $5 and the promise to donate the same amount of cigars to our troops. The Philadelphia Airport USO will receive all 18,000 plus cigars and send them to actively deployed military overseas. Due to the size of the donation, the USO has agreed to distribute the cigars to a number of locations so that more military are directly impacted. Previously, Cigars International has donated over $10,000 to Walter Ried Army Medical Center and donated over 25,000 cigars to the troops through various promotions. Never before has one single donation been this large in quantity. The most popular selling Cigars are the ACID and 5 Vegas. They trade back and forth on the number one spots throughout the year.


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