Back to the future

Back to the future

Back to the Future – Part 1 

One of the earliest services that ContactEngine pioneered was called ‘Install Pre-Call’. A very literal description I’ll admit, but what we were seeking to address was reducing the number of times two people failed to meet at the right place and the right time.

Take our friends at Virgin Media, they have thousands of their colleagues in trucks traveling the land installing broadband and TV. Turning up to a pre-arranged appointment and finding that a: the customer isn’t there, b: they are there, but they didn’t want the appointment, c: they left their 12 year old to let the cable guy in (they can’t do that for fairly obvious reasons) or d: the address was wrong, isn’t very helpful.

In the year BCE (before ContactEngine) around 90% of appointments were successful, which on the face of it looks grand. But that 10% of failed engagements has a very real cost.  We work across all sorts of sectors and the cost of a failed appointment varies considerably – depending in the product being delivered (a fitted kitchen is a touch more expensive to resend than a set top box!) the number of people in the truck (two men jobs more expensive that one), the distance from home to depot etc etc. But as a rule of thumb you can take a number of £50 as the cost of a missed appointment. So let’s do some simple maths on a made up company:

Number of trucks: 4000
Number of appointments per day:10
Days worked per week: 6
% missed appointments :10%
Cost of a lost appointment: £50

So the maths are 4000*10*6*52*0.1*50 =   £62,400,000


So ACE (After ContactEngine), the 10% failure rate is dramatically impacted upon. 1% at a time. Which is this case is in £6.2m increments.  Our RoI rates are typically 10:1 – with one recent client 37:1 and in one recent project 4 hours!!

But it’s not quite that simple.

Because whilst saving an unnecessary truck roll is undoubtedly a good thing, without a further intervention what may happen is that instead of 10 appointments a day our client only has 9. Saving a wasted truck roll but not optimising the process. What we need is a time machine…..

Back to the Future – Part 2

Here’s the problem. ContactEngine are an automated dialogue engine. We can contact 100’s of thousands of people a day. If we only cancelled an unnecessary appointment or rescheduled one – it would take 100’s of call centre staff to refill the emptied ‘white space’ that was cleared in the appointment diary.

That’s rather expensive and frankly eats away at the efficiency gain delivered. So what we needed was some time travelling. That’s what resulted in the development of what we call ‘Backfill’ (see we’re very literal in our naming conventions).

Backfill works by contacting customers scheduled for appointments sometime in the future. So if ContactEngine contacted someone for an appointment the day after tomorrow and they say ‘no’ then using Backfill we reach forward a week and contact a customer and ask them if they want to bring their appointment forwards in time.

Screaming obvious really.

It’s actually rather complex though. Each customer is precious and has to be treated properly. So the offer to ‘bring forward’ has to be timed very carefully – giving Customer X say 30 minutes to respond before Customer Y is next contacted. Then Customer X has to be told that the slot has gone and reminded that their appointment stays as it was. Worse than that – each customer needs to be nearby so that the schedule of appointments isn’t messed up.

Turns out time travelling is quite complicated. Really complicated.

But we like that, cracked the challenge early last year and for some time now our customers have been telling us we have been delivering remarkable additional RoI’s – not only stopping unnecessary visits but also filling them up again.

More Perfect Customer Journeys!

Dr Mark K. Smith

Founder & CEO