Vocalabs Newsletter: Quality Times


In This Issue:

Coming Soon: Gourmet Customer Service

By Jessica Ament

VocaLabs is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of Gourmet Customer Service: A Data-Driven Approach to Improving the Caller Experience, by Peter Leppik and David Leppik.

This highly readable book takes a look at the reasons why customer service often fails to live up to its potential. The solution is a program of continuous measurement and improvement, using scientific techniques and careful data collection.

Call center managers, corporate executives, marketing managers, VUI designers, IVR programmers, and call center consultants will all find this book a valuable introduction to the basics of why bad service happens, and how to design a test regimen appropriate in a given call center.

Look for Gourmet Customer Service in January 2005.

Foreword to Gourmet Customer Service

By James A. Larson
Manager, Advanced Human I/O, Intel Corp.
Program Chair, SpeechTEK Conference
Co-Chair, W3C Voice Browser Working Group

My initial impression of this book was that this is "must reading" for every call center manager, VUI designer, IVR programmer, and project manager involved in building call center automation. I think this book will have a significant impact on the call center industry by explaining how testing--the afterthought of many projects--can be integrated with the design and operation of call centers and customer service automation, yielding a much improved call experience and reduced costs.

One of the greatest tragedies is to spend months or years developing a call center application that is seldom used because callers don't understand how to use it. One of the largest mistakes managers make is to postpone usability testing until the end of a project, when there is little time or resources left to modify the user interface.

New tools for developing customer service automation are appearing almost daily. Reusable components promise to decrease the time and effort to create applications. Unfortunately, these tools and components also enable engineers to develop poor applications faster and more efficiently.

What's the solution to these problems?


This is a book about a data-driven approach to improving customer service. The only certain way to make the caller's experience better is to gather meaningful data, experiment with changes, and gather more data to find out what the effect was.

Testing is not an afterthought. It is an integral part of designing and operating any call center technology where improved service is a goal.

It is possible to discover and resolve usability problems before your customers discover them for you. But you must select the proper tests and apply them at the proper time. You can bootstrap your call center out of the sea of mediocre customer service into a world-class operation that enables your callers to perform their tasks quickly and easily. When you accomplish this, your callers will become your loyal customers.

Don't let your customers sing the "call center blues."

Southwest Airlines Leaps to Top of Customer Service Rankings

By Jessica Ament

In the most recent VocaLabs' SectorPulse Airlines report, issued October 15th, Southwest Airlines leaped to the top of the customer service standings among the eight airlines we evaluated.

Both Southwest and jetBlue improved from a "B" in Caller Satisfaction to an "A," with Southwest scoring in the 97th percentile for Caller Satisfaction among all companies in VocaLabs' benchmark database, and jetBlue at the 80th percentile.

Southwest was also tops in Call Completion, with 88% of callers able to get the information they wanted on the first call. JetBlue came in second at 84%.

Data for this study were collected over the six-month period between April 2004 and September 2004. VocaLabs recorded 1,189 customer calls to eight different airlines, and surveyed the callers about their experience afterward. Airlines included in this report are America, Continental, Delta, jetBlue, Northwest, Southwest, United, and USAir.

T-Mobile and Verizon in Photo-Finish

By Jessica Ament

T-Mobile barely topped Verizon Wireless for the best customer service among the five companies in VocaLabs' SectorPulse Mobile Phones report issued October 15th.

T-Mobile's customer service barely edged out Verizon in Caller Satisfaction and Call Completion

Both companies earned "A" grades for Caller Satisfaction, and "B's" for Call Completion. T-Mobile's grades are unchanged from our July 15th report, while Verizon improved from a "B" to an "A" in Caller Satisfaction.

The difference between the two companies was less than the margin of error in this study. T-Mobile was in the 85th percentile for satisfaction, while Verizon was just behind at 82nd percentile. In Call Completion, 86% of T-Mobile callers got the information they wanted on the first call, as compared to 83% of Verizon Wireless customers.

Data for this report were collected over a three-month period from July through September 2004. VocaLabs recorded calls from 908 customers of AT&T Wireless, Cingular, SprintPCS, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, and surveyed the customers about their experiences.

One Hour Assessments for Wizard of Oz Tests

By Peter Leppik


If you do Wizard of Oz (WOZ) testing of prototype speech recognition systems, VocaLabs' One Hour Assessment is the perfect way to gather data.

VocaLabs handles recruiting study participants, recording calls, and administering surveys--everything but running the WOZ prototype itself. In an intensive one- to two-hour session, we can gather data from dozens of study participants, saving you days or weeks of time and thousands of dollars.

Contact myself or Rick Rappe (rrappe@vocalabs.com) if you're interested in arranging a demonstration One Hour Assessment for your next WOZ test.

SpeechTEK Challenge

By Peter Leppik

This year, there were nine teams competing to build the best speech application--start to finish--in under a day. A series of VocaLabs studies were used to determine the winner of the Usability award. We had 500 different people call each of the nine Challenge applications, for a total of about 4,500 study participants in under 48 hours.

TuVox won the Usability award, with Nortel a close second. All the data and call recordings are still available on VocaLabs' website: http://www.vocalabs.com/challenge.html

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