Castel Communications: on the record – Rachid Cheaib

Within the financial services vertical, contact centres face a barrage of challenges. As they fight to meet regulatory requirements, agents must also foster customer satisfaction under what can be difficult circumstances. As well as the possibility of non-compliance, there is the likelihood that emotions will run high.

One example is a collection agency reminding a customer about a debt. That customer must be kept on the line for as long as possible, enabling the agent to go through the necessary compliance checks and take steps towards resolving the situation. With one eye on legal requirements, the agent needs to minimise stress and anger on both sides.

"Post-call analysis, which allows management teams to assess how an agent is performing and improve that performance in the future."

Clearly, the strength of the workforce is imperative - agents must be able to connect with customers, keep calm and adhere to the appropriate script. Equally critical is providing staff with the appropriate training and giving them tools that can help them.

"It's important to be able to monitor and train agents to the same set of requirements to help them avoid confrontation," says Rachid Cheaib, president and CEO of Castel Communications. "They need to understand when a customer is really angry, or when they're saying the wrong thing. I think this mediates a lot of the issues, and will help call centres to be more proactive and diligent about handling the conversation."

One part of the solution is call recording, which more companies are doing as a matter of course. Here, the major benefit is post-call analysis, which allows management teams to assess how an agent is performing and improve that performance in the future.

"A long time ago, call recording was done only if the bank required it," says Cheaib. "But customer service organisations now want to record every call, so they can go back and review all that was said in the call. It's proof of good customer service."

Real-time analysis

Whenever data protection issues come into play, today's recording software can be set up to work around them, such as bleeping out credit card details in recordings that will be stored. The option is certainly advantageous, but is more corrective than preventative in scope. Far better is the possibility of analysing the call as it happens. Rather than addressing problems that have arisen, real-time analysis nips any issues in the bud.

Castel Communications provides just such a solution. As a market leader in its field, the company delivers innovative call centre solutions to institutions worldwide. Its list of solutions is extensive: products include a predictive dialler, interactive voice response, digital voice recording, intelligent message delivery and a real-time business intelligence dashboard. With its award-winning software Castel Connects, customer interaction management is streamlined and simplified - the system is estimated to increase agent productivity by around 20%.

"Rather than addressing problems that have arisen, real-time analysis nips any issues in the bud."

In recent years, however, industry demands have become more pressing, and Castel Communications identified a need for a new product that would blend with Castel Connects. The result was Castel Detect, which analyses and monitors calls in real time and cuts the time spent on post-call auditing investigations. By immediately detecting the presence of particular words, phrases or even emotions, it can definitively log a situation.

"Castel Detect does not just feed information to the supervisor live, it also provides it to the agent live so that the agent knows they're following all the parameters that have been given to them," explains Anne Pacifico, vice-president of sales and marketing. "They know they're being successful and don't have to worry about a post-call analysis. They have their own interface on their screen so they can see the analysis of emotions, words and phrases for both sides of the call live."

Returning to the case of the debt collector, US collectors are required to provide a warning, known as a 'mini Miranda', stating the purpose of the call and the customer's legal standing. Castel Detect software can be set up to ensure the mini Miranda occurs, prompting the disclosure and alerting the agent if key phrases are missing. The same applies whatever the specific requirements, be these legal mandates or routine company procedures. And, should a business have different departments, it can track different phrases for each team.

"In the event that you're expected to make particular statements, whether it's 'Thank you so much, have a nice day', or 'Can I please verify your account number?', these particular things are all being tracked," says Pacifico. "Because it's happening live and you still have your customer on the line, there's a higher level of assurance that a customer is being treated exactly the way the business expects."

Sensitivity to financial conversation

As and when the situation needs to be escalated, the software can detect that, too. This allows the business to manage such calls more effectively.

"If a customer makes any statement regarding them filing for bankruptcy or obtaining an attorney, a different avenue may need to be taken," Pacifico explains. "In those cases, the solution can detect the word or phrase, alert the agent and the customer can be transferred to another department. The account can also be flagged for a post-call review to ensure the call was managed accurately in relation to words detected."

This is not so much a matter of forcing the agent to say set things at set times, but of guiding the course of that conversation and tracking its success. Without unduly stymieing the call's flexibility, the software ensures all conversations are conducted in a highly professional way.

"With Castel Connects, customer interaction management is streamlined – the system is estimated to increase agent productivity by 20%."

Particularly salient in this regard is its capacity for emotion recognition. The business can select what types of emotion to monitor and can set the software to detect the presence of that mood. Through analysing the associated sound patterns, Castel Detect determines thresholds for triggering agent warnings and sending alerts to supervisors. This ensures that negative emotions do not surpass a certain level.

The software does not only sense when rules have been breached. Through its robust reporting application, it can score agents systematically and thereby incentivise them to do well.

"Castel Detect stores the calls objectively, and its reports can show how the agent is doing, so you can really see whether they're making progress," explains Pacifico. "If you're a new agent, one of the first things we'll do is to set you up on Castel Detect, so you can learn to acknowledge when you or a customer is becoming too stressed. So when you're released into the floor and start taking live calls, you've already been trained how to manage the emotion levels or watch out for particular words and phrases."

Improved customer service

High levels of customer service are critical in the financial services marketplace, providing a key differentiator between one financial institution and the next. This is particularly the case given the current trend towards automation in banking. A product like Castel Detect can provide all the benefits of automated systems while retaining the element of human interaction on which customer service thrives.

"Castel Detect can provide all the benefits of automated systems while retaining the element of human interaction."

Castel Communications is now looking into adopting a multidictionary approach, whereby the software will detect what language is being spoken and select the dictionary accordingly. This will likely find extensive applications as the demand for multilingual call centres grows. In the meantime, the product's results speak for themselves.

Contact centres have seen a drop in their customer complaint rate and a surge in customer compliments, while quickly achieving return on investment.

"This tool gives the call centre a bigger edge and a much better chance of ensuring customer service than other solutions on the market," says Cheaib.

In financial services, real-time analysis and monitoring can improve the relationship between agent and customer.
Rachid Cheaib is president and CEO of Castel Communications.