'
Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: How UX is Transforming Enterprise Software

Goodstart takes lessons from Interactive Intelligence on customer experience

Goodstart Early Learning recently partnered with Interactive Intelligence as the first step of replacing its analogue telephone system with a range of new digital touchpoints.

On any given day of the year, 16,000 staff of Goodstart Early Learning, an Australian-based not-for-profit early childhood learning organisation that owns and operates 640 childcare centres nationwide, cares for about 80,000 children and handles 60,000 parents.

But when both parents and staff are respectively looking to get in contact with the company, they are required to pick up the phone and dial a number, where they are consequently put in touch with myriad people, including the company's receptionist or one of the seven call centres run by the organisation, before speaking to the appropriate person.

However, Mark Hannan, chief digital officer at Goodstart Early Learning, said having a phone-only, analogue-style contact option is no longer a viable method of communication -- particularly given the number of calls the organisation receives each day.

"We currently make it difficult for customers to contact us; they currently only can do it on the phone, " he admitted, saying the vision for the company is to create an omni-channel experience to engage in "meaningful conversations" with customers.

The realisation by Goodstart to improve its customer experience has prompted the organisation to look into introducing more communication channels to give staff and customers alternative ways to interact with the organisation.

However, part of Goodstart's journey to creating a viable omni-channel experience for customers is developing an integrated backend, which Hannan said currently operates in silos.

"The mission is we hope to get that collaboration happening across our very fragmented network and break down the silos. I believe we need to do that first before we start to improve our customer journey," he said.

Leveraging PureCloud and social media

As a first step, the company recently partnered with Interactive Intelligence through a tender process to leverage PureCloud, a cloud-based communication technology suite.

Hannan said that although rolling out PureCloud to the company will be an ongoing process over the next few years, the initial release of PureCloud will be used to replace the company's existing analogue telephone system.

PureCloud Engage 1 and Engage 2 will be rolled out to its call centres, followed by PureCloud Collaborate. Hannan explained that different call centres will be given access to different levels of product licensing, depending on the skill sets that will be needed.

"For example, with critical incidents or people who are dealing with parents, they would need a good deal of scripting because we want consistency across our teams. Another example is we may need skill-based routing where people may need to be engaged in a timely manner and we also need good analytics on that to understand how we're performing, and that will determine what level of licence they'd have," he said.

"Or we may have people who pick up the phone and answer generic questions about how we do business, and so they wouldn't need that level of licensing."

Hannan said that part of the process will also involve launching a service desk that will give the company, for the first time, a complete view of its customers, and noted that there is the potential of adopting Hadoop in the future as part of Goodstart's social media strategy, due for launch on July 1.

Currently, call centre staff work on multiple systems, which makes obtaining meaningful customer data difficult, according to Hannan.

He explained that when the company gets to creating 650 Facebook sites, there will be a lot of unstructured data it will need to sift through in order to understand information such as customer sentiment after a call is closed.

"We've never been in [the social media] space even though our customers are in there having conversations, so part of our strategy, especially with tools such as PureCloud, [is] we hope to capture sentiment and understand how can we interact with our customers," he said.

"We're seeing how we can take large unstructured data sets we get from Facebook, send a federated query through SAP HANA and into Hadoop, and bring that result to our end user."

In addition, Hannan believes the service desk will give the company a better line of sight into operations in its call centres.

"When it comes to the actual customer journey and how we affect that, we see the call centres being at the core of that. It's at the core of making sure internally if someone is doing something wonderful that it can be surfaced."

Further down the roadmap, Goodstart also plans to introduce live chat, a feature that is currently used internally on a small scale.

"We're confident that it will have massive, positive impact for our staff and parents," Hannan said.

Digital touchpoints

Telstye senior analyst Rodney Gedda said decisions such as the one made by Goodstart to overhaul its customer experience journey are not uncommon.

According to Gedda, the latest research from Telstye shows improving the customer experience is now one of the top five business priorities for chief information officers, mainly because businesses are increasingly relying on digital touchpoints including mobile, social, and online to interact with customers. He went on to highlight that the performance and the quality of an application, for instance, now falls on the CIO's shoulder.

Telsyte's research further revealed the average number of apps on a smartphone is 23. Some of the typical applications include banking, PayPal, mobile service provider, fitness monitoring, takeaway food delivery, and Uber.

The study also showed one in four Australians have already tried voice commands, mainly to surf the internet and to dictate text. Gedda said these results signal early stages of how customers may expect to interact with businesses later down the track.

"We can expect these types of interaction channels to be growing to be more under the remit of the CIOs, if not directly," he said.