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Sonant Corporation: Integrated Contact Management Solutions

reprinted from the San Diego Business Journal - Fall 2000

All the talk about how critical customer relationship management (CRM) is for the success of both businesses and non-business organizations is not lost on one local company, Sonant Corporation. Thatís because organizations usually contact the Sorrento Valley startup when they know they have a customer service problem. Sonantís mission is improving the efficiency and quality of customer relationship management in organizations, before itís too late. And, if you think customer relationship management refers only to an organizationís prospective and current customers, think again. Sonant maintains that customer relationship management extends to organizational improvement as well.

Case in point: A few years ago, the Los Angeles Municipal Court (LAMC) was besieged by a frustrated public calling to request information about court hours, directions, payment procedures, and other topics. It was not uncommon for callers to have to wait up to an hour in a call queue to be transferred to an operator for assistance. And, if the operator could not help them, or had to transfer them to some other part of the system, it could be another lengthy wait. Further, if a caller wanted to pay a traffic citation, they would have to travel to the court Ė a definite inconvenience for most people in the Los Angeles area. The situation all made for a very unhappy public; and, a very unhappy court district: Because of the inefficient phone system, the court (and county) was forced to spend more on collections and call center staff to make up for the systemís weaknesses. The problem also affected the operators who handled the phone calls: Because they were on the front line, many callers, upset at having gotten through after an hourís wait, sometimes took their frustrations out on the agents.

Sonant provided a solution to the LAMCís worries with CourtTalk, a tailored, total contact center solution for court call centers. Now, callers dial in to the system, browse through a host of information messages on a wide range of topics, pay a citation using a credit card, sign up for traffic school, or even make a trial by declaration Ė with or without an operatorís assistance. All this with a single phone call. The public can also access the courtís Web site for the same kinds of information, or to pay a citation online.

Since the new system went live a year and a half ago, the LAMC far surpassed its CRM objectives. Among the achievements:

Paid for itself in less than 6 months
Reduced caller hold times by over 90%
Reduced caller complaints by over 90%
Eliminated the plan to double their call center staff
Freed existing staff for other duties
Realized credit card payment revenues of nearly $1 million per month

While courts remain one of Sonantís primary markets, the company has supplied a range of tailored contact automation systems for parks and recreation departments, hospitals, insurance companies, the New York Mercantile Exchange, and tax collection agencies. In fact, San Diegoís own Property Tax Collection office uses a Sonant contact system, called TaxTalk, to automate responses to callersí questions about taxes, as well as enabling property owners to pay their tax bills over the phone using a credit card.

Whatever the market, Sonant systems help organizations improve their customer service capabilities, as well as enhance their internal organizational efficiency. Itís hard to argue with the results Sonant customers have received since installing their contact management solutions.

How does a Sonant CRM product benefit organization? Hereís a simple, but practical, example: Letís say a company wants to extend customer service through a phone-in call center to dispense information about three service plans. (The companyís Web site is already up, and provides descriptions of the plans. But, Internet access isnít always convenient or available to the companyís customers.)

Callers may now call in to hear a description of each plan, and decide at that moment to purchase one of the plans. In the same phone call, the system accepts their credit card number and processes the payment instantly. If the caller has a question about one of the plans, she can select an option to be connected to an operator. Even while waiting for the operator, she could still browse around other areas in the site, and possibly find the answers he needs. The system does all this while holding the callerís original place in line, then connects her to an operator as soon as one is available. Not only that, but the information the caller entered at the beginning of the call (e.g., credit card or account number) is never lost throughout the complete call. That way, the caller never has to re-enter the same information she entered earlier in the call.

A simple system such as this frees up staff from having to process these calls manually, eases customer access to product information, and provides another revenue source, or enhances an existing one.

About Sonant
Sonant Corporation, a privately-held technology company based in San Diego, provides customized phone- and Web-based contact and information management systems for a wide range of industries and government organizations. ClientCall eCenter™ is the foundation platform of Sonant's family of contact center and electronic payment automation products. The products and services include such contact center automation features as Automatic Contact Distribution (ACD), Automated Speech Recognition (ASR), Interactive Voice Response (IVR), electronic payment by phone and Internet, Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), and fax-back. ClientCall eCenter™ is designed to enhance an organization's customer service and reduce operating costs.

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SONANT Contact:

Charlie Smith,
(800) 929-2920, x218,
csmith@sonant.com

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