DRMA Spotlight: Helping Clients and Employees Reach Their Dreams1 Mar, 2017 By: Doug McPherson Response
How ListenTrust increased the profitability of every sales and customer service call by up to 300 percent, while also expanding its team’s capabilities and opportunities.
In March 2006, Craig Handley and Tony Ricciardi teamed to create Listen Up Español, a call center to aid the underserved U.S. Hispanic demographic. Today, the company, one of the DRMA’s first members, has rebranded as ListenTrust and continues to support the Spanish-speaking market. However, it’s recently doubled its business by adding English-speaking agents to support English customer service and sales.
What is ListenTrust focusing on now, a year after its rebrand?
Craig Handley: When we were Listen Up Español, I’d get calls asking for a referral to a call center that does English and I’d say, “You know, we do English!”
While some of our existing clients were benefiting from our English-language services, it was challenging at times to get new accounts — or even to gain English-speaking business from existing clients — that needed English-speaking sales people.
After the rebrand, we wanted to focus on dedicated English customer service — but selling is in our bones! We found that our customer service reps were becoming revenue generators, as well, adding solid numbers to the bottom line. In fact, we had a number of English customer service agents staffed for a campaign that sputtered, so we asked one of our other partners to try us out for English sales calls. It wasn’t in our strategic plan, but we retrained the agents, and we’ve achieved exceptional results. Rapport building is key for creating an awesome customer experience — we want our clients to have raving fans thanks to our services. On the first five English sales campaigns we took, we generated two to three times the revenue they were earning previously. If the number of calls and results stayed consistent for a year, that would mean more than $15 million in additional revenue. Our near-shore call centers are close enough to the U.S. that our agents know U.S. culture. We beat our competitors’ interactive voice response (IVR) results and their U.S.-based live agents in close rate, while maintaining or increasing revenue per sale.
Now we’re focused on maintaining and increasing our Spanish call volume, increasing customer service seats and growing English sales.
Tony Ricciardi: What English services have allowed us to do is twofold. One, we can create a much more even balance across the company. There are a lot of peaks and valleys in Spanish-language campaigns, so adding English customer service and sales provides balance. Second, it allows us to truly leverage what we’ve created here. While we have great systems and technology, it’s our people that make the difference. Combining our technology with talented Spanish- and English-speaking reps allows us to better service existing and new clients. That’s also what the rebrand allows us to do.
We worked with an awesome company called “Branding for the People,” and they helped us create a new name we loved because it held onto our past and moved us into the future. At the core of our business, we connect with our clients’ customers and build trusting relationships. This helps us achieve higher close rates and average order values for direct response and digital marketers, higher customer satisfaction scores and save-the-sale rates for our customer service clients, and greater donor performance for nonprofit fundraising organizations.
You believe strongly in an empowered team. How do you accomplish this with operations in both Maine and Mexico?
Ricciardi: Communication is core to our company’s success. The bigger we get, the more important the rhythms we create in our culture become. Whether every day, three times a week, or monthly, our communication rhythms break down geographic barriers.
We have a daily 20-minute huddle to review key performance indicators [KPIs], discuss progress and goals, solicit feedback from our teams, and answer questions. Our KPIs and goals are shared openly and each individual understands his or her contribution. We practice committed action, which includes communicating deliverables, timelines, and status updates. This ensures all members of the team are informed and projects stay on track. Our employees are also encouraged to reach out to company leaders with both positive and constructive feedback.
We also keep things fun with holiday and birthday celebrations, team gatherings, and awards ceremonies for employee performance.
You had your employees read the book “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly. What was the goal?
Handley: Tony and I both came from working-class families. If I can come from living in my mother-in-law’s basement to living a dream life, there’s nobody on our team who shouldn’t be able to understand that if you can build out what your dream life is, you can live it. There are pillars that each person needs to focus on to do that. We decided we would get more from agent training if we trained them based on what they wanted in life and helped them achieve their dreams. So through our DreamTrust program, we combine our core values with the principles in “The Dream Manager,” along with some items from Jon Butcher’s “Lifebook.” Each of our employees has built a dream list, and their managers are able to manage them from a standpoint beyond that week’s paycheck.
Ricciardi: We’ve always wanted a company that doesn’t just focus on the revenue, but also focuses on our people. In Mexico, we found that there was a gap in dreaming among our staff — like most of us, at times they felt stuck or like they’ve lost direction. We’ve found that people are able to achieve their fullest potential when they live with passion, purpose, and are able to think bigger. It’s our job, as conscious capitalists, to build a culture where either they have so much success they want to stay — or they have so much success that they grow and move on in search of their dreams.
The more we empower people to dream and feel bigger, the more they show up that way in the world — and at work. It’s an ecosystem — by feeding our team with the ability to dream big and achieve those dreams, they’re able to bring big ideas and accomplishments to work.
Handley: One of our company’s core values is to help our employees attain their full potential, and in turn, see the value of corporate social responsibility. Our employees build confidence by giving.
Happiness rises through giving. We surveyed our employees’ happiness. Then we increased their pay by 50 cents for an upsell and measured their happiness again. The pay increase did not increase their happiness, but we did see an increase in upsell performance by 17 percent with the 50-cent payout. Next, we removed the 50-cent pay increase and gave $1 per upsell to charity instead. All of the factors measuring happiness increased and conversion improved by 15 percent on the upsell. Because our agents’ happiness had improved, the tone and energy on the calls also improved, which increased the main offer conversion, and added more revenue for the client and for ListenTrust.
Ricciardi: We’ve supported buildOn’s Youth Engagement Zone at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago — a nonprofit that fosters personal growth through community service by breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations. The school has about 2,000 students — nearly all are a first- or second-generation Mexican-Americans. The buildOn students miss 2.1 times less school than peers, and 86 percent attend college.
We’ve donated nearly $600,000 since 2012, and buildOn’s graduation rates rose from 45 percent to 97 percent since we began our support.
What does ListenTrust need to do to maintain health and growth in the industry’s current climate?
Handley: It’s important to keep testing, especially as technology evolves and new communication mediums emerge. TV isn’t and never will be dead — but today with the younger generation watching Hulu, Amazon, Netflix ,and using social media, bloggers and influencers have audiences that fit your target demographics. So we work with our clients to test new ideas that drive traffic. We believe the new ROI is “return on interactions.” We believe that the trend is to deliver a great product, with exceptional service on every interaction, while allowing people to buy in a way that they are comfortable.
Ricciardi: We’re also focusing on incubating technology so our performance is even smarter and more efficient. We believe in using technology to make phone-call routing smarter, routing individuals to the right type of offer for them. We’re looking at bot technology for lowering customer service costs — or even using analysis from our customer service calls and merging that information from what we’re hearing about a brand’s products online. This is the ListenTrust brand at its core: striving to push the envelope and staying ahead of the curve for our clients and our employees. ■