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“In the six months after we put the system in, our sta­ff declined by 3%, our calls handled increased by 14%, but our average speed to answer remained steady.”

Bill Maurer, assistant vice president

Company

When AEGON acquired additional business units, the impact was felt on more than just the company’s bottom line. Exciting expansions also bring challenges such as serving additional customers, training new employees, and revising business processes. As one of the world’s largest life insurance and pension companies, AEGON commits to its core values of respect, quality, transparency, and trust and includes strict customer service goals in its contact centers, including the 110-employee center at AEGON USA’s Annuity Products and Services (APS) Customer Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

75% of calls answered in 30 seconds or less

50% chose to receive a callback

Challenge

Dedicated to great customer service, the Cedar Rapids contact center focuses more on retaining customers than selling additional products. Through traditional methods, such as hiring additional staff­ to manage peaks in calls, AEGON APS was meeting its service level goal of answering 75% of calls within 30 seconds. However, it was becoming more and more difficult to maintain this goal, especially when the company opted to decrease its staff­ through attrition, explained Bill Maurer, assistant vice president in charge of AEGON APS’s contact center. How does a contact center improve customer service while decreasing the number of customer service representatives?

Solution

In order to maintain high levels of customer service and meet its budgetary goals, AEGON examined the virtual queuing solution from VHT, specifically VHT Callback™.

The ASAP Callback virtual queuing solution allows callers to hang up and receive a return call in the same amount of time as if they had waited on hold, while Scheduled Callback provides the added functionality of allowing callers to schedule an appointment for a return call. With these products, AEGON provides its customers with respectful options for managing hold time.

By using sophisticated algorithms to estimate hold time, the VHT software informs customers of the estimated wait time (EWT) and o­ffers them a choice: Wait on hold or receive a callback in the same amount of time as if they had waited on hold. AEGON APS configured its VHT solution to off­er callbacks when the EWT is more than 2 minutes. By off­ering callbacks, AEGON APS decreases the amount of time customers physically wait on hold — which decreases the risk of losing customers by reducing frustration and improving the customer experience.

In addition to educating and empowering customers the VHT software also provides cost savings to companies through a reduction in toll charges.

VHT off­ers a suite of complementary, patented solutions that help organizations enhance the customer journey in order to achieve greater loyalty, efficiency, and revenue. Omni-channel solutions provide the opportunity to enrich the brand and deepen the customer relationship with every interaction. Deployed seamlessly within any single or multivendor environment, our virtual queuing and customer engagement solutions are designed to empower customers, agents, and brands.

Customers normally use a toll-free number to contact AEGON, and putting customers on hold increases toll charges. Because VHT allows customers to hang up, AEGON does not accrue toll charges while customers wait for their VHT return call. While the cost savings isn’t much per call in the United States, it does add up to a significant amount over a period of time. In countries where toll charges are more expensive, toll savings are realized very quickly.

Allowing customers to hang up while they wait also benefits the AEGON APS contact center by maintaining the 60-second Average Speed to Answer (ASA) goal despite a reduction in sta­ff. When it’s nearly the customers’ turn to speak to an AEGON representative, VHT calls the customers back and transfers them to the front of the queue, greatly decreasing the amount of time that customers wait on hold. Because VHT anticipates when the next agent will be available, customers only wait about 15 seconds before talking with an agent.

The VHT software can also reduce the average call handle time. When customers wait on hold, they become frustrated. As the hold time builds, so does their frustration. By the time the customer gets to the agent, the customer is often so frustrated that 20–30 seconds of time is added to the call because the customer needed to vent about waiting on hold. With VHT, customers are no longer frustrated by hold time. Instead, the experience is so well received that customers actually thank the agents for not making them wait on hold. And customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from the VHT software. “Our customers’ reaction to VHT has been incredibly positive,” Maurer said,” and there was also a distinct mood change in the center: Agents began to smile more.”

75 percent

75% of calls answered in 30 seconds or less

50 percent logo

50% of those off­ered a choice chose a callback option

Real results

From a technological perspective, VHT tightly integrated with AEGON’s existing system that includes screen-pop applications and an Avaya PBX. After just 6 months of using VHT, 7–12% of all callers were o­ffered a callback, and approximately 50% of those callers chose to use it. More than 98% of callbacks were successful.

“In the six months after we put the system in, our sta­ff declined by 3%, our calls handled increased by 14%, but our average speed to answer remained steady,” Maurer said.

The goal of the AEGON APS contact center is to retain customers, and VHT’s positive impact on the customer experience helps the center do just that. By offering customers respectful options for managing their hold time, AEGON APS empowers its customers, enhances the customer experience, and increases customer retention.

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