Let’s have a conversation about what it means to listen. I mean really listen.
Research reveals that we only retain between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. So that means when we are conversing with customers and colleagues, both sides are getting only about half the message. That doesn’t bode well for a successful business transaction.
Now imagine a customer call center, where hundreds or thousands of calls are taking place every day. Further imagine having the power to capture 100 percent of every conversation and unlock the true meaning behind every order, every suggestion and every complaint. Now you’re really listening.
This is exactly what the technology innovators at Calabrio are helping companies to do. They are revolutionizing the way companies listen to their customers through leading-edge soft ware designed to record and analyze 100 percent of customer interactions from any channel – phone calls, social, Web chats, texts, etc. This technology does not replace human communication; rather, it enhances it by listening to the whole conversation and then providing valuable insight into the customer experience. Calabrio’s scalable workforce optimization (WFO) suite, Calabrio ONE, combines quality management, workforce management, and analytics, transforming a contact center into a customer engagement center.
When president and CEO Tom Goodmanson joined Calabrio in 2008, the industry was taking a hardware-centered approach to WFO. “I reimagined the call center as a soft ware-driven world,” he said. “People looked at calls as something you record and pull back when there’s a complaint. I looked at it and said we have the real voice of the customer. We can use soft ware tools to unlock that voice and understand the customer better, and give them better service.”
Goodmanson has led the company on a journey of exponential growth through a series of bold moves. In addition to transforming the industry model from hardware to soft ware as a service, he has embraced Web 2.0 technologies, widget technology and most recently, the cloud. “A year-and-a-half ago we became the only company to offer cloud-based delivery. We’re still the only one in the world to do that today. We continue to evolve as new technologies are developed, and the way we interact with customers is changing daily. In the beginning, 85 to 90 percent of customer interactions were by phone. Now that number is around 60 percent, as phone interaction is being replaced with chat, email and social media. We’ll see that change again as other technologies come in and allow us to do a better job of communicating.”
Goodmanson expressed his excitement about the next generation of tech, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication. He predicts that very soon, your washing machine will be the one contacting the repairperson or the manufacturer directly when it needs to be serviced. And in this scenario, the repairperson becomes the customer service agent – speeding up and adding convenience to the customer’s experience.
In an industry that typically experiences 10 percent annual growth, Calabrio has grown by a staggering 40 percent to 50 percent per year for the past six years. This increase led to another milestone in Calabrio’s evolution, its acquisition by private equity firm KKR in the fall of 2016. KKR has invested more than $17 billion of equity into companies in the technology, media and telecom sectors since 1983.
“We’ve had wonderful partners who funded the first growth of the company,” Goodmanson said. “With our rapid growth over the last several years, it was time for not just a new financial partner, but a strategic partner who could help us continue to change the game in our market and take leader status.”
Practicing What They Preach
At Calabrio, listening is integral to the culture. The proof is that more than two-thirds of Calabrio’s product innovation is inspired by customer feedback. “It’s at the core of everything we do. Early on we decided that to be the best software company, we had to start and end the day listening to our customers. They will tell us what they want. We have a great Web portal where our customers can log comments on how they’re using our software and the things they’d like to see in future releases.
“Something new over the last 12 months is that every other Thursday, employees stop what they’re doing and begin randomly calling customers. We record the calls and listen to what they want and how they perceive our quality. We document if they have had a bad experience, brainstorm about how to make it better, and then call the customer back with a solution.”
Goodmanson believes, however, that nothing beats a face-toface meeting. He is famous for getting on a plane and visiting customers all over the world just to hear what they have to say about how Calabrio is (or isn’t) working for them.
In 2010, the company launched its annual conference, Calabrio Customer Connect (C3), an event that brings customers, partners and industry experts together to share ideas and insights. With offices in London and Singapore, Calabrio is hosting its first overseas conference in London this May.
Calabrio also listens to its employees. It is an informed culture that responds to the interests and desires of the people under its own roof. And this group has fun together, whether they are collaborating to build better technology, or learning how to make guacamole.
“I have a passion for work, and I like people who are passionate. I believe that as a company, we are only as good as the last person hired. I have awesome people around me – they’re all rock stars. People spend half their waking life at the office. We want their experience here to be meaningful and part of a virtuous cycle that makes them a better person when they go home to their family.”
Goodmanson is also passionate about developing a more diverse workforce in tech and other scientific fields. “We are so far behind in the world, letting over half our population opt out of STEM fields as a viable career because of many social biases. I am all about finding unique ways to engage women and minorities.”
When Goodmanson first joined the company, he wrote a thesis about why the company was in business. To this day, that mission statement sits on every company desk, and its guiding principles are reviewed at the start of every corporate meeting.
As part of the KKR acquisition, Calabrio published a 100-day plan setting forth 31 key initiatives for the company over the next three years. He published a second version, minus the proprietaries, and disseminated it to all 300-plus employees. “I think my most flattering moment as CEO was when I received texts from employees who took pictures of the book on their desks and said, ‘This is the coolest thing ever. Thank you.’”
Listening to the Needs of the Community
“As a company, we are part of the community, and we need to act like part of the community. We are defined by what we stand for.”
Goodmanson has a big heart for giving back, and, in 2014, he was honored as runner-up in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year campaign for raising $100,000 for blood cancer research in honor of his father. He leads Calabrio in supporting this and many other worthy organizations, including Be The Match, the Fisher House Foundation and the Minneapolis Children’s Hospital.
Goodmanson also serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity. “One of the most basic things in life is safe and affordable housing. Helping someone with a hand up so they can have a home has proven one of the most effective ways to break poverty cycles. I’m so passionate about this issue and proud of how our people have responded to support this and other causes. We are part of Entrepreneur House, a Habitat project that is supported by a group of business owners here in the Twin Cities. Our employees will be helping to build this year’s house, and everyone is looking forward to it.”
At least three times a year, the company comes together to give back through several initiatives: Habitat for Humanity, a holiday project, and a cause selected by the employees. Further, Calabrio supports individual giving by allowing employees to take time off for charitable activities. Giving back has also become a way for Calabrio to engage with its customers.
Turning Insights Into Action
Calabrio helps more than 4,000 companies worldwide to be better listeners. By really listening, these companies are not just providing better customer service, they are also illuminating trends, enhancing employee performance, mitigating risk and increasing the effectiveness of their operations.
As a species, we are continuing to develop technologies that elevate the human experience, from decreasing menial labor, to improving health, to expanding our understanding of ourselves and the universe. Our ability to communicate more effectively, to really listen to what others are saying, is arguably one of technology’s greatest applications, and Calabrio is taking the lead in in changing the conversation.