Office Depot Uses IVR to Handle Catalog Requests

Office Depot, Delray Beach, FL, is now taking catalog requests entirely through interactive voice response units, without human interaction, through an agreement with Registry Magic, Boca Raton, FL.

Under the arrangement, consumers who indicate they would like to receive a catalog when they reach the IVR at the company’s 1-800-GO-DEPOT number are routed to Registry Magic.

There, callers use their phone’s keypad to enter their phone numbers and addresses into Registry Magic’s Virtual Operator system. For privacy reasons, the system’s recorded voice only reads back the caller’s address. The rest of the ordering process is completed by selecting menu options via the keypad.

“The customer has the option of speaking to a live agent at the time they are selecting the catalog category from the main menu,” said Ken Jackowicz, director of operations for Office Depot, adding that operator-assisted calls are routed back to Office Depot. “We did this more for the customer than our own operations.”

Virtual Operator captures the information in a database and forwards it to Office Depot’s fulfillment center on a daily basis.

Jackowicz declined to comment on how many calls have gone through the Virtual Operator, but said the system is working to the company’s satisfaction. The system is designed to remove repetitive calls from going to the agents.

“We have found the service to be responsive and reliable,” he said. “This is allowing our agents to spend more time with customers, which means we are providing better service.”

Before Office Depot began using the automated system, live agents took hundreds of calls a day to field catalog requests. These calls were processed through an outsourcing service, according to Neal Bernstein, vice president of business development for Registry Magic.

“We can answer 1,000 calls simultaneously,” Bernstein said.

The Virtual Operator system is part of a larger program to add IVRs to several areas of Office Depot’s call center operations. The company is also adding new technology to the workstations, and has implemented automated price look-up for products, product availability, order status, and store locators. Eventually, speech technology will allow customer calling for a catalog to speak the request rather than go through the touch-tone process.

“We need a highly reliable platform to be able to do that. Our expertise is allowing people to speak naturally and we are the only company that has a conversational part to the technology,” Bernstein said. “In some cases Virtual Operator is being used for the front end at a lot of call centers. Then the call is forwarded to the proper department. This is a very small market we are in. There are only three or four companies in this business.”

Registry Magic uses Virtual Operator at its corporate headquarters in place of a live receptionist. The name of the person a caller is trying to reach is simply spoken and the call is automatically forwarded there.

The company’s newest product, Virtual Employee, is designed to allow companies to capture all information inhouse. A client such as Office Depot could process catalog requests and send the customer information directly to its own database without first routing calls to Registry Magic.

“Our goal is for our Virtual Employee teleservices offering to simulate real call center conversations, just as our Virtual Operator is doing, for the own-office environment,” Bernstein said.

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