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TCN Executive Interview

McKay Bird, Marketing Director, TCN

Utah-based TCN offers scalable and customizable cloud-based software solutions to meet the needs of large and small call centers alike, including its comprehensive TCN Operator software suite. It incorporates seamlessly integrated tools to enable companies to:  

  • Optimally configure and monitor agents
  • Set up skill-based routing to provide increased efficiency
  • Enhance performance reporting and business intelligence
  • Streamline agent tasks through the Agent Gateway interface. 

The suite also incorporates omnichannel communications, compliance, data management and more. CrmXchange discussed the latest developments with McKay Bird, Marketing Director for TCN.

Growth During the Pandemic: Emerging Trends in Work-at-Home and a Return to Live Events

Since our founding in 1999, we’ve never taken any funding.  Money is reinvested back into the company. It is a strategy that has worked for us. We’re very dedicated to our technology and the industry.

We believe that we have been able to weather the pandemic better than most companies. We took it as a time to reflect what was needed from a business perspective: what might be excess and how to make things more efficient. We have achieved significant growth, approaching 40% in 2020. Our cloud-based platform was built for situations where companies can monitor their work at home agents in an efficient manner.  

Consumers who were understanding about delays during the first few months of the pandemic are no longer willing to be as patient. We are learning how everything is interconnected; a perfect storm which may have started with the pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in our supply chains and logistics that need to be addressed.

Before the pandemic took hold, there were a lot of companies that were on the fence about moving to the cloud and whether it was right for them. Early in the pandemic we saw that there were unexpected problems with moving agents to working from their homes such as firewall and internet bandwidth issues. Some call centers were trying to connect their premise solutions to at-home agents. The actual problems were mostly not those you would imagine, such as running out of headsets or laptops to equip these agents. We were able to help one organization in need of laptops get orders through by leveraging our partnership with Dell. These were issues they didn’t encounter until the agents were sent home. Some companies also learned that some of their agents in the US didn’t even have internet connectivity or a connection that was not robust enough to handle the necessary bandwidth.

We did need to make some adjustments to our applications to meet these new challenges.  I’ll share two examples: First, we had a basic communication tool to enable managers to chat with agents that didn’t allow agents to chat back. The moment Covid hit, sending all our clients’ agents’ home, our CTO encouraged our project managers - who are given a lot of leeway to devote time to personal projects in the development team – to pitch ideas for features to make the necessary improvements.  A few months prior, there had been a pitch for a full-fledged internal chat communication layered on top of the agent and management experience. We were already working on it and had a rough framework of what it would look like.  When the crisis hit full force, within 30 days, we were able to have a full-fledged internal chat application that met the needs of managers and agents. It was all built within the agent experience, so they never have to leave the application. They get a little ping in the top right-hand corner of the screen and can reply to a message or notification and close it when they are done. It was huge…allowing agents who weren’t getting face-to-face contact with their manager to communicate. They could even ask a fellow agent for help on a specific call. This advance in internal communication is something we call ‘Room 303.’ It’s been a tremendous success.

The second example is an increase in automation, something a lot of call centers had already been doing. The demand for such features as advanced IVR capabilities, payment processing, data dip and account lookup went up astronomically. Being able to appropriately process such customer journeys via automation makes everything far more efficient.  While our IVR was already robust, we made some big changes to further improve it. We did have to make some adjustments in how payments were being handled, mostly behind the payment gateway. We also did some additional integrations with payment providers with whom we didn’t have an existing default API. Taking those additional steps helped tremendously. Our IVR also has pathing that makes it easy to make changes and prevent consumers from winding up in an empty pathway. It’s a drag-and-drop functionality that won’t allow the client to save a non-functional place in the queue. The system will ask the user for some conclusion or an exit or some sort of advancement. We did see an increase in automation and better communications modalities throughout the industry.

Creating a Stronger Presence in WFO

Sometime in the early summer of 2021 we are planning on launching our own WFM/WFO product, which we call Workforce Engagement combined into one suite. Building our own WFO is a natural progression with our product line. TCN grew up in the outbound space. As we evolved our technology and software, we reached a point where we needed to start innovating. We developed our inbound IVR about nine or 10 years ago which moved us into the inbound market. Then we slowly added feature new features. We have outbound, inbound, a few omnichannel products as well as speech analytics. WFO is the next logical step. We like to provide our clients with a total solution in order to help them create a better customer experience. We’re confident that we can best service and troubleshoot a product that we have developed.

Competitive Advantages in the Marketplace

We believe one of our greatest advantages is that we provide a no-contract pure cloud experience in a holistic platform. By no-contract, we mean no monthly minimums or long-term   obligations. Many providers in WFO and speech analytics space lock their clients into binding agreements. The point of cloud is being able to leverage the flexibility it allows. To us, that means no contracts. Clients pay only for what they use and use what they pay for. If a company needs to add agents, they can add agents. If they need to downsize, they can do so. If there is an event that produces an influx of calls, the flexibility to handle the volume is there.

Customers appreciate that they are not locked into minimum usage requirements. They can’t say enough about how they can turn agents on and off and take advantage of different functionalities with a comprehensive, easy-to-use, no-contract platform that can be spun up in days, as opposed to weeks or months.

We had a conversation with an industry analyst recently who told us not to underestimate how long it takes some of our competitors to set up. The analyst felt that this gives us a unique point of differentiation that is our strongest selling point.

The other significant advantage is in our 24/7 customer support. Our clients appreciate our teams and the care they provide at no cost. We take these relationships even more seriously because of our no-contract policy. We work on a month-to-month basis with our clients so we must provide that consistently positive experience to the companies that rely on us or they will find someone else who will deliver the kind of service they require.

Global Presence, Post-Pandemic Trends and Future Outlook

TCN’s sales and support office is in Salt Lake City and our headquarters is also in Utah in Saint George. We also have offices in Mays Landing, NJ (near Atlantic City), as well as internationally in Toronto, Adelaide, Australia and Chennai, India.

We are one of the few cloud vendors licensed to sell and service the Indian market.  They have strict laws and regulations surrounding telecom and voice traffic. In India, we work with a major hospital and bank, each with around 2500 agents who are all working from home. Many of them are accessing our software via iPhones provided to them by these companies.  Some had previously not had a mobile phone or even a land line. This speaks to the flexibility of the software and what can be accomplished by using it. We take pride in consulting with our clients to help them overcome challenges and find a way to get the resources they need to make the transition to work-at-home as easy as possible.

As the pandemic winds down, we believe that the trend toward greater flexibility in working hours for agents will continue. This advantage was often not available to the hourly wage worker.  Schedule flexibility is not only a benefit but can act as an incentive for agents to choose one call center over another. We also see the growing role of automation and adaptation of the cloud as pandemic-driven effects that will continue as we move forward. Companies will also rely more artificial intelligence to predict ways to improve their business.

We’re excited about the future of the CX contact center space!