Today nearly 350 clients including
The agents don't even have to show up for work. With only a Web browser and a laptop, they can work from home as independent contractors, eliminating traditional overhead costs such as paying for lights, water and even a call center lease, Beard said.
With Beard as chairman and CEO,
Beard sat down recently with this newspaper in
Q: What is
A: All those agents are sitting in a cube with all this complicated technology -- four or five screens -- in front of them that's all optimized for a phone call. But people are emailing for help. They're chatting for help. They're tweeting that they're unhappy and call centers were not ready. They were only ready to handle phone calls. We sell software to manage that call center -- we call them contact centers -- in a much more efficient fashion. We got rid of the phone, the actual phone. All the agent needs now is a browser, a laptop or desktop and a headset to talk into.
Q: Sounds like those companies' agents have a lot more work to handle with all of their new social media interactions.
A: Agents actually see up to a 25 percent improvement in efficiency, partly because they don't need to navigate from one screen to another and they can actually process more interactions. A company with 100 agents can save
Q: How have social media changed the call center experience?
A: In 2011, close to 95 percent of all interactions were voice. Now it's 55 percent but the total number of phone calls hasn't declined. Twenty percent is now email, chats are 12 to 15 percent and
Q: What's the next evolution for call centers?
A: The agent is going to become a more important position. You'll have to pay them more but it's worth it because the impact on your brand is huge. The old world view was, "50 percent of you will leave by the end of the year and I'll treat you that way." But why are agents less important than your marketing folks? They spend more time with your customers. Some of the more forward-thinking contact centers know that it's true.
Current job: Chairman and CEO of
Previous job: President of
Education: Double major in rhetoric and history,
Family: Wife, two daughters
Residence: Old Town Encinitas
FIVE THINGS ABOUT MARTY BEARD
1. Started surfing two years ago near his home in north
2. His first job was as a stock boy at
3. He had no idea what to do with a double major in rhetoric and history. "My plan was, study what I enjoy and I'll do better instead of doing what everyone told me to do, which was studying business."
4. He flies back and forth between his home in
5. When they're together, the Beard family watches little TV. "We read a ton and play a lot of board games."
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