Ever wonder who’s listening in when you place a call and get that familiar automated response “This call may be monitored for quality purposes”?
It’s Timonium-based CallRevu.
The company, founded in 2010, monitors and evaluates customer service calls for car dealerships, then uses the information to train dealership employees on how to improve their call-handling techniques.
CEO Chip King, who worked in auto sales for more than 30 years, knows firsthand that they need all the help they can get.
“Most customers would rather go to the dentist and get drilled without Novocaine than call a car dealership,” King said. “That’s the service I was providing and I didn’t know it.”
King met his future business partner and came up with the idea for the company while working as a general manager at a local Toyota dealership. He had fired an advertising agency after disappointing sales from a pricey advertising campaign. David Boice, who represented the advertising firm, shot back, suggesting King should consider whether his customer service was part of the problem.
King started small, spending nights listening to customer service calls recorded earlier in the day, compiling findings in an Excel spreadsheet and sharing the information with the dealership the next day.
As more dealerships signed on, King decided to get back in touch with Boice and turn the venture into a company.
“It turned into a business without me knowing it was going to,” King said.
Over the past two years, CallRevu has grown its client base from 1,000 dealerships to 3,300 and added 75 employees to its Timonium office, for a total of 176 local workers. The company employs another 30 people in offices around the country and contracts with international call centers.
The company recently received a significant investment from San Francisco-based Serent Capital, which valued the company at $25 million.
The deal, which bought out Boice’s share of the company, will give CallRevu needed financing to take advantage of growing demand for its services, as phone calls become a more critical touch point for dealerships.
Calls used to come largely from people seeking basic information or casually inquiring about cars. Now, customers are increasingly browsing online first and calling only once they have a good idea of what they want and are closer to making a deal.
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What’s more, the stakes are higher for salesmen to be honest on the phone, since information about car value and cost is so readily available online, King said.
CallRevu aims to improve dealerships’ phone interactions by tracking how many rings it takes for someone to pick up, how many calls are redirected, and whether representatives are polite and helpful to callers. The company can text a dealership if a call doesn’t go well.
To take its service to the next level, CallRevu is working on using computer learning and artificial intelligence to interpret conversation in real-time, which would allow CallRevu to scale up more quickly.
Currently, all calls are listened to by a contracted call center worker and summarized manually.
Advanced technology would enable the company to cut down the cost of contracted work, while investing more in hiring its own sales and outreach employees, King said.