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Scaling growth at service centers: A CX Moment with Compass

Zendesk chatted with Compass’ Director of Customer Support, Amy Velligan, about applying the lessons she learned at Walmart to the nation’s largest real estate brokerage.

By Denise Lomele, Staff Writer

Last updated May 12, 2022

The real estate industry has changed quite a bit over the last couple of years, and Compass has been at the forefront, using technology to create a platform that is now the top brokerage in the United States for closed sale volume.

Founded in 2012, Compass provides an end-to-end software platform to streamline the buying and selling experience for agents and their clients.

A longtime Zendesk customer, Compass uses Zendesk to deliver white-glove service at scale, handling around 20,000 monthly inquiries.

As part of Zendesk’s CX Moment virtual event series, we spoke with Compass’ Director of Customer Support, Amy Velligan—who spent 10 years at Walmart as the director of customer care—about how she applies the lessons she learned at the nation’s largest retailer to one of the fastest-growing real estate companies in the world.

In her new role at Compass, Velligan deftly navigates the competitive real estate sector while addressing the needs of her customers.

Funneling customer questions to the right agent

At Compass, the customers who require support are mostly real estate agents. But Velligan’s team also fields questions from internal staff who may need IT or product support.

“It’s really about knowing who your customer is when they’re calling support so that you can get them to the right person and answer them the right way.” Amy Velligan, director of customer support at Compass

When real estate agents have questions, their calls are routed to an agent experience manager, who has “boots on the ground” in the office and a wealth of resources from Compass’ centralized support team.

“It’s an in-person dynamic, which is something that real estate really values,” Velligan says of the team. “It’s all about relationship-building and having your people there.”

But routing customers to the right agent at the right time has been a challenge for Compass.

“We’re getting better at it,” Velligan admits. “We’ve recently implemented some natural language processing rules that help identify what the customer is talking about and trying to get it routed to the right team.”

Those support teams consist of agents who specialize in product support, IT, onboarding support, and account provisioning.

“There’s a lot of specialists who can provide very high-touch service—which only works if you get to the specialist,” Velligan explains. “And if you’re sent to the general queue, or you get bounced around a lot, then a customer gets really frustrated.”

In the end, the team at Compass is working toward the same end goal: servicing the customer.

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Scaling customer support services

When Velligan began her role as director of customer care at Walmart, only seven outsourced agents were dealing with customer support at the retailer’s online grocery store. During the pandemic, she scaled the team to 2,500.

At Compass, Velligan finds herself in a similar position. She currently leads a team of 45 in-house agents and is looking to grow her team with outsourced agents.

“Compass’ model prior had been to have internal support, and they were just overstaffed,” Velligan explains. “I was like, ‘We can definitely do this better.’”

The key is striking the right balance between internal and outsourced staffing.

Velligan is a “big fan” of outsourcing, but the key is striking the right balance between internal and outsourced staffing.

Using a scorecard system to see how different teams are performing, Velligan can adjust staffing needs as necessary.

Improving efficiency with automation

At Compass, Velligan learned that the internal team manually provisioned accounts. She saw an opportunity to invest in automation to reduce the amount of repetitive work.

“Even just actual process changes that you have 100-percent control over can be big wins for your scalability—because everything that reduces your handle time increases the capacity that your agents can work,” says Velligan. “And that’s going to help the amount of calls that they’re going to take.”

Embracing the lessons she learned at Walmart, Velligan improved the efficiency of her team at Compass by monitoring the length of incoming calls to make sure they were as short as possible. She also scaled the number of agents so they could properly handle the volume of calls.

“If you answer one customer—great,” says Velligan. “But then you miss 10 calls because you don’t have enough people there—you’re not doing a good job at customer service. Every aspect has to be looked at prior to scale.”

Using data to make smart decisions

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to a customer is to be passed from agent to agent. Having a centralized knowledge base and guided workflows in place can empower your frontline team to find an accurate answer.

“The more layers that you put in and the more approvals you need, it feels to the customer like that person can’t help,” explains Velligan. “And then they don’t have confidence that they’re going to get the right solution from that frontline agent.”

With the right information at their fingertips, agents can better understand each customer and make the correct decision.

Velligan believes that empowering agents to make data-driven decisions can prevent an endless series of manager approvals. With the right information at their fingertips, agents can better understand each customer and make the correct decision.

“Don’t handcuff the agent,” advises Velligan. “I would much rather trust the data and take my learnings from there.”

Missed our chat? Watch the on-demand event with Compass’ Amy Velligan.

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