Groupon’s call centre in the cloud

Groupon, the online group discount website, is currently the world’s fastest growing company. Operating in over 250 markets around the world, and with 35 million registered users, the company has grown revenues by 110,000 times in under three years.

According to Arshid Mahmud, head of customer relationship management for Groupon’s UK and Ireland operations, this growth has been underpinned by cloud computing – all of its IT infrastructure is hosted in the cloud.

"We’re now in forty five countries around the world, and we got there in about a year and a half," he says. "If it wasn’t for the cloud architecture we have in place, we could never have done that."

The expansion of its user base, for example, serves as yet another measure of the company’s rapid growth, Mahmud says. "We started off with about 50 users. Now we have about 11,000."

Another example of Groupon’s cloud-based approach to IT is its recent adoption of Natterbox, a hosted voice services provider based in the UK. Natterbox allows rules-driven call routing, which Groupon uses to prioritise customer service calls based on their urgency and value to the business.

Mahmud explains that the software runs the incoming calls from clients and customers. Clients are the businesses that use Groupon to offer discounts and attract new customers, and they typically call in to discuss deals with Groupon’s sales team. Customers are the consumers who use the discounts, and they might call in with lost passwords, requests for refunds or complaints.

“When a client calls, the system looks for a record of their telephone number," explains Mahmud. "If their number is linked to an opportunity that’s worth £100,000 and it’s nearly closed, that needs to go to a top sales person, and Natterbox will direct the call dynamically to the person we’ve allocated to handle any opportunity over £100,000,” Mahmud says.

If the specified salesperson is not at their desk, the call is pushed through to their mobile. If they do not pick up, the system records a voicemail that can be accessed online. Finally, Natterbox alerts the relevant salespeople of the missed call.

Meanwhile, Groupon provides customer service for England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Denmark from its call centre in London. However, it staffs that London call centre with agents originally from all those regions, to provide cultural familiarity and local knowledge. Natterbox recognises the location of the incoming phone numbers and directs the call to a customer service agent from the right region.

The system is a big improvement on Groupon’s previous setup, Mahmud says. "Before we had Natterbox, our customer service department wasn’t handling around 50% of the calls – they were just coming in and getting lost."

“One of the most common complaints we would have had was about the IVR (interactive voice response) system. People hate that, they get frustrated and by the time they get on to the person they need to talk to they’re not as happy as they should be," he explains. "With Natterbox, they get through to a person straight away.”

Additionally, by providing statistics about call traffic, the system allows the company to manage its call centre staffing with greater accuracy.

For example, if there is a large number of calls coming into the system on a particular, it will alert the call centre managers that they need more resources. “We can see when our growth demands that we put new resources in place," Mahmud explains. "Plus, it’s all web-based, so a managing director can see what’s going on in our office from anywhere in the world.”

Beatrice Bartlay

Beatrice Bartlay founded 2B Interface, a temporary and permanent staffing agency in 2005 and has since been serving the UK recruitment sector with specialised services. With more than ten years’ experience...

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