All posts by elkepelke


Why Do Freelancers Charge So Much Per Hour?

Why Do Freelancers Charge So Much Per Hour?

I choked the first time I got a project estimate from a freelance writer. I was a full-time employee at a big company, trying to hire someone to take over a project that I’d been doing myself for over a year, but had recently been promoted beyond. The freelancer’s rate was way, WAY more than I made per hour.

There’s a simple formula for figuring an annual salary based on an hourly wage: multiply by two and add three zeros. Right? For example, when I made $13 an hour at my first writing job, that translated to about $26,000 per year ($13 x 2 = 26). The hourly-to-annual formula works because when I had that job, I got two weeks of paid vacation a year. Each year has 52 weeks. Subtract the vacation weeks, and you have 50. $13 an hour times 40 hours a week ($520) times 50 weeks a year equals $26,000.

So, when I saw that my freelancer was billing $100 an hour, I quickly figured she was clearing about $200,000 a year. (My own salary at that time was significantly less than half that.) But my math was wrong.

I have to admit, seeing that rate was one of the reasons I left my job about a year later to go freelance myself. But now, 14 years into the self-employment gig, I know why basic hourly-to-annual formula doesn’t work for freelancers. It’s because we don’t bill 40 hours a week—even if we work 40 hours a week. Or 50.

In short, freelancing is a different business model—for us and for our clients—than full-time employment. It all comes down to billable vs. non-billable hours, stuff we buy ourselves and the value we bring. Let’s break it down.

Billable vs. Non-Billable Hours

How do you spend your first hour of work in the morning? Mine looks like this: I fire up my computer, open my email and sip a cup of tea while I figure out what my day looks like: meetings, due dates, email responses. I might even read a couple of news articles. Then I make a to-do list, with priorities. That usually takes a half-hour to an hour.

Most people have a similar routine. Now: who should I bill for that hour? If you’re my client, do you want to pay for that?

Of course not. I can’t bill anyone for that. Is it a necessary part of work? Absolutely. It sets me up to be productive for the rest of the day and allows me to give clients accurate estimates of when I’ll complete their projects. If I was a full-time employee, that would count as one of my working hours. As a freelancer, it’s not billable.

There are other, similar times throughout the day: getting back up to speed after lunch. The time it takes to pack up and leave for the day. Taking a breather to check email and reset between projects. Maybe my reward is watching a couple of cat videos online. Or responding to that email from my aunt. Again, nobody pays me for that.

What else isn’t billable?

  • All work related to signing new clients: talking to prospective clients on the phone or going to meetings, drafting (and re-drafting) proposals, etc.
  • Vacation
  • Marketing: keeping my website updated, lunching, social media and other networking that keeps me in touch with potential clients

In fact, a good, solid, 8-hour working day usually includes just 4-5 billable hours.

All the Stuff We Buy Ourselves

Freelancers have to have somewhere to work, just like full-time employees. Whether it’s a home office, a co-working space or your own very fancy office with a receptionist and your name on the door, it’s an expense. And you have to have a few other things in that office too, like a desk and a chair. Maybe a bookshelf. You get the idea.

I pay several hundred bucks a month to rent a desk in co-working space.

IT equipment and support
One of the first things you get when starting a new corporate job these days is a computer. Freelancers? Yeah, we buy those for ourselves. They cost a few grand, every few years. And you also need a keyboard, a mouse, and monitor. If you’re a designer, you need an extra need another grand for software, again, every few years (and probably a really big monitor, or maybe two of them). Freelancers also pay for our own mobile devices and service.

Then there’s your accounting software (Basic QuickBooks is $9.99/month), and a back-up service (Dropbox for business is $99 per year).

Office supplies
Sadly, there’s no magical, self-filling supply cabinet at my office. I buy all my own pens, paper, post-it notes, calendars and tissue boxes.

Website and email
My website hosts samples of all the different kinds of work I do, because new clients want to verify that I know what I’m doing before they hire me. The IRS refers to this as an “advertising” expense.

For mine, I did all the writing myself (natch!). I traded for the design by writing copy for a friend’s design firm. I had to pay $5000 for someone to build it, and I pay $20 a month for hosting plus email. I also pay per year to register my various domain names.

Extra taxes
If you’re a full-time employee, you pay half of your payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, etc.), and your employers pays the other half. Freelancers pay 100%.

Doing business in California
For “the privilege of doing business in California,” I pay the state Franchise Tax Board $800 every year. I could get around this by incorporating in Delaware instead of California, but I don’t know. That seems like cheating somehow.

Ouch: I pay almost $500 a month for a high-deductible plan that I use with a Healthcare Spending Account (HSA) of my own tax-deferred money. It essentially covers nothing until I’ve paid $5000 out of my own pocket first.

Food and other perks
Yeah, I know… this is just a Silicon Valley thing. But that’s where I work, so I’m including it in my list. I buy (and make!) my own food and beverages. I also pay for my own yoga, gym membership, house cleaning and dry cleaning.

The Value Freelancers Bring

Now, let’s talk about value. Freelancers are good at what they do. I know this because if we weren’t, not enough people would hire us to make the numbers work.

Long-time freelancers are experienced professionals who can jump in right away and deliver a fantastic product with little or no oversight. Once the project is over, we shake your hand, send an invoice and never bother you again. No strings attached. We’re in. We rock it. We’re gone.

You don’t have to add headcount. You don’t have to coordinate interviews with the whole team. You don’t have to go through a formal hiring process. You don’t have to keep us around once the project wraps—but you can if you want. You don’t have to add a weekly one-on-one meeting to your calendar. You don’t have to do a 360-degree review with us once (or twice) a year. You don’t have to help us define and achieve our career goals.

Because, come on. I know how much you’re paying your full-timers. And the bottom line is this: You’ll pay me less for the same work, and I’ll get it done faster. For real. You should see how much I can get done in an hour.

What’s that worth to you?


Intuit Security eLearning

Intuit Security eLearning video series

Security is a serious topic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun learning about it. Watch one or more of our interactive videos for information and tips about staying one step ahead of cybercriminals.


Phishing: Don’t take the bait!
Thieves who “phish” for their victims pretend to be a bank or other legitimate organization so they can trick you out of revealing valuable information.


Identity Theft: Protect Yourself
Who are the most likely people to steal your identity? Learn that, plus how to protect your personal information, and what to do if you think someone may have stolen your identity.


Fraud: If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is
Learn about common Internet scams, how to spot potential scams, and what do to if you’ve been the victim of fraud.


Social Media: Be Careful Who You Trust
Social media sites are a great way to keep in touch with family, friends and business associates. Watch this video to learn how to keep yourself—and your friends—safe.


Play it Safe with Portable Devices
Portable devices are small and lightweight, making them easy to carry with you — but also easy to lose and steal. Watch this video to learn how to play it safe with portables.



LinkedIn blog post

LinkedIn post

for Matthew Talbot, Senior Vice President, Emerging Solutions at BlackBerry

How Social Commerce Is Changing the Music Business

As Steve Jobs famously said, “The first iPod…didn’t just change the way we listen to music—it changed the entire music industry.” But it wasn’t just the iPod. It was the combination of the iPod and the iTunes music store that together introduced a new way to purchase and listen to music. Today, social media is completing the picture for digital music, giving us a new way to discover new acts and share our favorites.

Music marketing has always had a social aspect to it, whether it was going to live music clubs, playing records with a group of friends, tuning into a favorite radio program, or sharing a set of headphones. We’ve always learned about music through word of mouth, friends, and family. Now that we’re all connecting via social media platforms, of course, music has arrived there as well.

Building a New Model

There’s a sea change going on in the music industry right now, where the old business model is crumbling — mostly attributable to the digitization of music and the ease of stealing it through services like Napster. What will replace the old model isn’t yet clear, but there are promising ideas in the landscape. And social media will certainly play a role.

If you doubt the effect social media can have, just remember back to the summer of 2012. That’s when the K-pop super hit “Gangnam Style” by the artist Psy became an international phenomenon because of social media. To promote the song, Psy’s music label uploaded the video to YouTube and tweeted it to fans. The video quickly went viral, which led to articles in Billboard and The Huffington Post, as well as TV coverage on CNN. Soon, the song was everywhere. The video became the first to hit one billion views on YouTube in December 2013, and has garnered another billion since.

No Shortage of Ideas

Shazam, the app that “listens” to songs in your environment (playing in a café, in your car, on the TV) and tells you what they are, was a groundbreaking music discovery app. Hear a song you like, and you can “Shazam” it to find out the name and the artist, then click a button to Amazon, Beats Music, Google Play, iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, or YouTube to listen to the song or buy and download it. Now, Shazam is adding more social features, allowing you to share the songs you tag on social media platforms.

The subscription services are also leveraging social media platforms, posting the tracks you’re listening to on Facebook.

Facebook continues to experiment with different features that post to your timeline whatever you’re listening to. The company seems convinced that there’s a way to marry music sharing with its social platform, but hasn’t found the right one yet.

Besides Shazam, there are lots of apps vying to help you discover music you’ve never heard before, by having you tell them your favorite genres, bands, and artists, and then suggesting others you might like based on your favorites.

Labels Experiment

The “old guard” music labels know change is in the air, and they’re trying new things as well. Acknowledging that social and digital media make distribution more democratic, all the major labels have now split off divisions that offer services à la carte to independent recording artists, instead of only as part of contract, as used to be the norm.

Universal Music Group has also worked with a social analytics platform to help artists generate money from their social media followings.

Messaging Apps Join the Party

There’s now a whole class of music messaging apps, where instead of sending a text, photo, or emoji, you send a song. These include La-La, PingTune, Rithm, and Soundwave.

Established messaging apps are tapping into the devices they run on to publish what you’re listening to on your device with your contacts. It’s a great way to share, and doesn’t require any extra effort once you’ve set it up.

It’s not much of a leap to imagine that messaging apps, which are selling stickers and games, will also offer music purchases, or at least links to content providers where you can buy. That would really be a seamless and satisfying experience: 1) see that your friend is listening to a new band, 2) check out the band, 3) buy the song or album for yourself. All in a few minutes and a few taps.

As messaging continues to establish itself as the entry point for our social-mobile interactions, I believe these apps will become the key platforms for music fans to discover, listen to, and buy music. And as “Gangnam Style” proved, social media can take music to the world state faster, and in a more spectacular way, than ever before.


Read the post in situ on LinkedIn.


The 5 Types of Bad Communicators

Avaya Innovations magazine, Issue 2, 2013

Five Types of Business Communicators—and Their Issues

Everyone in the office has idiosyncrasies. Luckily, Unified Communications can help you deal.


It’s the Golden Age of Communication. That’s what the experts and their scholarly articles say. Basically, it means that we’re all talking a lot, via the bewildering number of ways available to us.

Fortunately, Unified Communications is simplifying the whole affair by integrating various communication methods and devices. UC lets you, say, retrieve your office voicemail messages via email or cell phone, and respond via text or video call.

Most importantly, UC solves the challenges brought on the diversity of communication styles in your workforce. Recognize anyone?

  1. The Stalker
    In the five minutes it takes you to get from one meeting to the next, a Stalker will email, text and leave you a voice message about the same thing. Often breathless from anxiety and speed walking, Stalkers are starched and pressed in their appearance, with every hair in place. This type takes their work—and their own project schedules—very seriously, and doesn’t understand that they’re wasting your time. Stalkers claim they do what they do because they just want to make sure you get the message. But we all know the real reason has more to do with somebody’s inner control freak.UC puts stalkers on the same page, literally. When you can see all your messages—voicemail, email and text—in one place, it’s easy to delete or ignore the duplicates. Take that, Stalkers!
  1. The Hermit
    You may not know the Hermits in your office, but you definitely have some. They’re working from home. Or in an empty conference room. Or storage closet. With the lights off. As creative types, Hermits have the idea that if they never talk to anyone, they’ll get a lot more done. It can be true, but then again, what are they doing? Does anyone know?Hermits dress for casual Friday every day of the week. Their mobile phone ringers are down so low they can’t hear them. They’re often “unavailable” on chat during business hours with no explanation. UC can be the perfect solution for these folks because when they do decide to check in, you know you’ll reach them wherever they happen to be. New awareness-enabled UC solutions (due out soon) assemble all the pieces of your last conversation with a Hermit, helping you quickly recall the details no matter how much time has passed.
  1. The Golfer
    Like the Hermit, Golfers can hardly ever be found at the office. Unlike the Hermit, it’s because this type opts instead to do business in the great, manicured outdoors. Typically in sales, Golfers have been wearing those Bluetooth earpieces 24/7 since the very first one hit the market. They’re not talking to themselves—or to you, so pipe down already. They’re doing a deal on the green, talking, checking inventory, and texting outside counsel on contract negotiation details from their iPhone. Simultaneously.As Golfer’s lines are always busy, it’s difficult to get a hold of them. Thankfully, UC helps this type keep up with all of their messages by bringing everything together in one place.
  1. The Globetrotter
    Globetrotters are always an It’s just hardly ever the same one. It’s tough to get them in a meeting, because you just never know which time zone they’ll be in for the hour in question. In fact, where do they live? And when do they sleep?You can spot Globetrotters by their dark-colored, no-wrinkle slacks and skirts, which they buy at specialized travel boutiques. They live by their smartphones, keeping plane schedules, car rentals, hotel confirmations, directions, restaurant recommendations, and international business etiquette tips organized in various apps. Life is fast-paced and complicated, you see, and their time is limited. But so is yours. So next time, why not video chat? Seeing facial expressions as the two of you converse delivers the nonverbal nuance that email doesn’t (and lets you see how nice their hotel room is). You’ll reach a decision or get buy-in faster than you ever expected.
  1. The Numerologist
    All seven square inches of a Numerologist’s business card is full of contact options: office phone, mobile phone, satellite phone, office fax, voice mail, email, web site, LinkedIn profile and Twitter handle. Reaching out to a Numerologist can give even a Stalker pause. Where to begin?Deriving comfort from redundancy, Numerologists have every cell phone they’ve ever owned in a drawer. They dress in layers. They keep a couple of extra pairs of shoes under the desk. Just in case. Numerologists spend a lot of time checking all their various accounts for fear they may have missed a call or message. It’s a real fear, because they probably have. With UC, Numerologists can simplify their contact identity to a single name or number, so there’s no more confusion. No more worry. Ah, doesn’t that feel better?


See “The Five Types of Bad Communicators” in layout.


Softcard: mobile commerce

White paper for Softcard mobile wallet solution

Getting Started with Mobile Commerce

If you’ve been thinking about adding mobile commerce capabilities to your retail operation, you’re right on time. And you might be surprised how easy it is to get started.

Consumers are ready for mobile commerce. The technology is here, both in consumers’ hands and at the point of sale. As of June 2014, 173 million people owned smartphones in the U.S. according to comScore.1 That’s 71.6 percent of the total US mobile market.

Asymco mapped those smartphone penetration numbers against the technology adoption lifecycle bell curve, showing that the U.S. is in the “late majority” phase of smartphone adoption.

softcard_mobile pymts wp_1

Source: Asymco, “Postmodern computing,” April 2014,

Mobile commerce is bigger than just payments. It also includes loyalty programs, offers, and exciting new ways to get to know your customers. With Softcard, you can start with a simple offer, and see value right away. If you like the results, you can add loyalty or in-store mobile payments when the time is right.

The Technology Is Here

Softcard integrates mobile offers, loyalty and payments in one free app. It helps merchants attract new customers, engage with existing customers and build loyalty through the mobile channel. It provides your customers an enhanced shopping experience. And, it’s ready now. Merchants can sign up today.

NFC: The dominant mobile commerce technology

Softcard works through NFC, a short-range wireless technology that makes in-store mobile commerce possible. Hold two devices that have NFC hardware next to each other, and they can establish radio communication to securely pass information back and forth.

NFC also powers Google Wallet and Apple Pay in the US, plus other mobile wallet solutions around the world. It is quickly becoming the standard technology for mobile commerce. NFC is also powering other devices including watches, door locks, headphones, PCs, printers, household appliances and more. Hundreds of the most popular phones have the technology.

Softcard: Representing market leaders

Softcard is a joint venture between three of the four biggest mobile operators in the United States: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, providing access to over 200 million customers. Softcard partners with about 70% of the smartphone market, including HTC, Motorola, Samsung, etc., providing consumers with a wide range of device choices. We have also partnered with the leading point-of-sale (POS) payment terminal and software providers to ensure that Softcard is compatible with merchants’ existing POS infrastructure.

Consumers Are Ready

According to a 2014 Accenture study2, 40% of North American consumers already shop using their smartphones, up from 16% in 2012—a 2.5X increase in two years. Of consumers who already make mobile payments, 60% said they would do so more often if they received instant coupons as a result. Over a third, 36%, said they would hand over personal information in exchange for the rewards.

A recent Verifone survey showed that Generation Y is leading the charge for mobile payments, with 70% wanting to use their smartphones to pay.3

A Forrester study showed that of those who prefer to receive digital offers on their phone, more than 50% redeemed the offer in-store. And more than half of smartphone offer users will spend more money during their visit, generally at least $25 more than planned.[3]

Mobile Consumers Are Valuable Consumers

The majority of U.S. consumers are not yet using their phones for mobile offers, loyalty and payments. Those that do, however, tend to be younger and more affluent than the average consumer.4 They also tend to shop more often and spend more.

Who Are They?

The people making purchases with their mobile phones break down into three main categories: generation Y, parents of young children, and rewards shoppers.

Generation Y has grown up on computers, the Internet, mobile phones, and social media. Many of today’s college students got their first cell phones when they were in elementary school or junior high. Their mobile devices are the gateway to their world, the way they keep in touch with friends and family, research papers for school, discover and listen to music, and read the day’s news. These consumers are already shopping and making payments with their smartphones today, and will become the big spenders in the next 5-10 years.

Parents of young children are another big category of mobile shoppers. Perpetually busy, they rely on their smartphones to capture photos and moments of their babies’ development as well as entertain their toddlers with videos and games. They’re also always in “buy” mode, with all the groceries, diapers, and household supplies that they consume. They are big spenders today and crave the convenience that mobile commerce brings.

Rewards shoppers make up the third major category of today’s mobile shoppers. Always on the lookout for bargains, they’ve taken their deal-hunting game digital. They’re willing to try any technology or tool that gets them closer to new savings and discounts. And the added benefits that digital provides in terms of “always with you” and integrated benefits makes it a winner over traditional, paper- and plastic-based programs.

Faster, Easier

Mobile technology is making it easier to do so many things—including making purchases. Consumers are doing their shopping from the mobile internet in waiting rooms, standing in line and on public transportation like subway trains and buses. In-store offer redemption, purchases and loyalty programs can also become faster and easier with mobile.

Easy Ways to Get Started

Getting started with mobile commerce is easier than you might think. It doesn’t take a big commitment or investment. You can start small and see value right away, then add more features as you go.


Placing an offer in the Softcard app is the quickest way to get started. Simply take whatever offer you’d normally run in a circular and distribute it in Softcard. We can help you design and re-format it so that it works in the digital format, and we can help you promote the offer beyond the wallet into other channels like email and social media.

That’s what Toys“R”Us, the world’s leading dedicated toy and baby products retailer, is doing. Softcard has helped the company distribute some of its best deals from weekly circular ads through the Softcard app. In most cases, Softcard publishes to the app within a few hours of receiving the creative assets. Toys“R”Us has been able to move beyond deals from the weekly circular into offers crafted specifically for the Softcard audience and the unique aspects of the app, including digital redemption at point-of-sale. The mobile-first offers, particularly over the holidays, have been some of the most successful digital promotions that Toys“R”Us has run across all digital and mobile channels.

“Mobile commerce is, in fact, our most rapidly growing channel,” says Alyssa Peera, corporate communications at Toys“R”Us.


Loyalty programs are powerful motivators. The Starbucks mobile app makes it easier for customers to keep track of their loyalty points—and that’s one of the major reasons people use it. By adding your loyalty program to Softcard, your customers will experience the convenience of having their loyalty card readily accessible in their smartphone, and will also get program benefits whenever they shop at your store.

That’s what Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, is doing. Softcard has helped bring the My Coke Rewards (MCR) loyalty program to life by enabling the MCR card to auto-present at over 35,000 Coke vending machines in the US. MCR account holders get three free Cokes just by tapping their phone to pay at the vending machine, and then a free Coke after buying 10. Additionally, MCR account holders can get updated balances on their MCR accounts right in the Softcard app, making it easy to get all the essential info they need in one place.

“(Softcard) is worth the investment because mobile is quickly becoming the future
of retail. And we’re not just talking about payments—(Softcard) dangles a carrot in front of
our customers with the ability to apply loyalty and coupons with a tap of their phones.”

—Rick Kahnemasu, vending strategy leader at Coke

Contactless Payments

Contactless payments are on the rise, and are now accepted at more merchants nationwide. In fact, 25 of the top 100 retailers in the U.S. have committed to NFC for mobile payments. Hundreds of thousands of locations are enabled across the country.

Contactless terminals accept payments from Softcard and allow you to maintain card present rates—and also accept Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Your customers simply download the Softcard app, and then tap their phones to your terminal to pay.

As you plan to upgrade your payment terminals for EMV, you can provide added convenience for your customers by enabling NFC for contactless payments. Beyond convenience, your customers will appreciate the safer transactions that NFC provides.

Softcard works with the existing payment infrastructure, which helps make the transition to mobile commerce as smooth as possible. Our mobile wallet also “rides the rails” of existing credit card infrastructure, leveraging the four major U.S. payment networks: American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Softcard has relationships with the major credit-issuing banks in the country—American Express, Chase and Wells Fargo—which represent 147 million cards that are eligible for use in Softcard.


Mobile commerce is starting to take off. Ten years ago, “smartphone” was not a household word. Today, they are constant companions for more than two-thirds of the entire U.S. population. Some Americans are checking their smartphones as much as 150 times a day5 and spending more time on them then they are watching TV.6

That’s what makes the mobile channel such a powerful one – and ripe for engagement above and beyond the other channels you use today.

Whether you’re building your own mobile app or expanding your digital presence, Softcard is a great way to quickly and easily accelerate your mobile commerce efforts. Join the mobile revolution. Visit to get started.




2. Consumer Mobile Payments Survey: Driving Value and Adoption of Mobile Payments—Consumers Want More, Accenture, April 2013,

3. Verifone, The 2014 Payment Showdown, February 2014,

4. The State of Digital Coupons, Forrester, August 2014,

5. Flurry, “Mobile Phone Addicts Open Apps up to 60 times a day,”, 2014

6. Millward Brown, “AdReaction Multiscreen 2014 Global Report,” global figures





Enkata: Call Reasoning

White paper for Enkata workforce analytics software company

Call Reasoning: The First Step Towards Satisfied Customers and Lower Costs



What are the top 10 reasons your customers call?

Don’t know? You’re not alone. Most companies don’t. Unfortunately, not knowing is costing you more that you think. When you do understand why your customers are picking up their phones and dialing your number, you can take corrective action, addressing the issues that cause high call volume. You can:

  • Optimize your self-service channels, training and coaching.
  • Fix the problems in upstream processes that end up in your call center.
  • Reduce repeat calls.

In short, you can save millions of dollars each year in call center and customer defection costs, and ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Call reasons are a powerful tool. But, identifying them hasn’t always been within reach for most companies. The process has historically been difficult and expensive, and the reasons produced have been unreliable.

A common approach saddles agents with the responsibility to tag their own calls, a process that yields inaccurate, incomplete data and costs an extra two to four seconds per call. The category choices may be too limited to express the range of issues covered in an agent-handled call, or may exclude choices made by the customer prior to talking to the agent. Agents may choose the first available option, or the broadest, as they rush to wrap up a call and move on to the next.

Other methods, including post-contact surveys, quality assurance logging, and speech analytics, collect information from a random sample of calls. Sampling doesn’t provide enough data from enough calls to be reliable, or the granularity required to tie specific issues to individual agents. Speech analytics applications don’t identify call reasons at all, just keywords.

Additionally, most of these methods only allow one reason per call, when in reality there could be multiple reasons. To further complicate matters, there has been no single, consistent method for assessing contact reasons across channels, including web interactive voice response (IVR) and agent-handled calls. For example, one customer may attempt to resolve the same issue using multiple channels, but because each channel calls the reason by a slightly different name, it will end up looking like three different reasons.

The good news is that all the unsuccessful methods have created a tremendous opportunity for improvement.

Enkata recently introduced analytics technology that can determine call reasons by categorizing the patterns of customer, agent and system activities. The result is an affordable, accurate categorization of 100 percent of your calls. (Not to mention the two to four seconds of average handle time [AHT] you’ll save on every call that agents don’t have to tag.)

Enkata can deliver more accurate call reasons, which give you the power to proactively address the issues that cause your customers to call in the first place. Knowing your call reasons can potentially help you improve agent training and coaching, revise cumbersome policies and procedures, and save millions in operational costs. All these improvements ultimately funnel into better quality service and higher customer satisfaction.

Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning solution can give you the reasons you need to truly optimize agent performance and increase the productivity and effectiveness of your entire operation.

By knowing their call reasons, Enkata customers have:

  • Improved new hire training effectiveness by 50 percent
  • Increased coaching effectiveness by 50 percent
  • Improved self-service success by 15-30 percent
  • Reduced AHT (related to tagging) by 2-4 seconds
  • Reduced unwanted call volume by 2-5 percent

Why Automated, Algorithm-Based Call Categorization Is So Accurate

Enkata’s unique Automated Call Reasoning solution categorizes all of your calls automatically—and very accurately, because Enkata assigns reasons based on the actions your agents take while they’re handling each call. We developed this technology to assign consistent, reliable call reasons without burdening agents or other internal groups with the task. Once you’ve installed Automated Call Reasoning, you can begin to understand why your customers are calling and which call reasons cause your agents to struggle in a matter of months. Here’s how.


During every call, an agent accesses multiple systems to look up information and perform transactions on the caller’s behalf. The agent’s activity within each system contains clues that Enkata uses to determine why the customer called.

Automated call reasoning flowchart

Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning solution uses an algorithm to combine data on what workflow the agent followed, which back office transactions occurred as a result, what information was entered in customer relationship management (CRM) systems, etc., and produces a standard, hierarchical set of reasons for every single customer contact. Enkata’s method truly provides the most accurate call reasons, because we derive and verify customer intent by using all of these reliable sources. Read more below about what we gather from each system.

Agent Desktop Systems
The primary source Enkata uses is the logs, or the records, from agent desktop systems. These are very detailed and reliable, as they indicate the precise navigational flow of the call by tracking the screens viewed and specific activities performed by the agent. (See illustration above.) A call typically includes two or more “screen change” events that we track. There’s a standard verification screen that starts the process, an end-of-call cross-sell attempt or wrap-up screen, and then any number of screens in between these two. It’s these in between screens that are the most valuable in deriving the call reason or reasons.

Back Office Systems
When the agent front-end data is insufficient or not available, Enkata’s Behavior Analytics can use a back office system to determine caller’s intent. We can often reconstruct a caller’s intent by reviewing related events that took place around the time of the call. In the absence of richer data, Enkata assigns a reason based on the transaction type of the event (fee reversal, address change, etc.) that follows the call.

Alternatively or in addition, we can use a CRM system that keeps a track record of calls. It’s not an ideal scenario, because CRM systems don’t provide as much detail, and also because agents typically fill in the customer intent manually. Additionally, some CRM applications include a system-generated call reason in addition to the agent-populated one. When available, this data helps to determine how frequently the two reasons differ. By reviewing the call reasons from both sources, you can see which is more reliable, or find a way to use both sources to arrive at true customer intent.


Additional Channels
Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning module can also use data from other contact channels to produce consistent reasons between calls and self-service options. Additionally, information from other channels can help determine the volume of calls that could be handled by self-service channels. Enkata can use data from customers’ unsuccessful attempts in other channels to resolve their inquiries to determine their true end-to-end experience.

Enkata’s Algorithm-Based Methodology to Determine Call Reasons

Enkata provides a structured yet flexible methodology to generate detailed and accurate call reasons that are tailored to your business processes. Even after deployment, Enkata continues to monitor and update call reasons as operations change.

Step 1: Determine inputs and capture data
First, Enkata works with the customer to determine what data is available from which systems. Enkata uses these to generate a standard set of call reasons based on agent activity. From there, we look one level of detail down to understand the data sources and specific agent activities that will reveal the reason behind each customer contact.

Step 2: Eliminate input “noise”
This is a very important step, and one of the main benefits of using Enkata’s methodology. Our algorithm is uniquely able to produce trusted reasons, instead of just listing transactions, in part because we can pro-actively tell it to disregard certain events that you don’t want to influence the derivation of call reasons. For example, you might choose to ignore an agent activity that is performed for every customer contact, such as account verification or checking the customer’s balance. We identify these “ignore rules” for each data source.

Step 3: Generate raw events table
Next, we take the data derived from step one and remove the transaction specified in step two. The result is a table of 25,000 to 30,000 uncategorized, or “raw,” transaction event combinations. It’s the launchpad for determining how we’ll map different transaction combinations to contact reasons.

Enkata uses this same process for every data source (phone, web, etc.), which is how we ensure you get consistent call reasons across different contact channels.

Step 4: Trim category list and map to tailored hierarchy
Through an iterative process, we eventually collapse the list of event occurrences from 25-30,000 to about 125-150. We start with Enkata industry templates for call reason hierarchies, map those reasons to the raw events, and then test by listening to calls and re-mapping as necessary. We repeat this process until we get to right level of detail with the call reasons. Enkata and the customer work together to define this tailored set of reasons and the number of hierarchical levels desired for analyzing contact data.

Step 5: Assess reasons for every call
Upon deployment, your customer contact data gets loaded into the Enkata datamart, and the Automated Call Reasoning algorithm assigns every call one or more call reasons (up to 3) based on the activity associated with that customer interaction.

Algorithm-based methodology inverse pyramid

Deliver Higher-Quality Customer Service

Illuminate the issues that plague your service center. Automated Call Reasoning tells you why your customers are contacting you, empowering you to proactively address the issues behind high call volume. Reducing the total number of calls, as well as improving your response, soon adds up to cost savings and increased agent and customer satisfaction. Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning gives you:


  • Reliable call reasons
    Accurate and actionable call reasons across channels give you what you need to analyze and improve your contact center’s quality of service.
  • Money and time savings in call handling
    Because Automated Call Reasoning automatically tags a call based on agent activity, agents don’t need to waste the 2-4 seconds per call to manually assign reasons.
  • More effective, targeted coaching
    Armed with call reasons, supervisors can make the most of their limited coaching time. Call reason level details on key metrics gives supervisors the details they need to focus their training and coaching activities on the specific call reasons that cause agents to struggle. Informed supervisors save time and make a bigger impact.
  • Increased agent performance via actionable metrics
    When agents know which calls give them trouble, they’re more likely to self-correct, seeking the help or information they need to be more efficient.
  • Money and time savings in call auditing
    Many contact centers spend a significant amount of time and money to audit small samples of calls and check the accuracy of agent-tagged call reasons. Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning solution obliterates the need and costs for these antiquated procedures. Automated Call Reasoning provides more reliable reasons for every call at a lower cost.
  • Improved customer satisfaction
    Ultimately, you want to know why your customers are calling so that you can solve their problems before they call — by finding and fixing the defects, processes or policies that cause high call volume. And if you can’t do that, you want to help them as efficiently as possible once they do call. Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning gives you the information you need to identify where to concentrate your time and attention. When you know why customers call, you can specially train different groups of agents to handle specific kinds of calls. You can individually coach agents who struggle with certain reasons to perform better. In the end, it all comes down to providing high-quality, efficient service, which will always translate into higher customer satisfaction.

Conclusion: Call Reasons Pave the Way to Better Service

Call reasons are a powerful tool. Most companies don’t know the reasons why their customers call, because identifying call reasons has historically been difficult and expensive, yielding unreliable results. But that’s no longer true thanks to new technology. Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning uses an algorithm-based method to categorize 100 percent of your calls—accurately and automatically. That means authentic reasons with no manual tagging required, without reliance on random samples or keywords.

Enkata accesses data from agent desktop systems, back office applications, CRM products and other channels to map agent activity and service events to call reasons. We then apply our proven methodology to sift through the data, prioritize it, and assign up to three call reasons per customer contact.

Get out of the cycle of handling avoidable calls and wasting money on call center costs and lost customers. Armed with accurate call reasons, you’ll have insights into how to improve your upstream processes, self-service, training and coaching so you can take action. The knowledge you gain from Enkata’s Automated Call Reasoning can help you transform your organization through more productive supervisors and agents. Knowing your call reasons is the first step towards truly optimized contact center performance, cost containment and improved customer satisfaction.


About Enkata
Enkata helps contact centers maximize the value of every customer interaction, deliver better service, control costs, and generate revenue. For customer operations transitioning into strategic profit centers, our performance management software leads the market. Enkata’s unique on-demand delivery model allows for faster implementation and results. Our analytics-driven applications combine best practice metrics, personalized dashboards, “next action” direction and integrated workflow that improve the balanced achievement of sales, customer experience and cost objectives every minute, every day.