Example 2: Excellent customer service with low cost

Around the world, the increasing deregulation of utility companies has had two major effects in call centers:

In this example, Useful Utilities is a national electricity company that has a reputation for good customer service, largely built on an efficient call center with a high level of automation. Recently Useful Utilities bought a small, but multinational gas company that has a high level of technical expertise in distributing domestic gas supplies. The gas company's call center, however, is less automated than that of Useful Utilities, and according to customer surveys is less well-liked, although it is skilled in dealing with requests in a variety of national languages.

Useful Utilities wants to merge the two call centers into a dynamic new contact center that provides:

The best by any standard

Figure 1 shows how Useful Utilities can combine the Web, voice applications, and CTI to convert two physically separate call centers into a single virtual contact center, as described in Creating a virtual contact center.
Figure 1. Useful Utilities’ contact center
This diagram has the same structure as the previous one, but in this case the separate helpdesk agents and customer service agents have been turned into a single virtual contact center.
Creating a virtual contact center:

Merging the two call centers into one virtual contact center is not a problem with IBM voice products. Whether the centers have different switches, or share a switch, the voice response products, combined with CTI products such as Genesys, Callpath or Cisco ICM ensure that Useful Utilities presents a single face to its customers.

To distribute calls between the two call centers, Useful Utilities can take advantage of the intelligent load balancing in the CTI software. It evaluates the relative level of call activity in the two centers. When a call comes in, it routes the call to the least busy of the two centers.

Widening the range of contacts:

Setting up the wide range of contact points can be achieved as described in The Web as first point of contact: . The customer service Web page can offer the ability to do real business over the Web, including paying bills, setting up direct debits, and so on.

Voice processing can also help build the company’s reputation by enabling services that depend on automation, and by presenting an expert appearance to customers.

Automation at its best:
For a large utility company such as Useful Utilities, automation starts with the voice applications—a (probably) toll-free number providing a wide range of self-service facilities to customers. Services that Useful Utilities could provide using voice response technology include:
  • Customized messages for specific occurrences; for example, one problem most energy companies face is unexpected power outages. Using the calling number, Useful Utilities could identify those calls that are from customers in an area with an outage, and direct those calls to a customized outage announcement.
  • Information about the customer’s account or services available
  • Self service over the phone; for example, paying bills, ordering statements or requesting deferred payments.
The experience of similar companies indicates that, with comprehensive, reliable, scalable Web and voice response services, Useful Utilities’ aim of handling half of its customer queries without human intervention is easily achievable.
When customers who have been filtered through the voice applications want more help, automatic call distribution, at the heart of CTI products can provide impressive services such as:
Skill-based call routing
Customers can be directed to the most knowledgeable agent for their call. For example, queries about Useful Utilities’ new All Energy discount program for customers who take both gas and electricity, can be directed only to agents trained in that program.

As a multinational company, Useful Utilities might want to route incoming calls to make best use of their agents’ national language skills. When an incoming call is detected as originating from a French telephone number (via the calling line identifier (CLI)), or a French-speaking customer selects French from a menu, the voice application could issue initial prompts in French. Then, if there is a need to be transferred to an agent, the customer gets straight through to one who speaks French.

Availability-based call routing
At times of peak demand the routing can pull in agents who are usually occupied in other activities. This flexibility of response to demand enables leading companies in customer relationship management to advertise features such as “we always answer before the fifth ring” or “all calls answered within 30 seconds.”
The result is an improved service overall. Customers get faster, more–appropriate responses, and they get the ability to do easy things for themselves, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Meeting this kind of demand needs a solution that not only meets the technical challenges, but is also scalable to meet the growth in demand that is the product of excellent service.