IP call centre all clued up on cutting down queues

Luanne Albino is bent on creating friendly exchanges and finding quick fixes. Neither is always evident in customer service, but Albino has determined that an amiable communications environment and efficient problem resolution are two key business objectives in improving her real estate call centre.

As general manager for Synchroserv Inc., Bentall Capital Ltd.’s tenant service company, Albino is in charge of operations at the Clikfix contact centre in Vancouver. Her 15 call centre agents provide 24×7 service to Bentall’s 300 buildings across Canada. Albino says the contact centre fields over 400 service requests on a typical day, from Bentall’s 4,000 tenant organizations.

“We don’t like our callers to go on hold and into a queue. Our average answer time is six seconds, so we’re very focused on trying to answer the call the first time,” says Albino. “We’re a small call centre with big needs.”

Synchroserv decided that certain functionality was needed in its communications system to improve business. Albino hired a consultant to put out a tender for a service provider who was able to offer a suitable IP telephony system. She wanted rich features that would monitor service quality, a system that could route calls to selected agents and the flexibility to grow with Clikfix’s customer needs.

“Our average talk time is one minute 20 seconds, so processing time is pretty fast. For me, it’s the agent recognizing the caller and knowing the building, so it’s a friendly exchange that moves past prompting them for all those information fields,” says Albino.

Five years ago Clikfix started out with three call agents, but as the company grew and more clients began calling in, the agents didn’t know the buildings and the tenants as well as they used to, says Albino. Calls were being directed to the last idle agent.

With skills-based routing, the company is now able to route by area code. Three agents might only handle 416 calls, for example, and all 604 calls will be directed to another two agents. “Our agents now recognize the tenant’s voice, they know the building and what they called about the last time,” says Albino. “That has really improved our first response ratio and we’re hoping it’s going to continue to improve our tenant satisfaction rate.”

Albino says she personally finds the supervisor screens most useful, allowing her to monitor the queues. “We have all sorts of bells and whistles going off when we go below our service level thresholds.”

One of the main features Synchroserv wanted was extensive reporting capabilities that could help target areas in the business which required improvement and to monitor staffing levels. Albino says she’s now able to look beyond how many calls the contact centre handles.

“In our particular business people don’t want to hold for longer then 16 seconds,” she says. Detailed statistical information on calling patterns, average handling times and abandon rates, allows Albino to look at her staffing model and better determine how to manage her resources.

The Clikfix contact centre operates off the Mitel 3300 IP Communications Platform, over a network based on Hewlett Packard’s Procurve switches. For the Web-based functionality, Synchroserv has implemented Mitel’s Interactive Contact Center, Intelligent Queue and Contact Center Management applications, as well as Teleworker for remote calling.

Teleworker allows a telephone to be used from any desk where there is a high-speed Internet connection. Agents are able to handle calls from another building or from home, but can appear as if they are answering the call from the office, without losing any of the features.

This type of functionality is usually offered only by systems designed for 50 to 300 agents. Albino says Mitel’s flexibility for growth meant her startup costs were relative to the size of her organization. “And I know I can grow the system as my service centre grows. I can buy the pieces I need now and then add components later.”

A lot of time was spent planning and assessing the network environment during the deployment strategy discussions, says Bruce Heslop, manager of voice services for Microserve, a Burnaby, B.C.-based service provider. Heslop had to be sure the data network infrastructure was designed to support voice over IP to provide the voice quality levels that customers are used to. “It has to be dependable,” he says. “If you’re going to load voice as a layer on the network, it has to be there; it has to work.”

The network had to be designed to deal with load balancing, so the network has available bandwidth at every point, says Heslop. Microserve looked at the quality of the switching fabric to ensure voice packet tagging, as well as the power distribution for the telephones, redesigning the network to support power over Ethernet.

Microserve had to install additional fibre cabling, hubs and routers to meet the 500m standard for maximum cable length. Bentall’s IT department is located in another office tower 550 metres from the call centre, but for emergency 911 calls, the main Mitel server must reside in the same building that houses the actual call centre.

“It’s not only about the features: all the manufacturers have an awesome feature complement. But the strategy that’s adopted for the deployment is everything,” says Heslop. “That’s the difference between success and negativity about VoIP deployments. Design is everything.”

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