ORHT creates virtual call centre

What does an organization do when its help desk is in need of assistance? As paradoxical as it sounds, that recently became a problem for the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal (ORHT).

Previously, the ORHT had 14 call centres scattered across Ontario, ranging from North Bay to Kingston to London to Mississauga, and each with an essential problem: all of these locations were acting independently of one another, with no real-time way to communicate. That, plus the need to improve internal efficiencies and customer service, helped the ORHT decide that changes to its current system were needed.

The ORHT resolves disputes between landlords and tenants and provides information about Ontario’s Tenant Protection Act, both over the phone and in person. Until last September, a local telecommunications carrier provided a modem that was linked to the ORHT’s system, whereby data was extracted by going through a switch from the call centres. The head office in Toronto was then responsible for reporting on the data that was collected and would transfer that information to the regional offices.

At best, this arrangement left 14 OHRT call centres unable to communicate with the other locations.

Prior to implementing a set of solutions from Avaya Inc., the ORHT was unable to route calls between centres. They have now created one virtual call centre, unknown to callers, regardless of where they are calling from.

The three main technology pieces provided by Avaya in linking the centres together were its Definity enterprise communication server, IP Agent softphone and Call Management system software. The server enables calls to be routed to the next available agent across all centres and acts as the glue, because the central sever, housed in Toronto, makes the virtual connection to one of the 80 agents.

“Definity will be taking all the incoming trunk calls for people when they call, so they are all coming into one server. The server will try to match up the call with the best possible agent,” said Paul McDevitt, senior vice-president of service and support for Avaya in Markham, Ont. Alongside the main server is a Sun Microsystems server that is responsible for tracking all the statistical data that the centres receive.

So while the server makes the virtual connection, employees are using Avaya’s IP softphone application, which was installed on all personal computers, and it in turn connects back to the main server and can measure when an agent has logged into the system. It can also track call data such as the duration of a call and route the information back to the central network in Toronto. The call management system software enables supervisors to compile activity reports on the average length of a call, average response time and abandoned calls.

While not a complicated project, McDevitt said the installation was simplified because the ORHT already had both a LAN and WAN in place.

A spokesperson from the ORHT said the impetus for establishing such a network was to simplify a once-complicated formula.

“We wanted to operate as if everyone was in one office. That has resulted in us being more efficient,” said Stella Garisto, project coordinator at the ORHT in Toronto. By adopting this system, they have turned what once was 14 different call centres into one virtual location.

And given its success to date, there are plans to add an e-filing and e-commerce system that would integrate with their caseload system. Also, long-term, the Web site, call centre and e-filing systems will be integrated, Garisto added.