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Contact Centre Transformation for an Energy Supplier

The Background

The purpose of the project was to deliver an improved customer experience whilst enabling the client to handle customer contacts more efficiently. It focused on the close integration of telephony and other customer contact channels with the business applications and data, rather than on the replacement of technology for its own sake. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) techniques were used where these created an advantage in terms of functionality, running costs or future proofing. Otherwise the project extended the life of existing telephony assets that were perfectly serviceable for years to come.

The contact centre solution sat alongside a suite of new business applications including SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM) and SAP Industry Specific Solution for Utilities (SAP IS-U), which were to be phased in during a 15 month customer migration process.

The Challenge

1. The contact centre project started 2 years after the main business transformation programme and had to move at significant speed to be ready for Q1 2010
2. The new solution had to be delivered in a way that allowed legacy and new world telephony to operate in parallel during the 15 month introduction of SAP
3. The project had to deal with the recent failure of a previous technology-driven initiative to replace the telephony systems
4. Several legacy telephony systems had become unsupportable so the new solution had to be brought in early to support the legacy call workload
5. The solution had to be consistent with industry regulations for inbound and outbound customer contact
6. The solution had to support the client's application to be a level 2 card merchant within the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS)

The Response

Damian Jones acted as a client-side advisor and project manager through the lifecycle of the telephony project, covering the following:
1. Definition and maintenance of the business case
2. Definition of the solution architecture and options
3. Competitive procurement of systems integration services
4. Negotiation and contracting within vendors for equipment and carrier services
5. Management of sub-contractors to deliver the project within the overall business transformation programme
6. Definition of phased technical and business deployment process
7. Definition of technical support arrangements

The benefits of the work were at three levels:

Customer Experience

1. Different channels for customers to interact with the client according to preference - voice, text, email, web, web chat and in future smart phone apps
2. Emphasis on quick and natural system interactions enabling customers to self-service, with rapid transfer to an agent if they get stuck
3. Integration of channels with underlying applications, so that the data is validated up-front and the system can make intelligent suggestions within context
4. Integrated experience so that customers are never asked for the same information twice during a contact
5. Strategies for dealing with peak demand, such as call-me-back and self service options reducing customer waiting times

Business Experience

1. Upfront identification of the customer allows contacts to be presented to agents within context (details of the account and how the contact arrived) which means calls are handled quicker
2. Common means of handling contacts of different types; voice, email etc. which means the contact process is simplified
3. Common source of management information and reporting enabling comparative reporting across contact centres and real-time reports
4. Flexibility over how the workload is routed and handled enabling load sharing at peak times between contact centres

IT Ownership Experience

1. Contact centre "intelligence" is consolidated to the data centre alongside the business applications, allowing expensive Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) platforms to be retired resulting in lower operating costs
2. Contact centre infrastructure is standardised to a single platform and simplified - every site can be different for the business but the same for IT, providing greater flexibility and lower costs for managing change and system upgrades
3. Legacy telephone trunk infrastructure is steadily replaced by consolidated IP connections, voice and data are increasingly carried over converged IP networks with lower running costs

The Benefits

By integrating the solution with legacy business applications, we enabled the contact centre project to be implemented ahead of the planned SAP CRM and ISU implementation which brought forward some of the business benefits for customer experience and operational efficiency.

By acting independently of technology vendors, Damian Jones has helped to achieve good value in the procurement of new equipment and software where it was needed whilst retaining and extending the life of existing equipment. Our sourcing assistance during the early stages of the project saved at least £500k on telecoms equipment and software. We also worked closely with call centre staff to ensure they were part of the solution, for example by making the call centre agent's job easier by giving consideration to the working environment though the use of noise-cancelling headsets.

The client will achieve significant avoided costs over time as the new solution is much easier to scale up and to add new call centre teams and staff. This is because it is a highly centralised software-based solution as opposed to a site-centric solution requiring lots of infrastructure at the call centres. The IT running costs for the solution are the same as the legacy solution, despite having greater functionality and channel capacity, as well as much greater flexibility to support future business change.

The main financial benefit of the project is to support the business case of the overall transformation programme. Within this around £1.5m pa of business benefits are directly assigned to the new telephony solution, in the areas of agent efficiency and self service. For example, the new contract negotiated with the call carrier as part of the project will save around £200k pa in reduced charges for 0800 calls.

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