When you're responsible for the comfort, safety and security of thousands of people in hundreds of buildings, no excuses are acceptable. You have to be accessible 24 hours a day, and you have to have the right information at your fingertips to solve customer problems. However, if you have multiple, unconnected legacy systems managing that information, customer service can be a challenge.
Johnson Controls, Milwaukee, manufactures, installs, supports and remotely monitors control systems that automate a building's heating, ventilation, air condition, lighting and fire safety equipment. Its Controls Group holds maintenance contracts for 600 million square feet of building space in government, education and corporate buildings across North America. With 5,000 field service technicians, the group operates from 23 offices throughout the United states and Canada. Two Customer Success Centers, located in Milwaukee and Toronto, together receive 80,000 calls a month.
Two years ago, the company's multiple call center functions used different systems, requiring information to be re-keyed at every stop along the customer contact chain. Field mechanics and technicians were dispatched using a variety of in-house tools, most of which were written in COBOL.
In its move toward integrating those disparate systems, Johnson Controls sought the help of Astea International, Horsham, Penn., and began phasing in Astea's ServiceAlliance software in 1998 at its Customer Success Centers. About 85 employees are currently on the system, using it for technical support, remote monitoring of building systems, parts sales and customer satisfaction.
In its building services operation, customer complaints are entered into the system and flagged as dissatisfaction alerts. The system allows the company to fix any potential problems before they have a chance to slip through the cracks. At its field support center, the system aids workers who provide technical support to the company's field operations and select customers. The software also supports field service and the call center staff, as well as parts sales, where it has simplified the ordering process for customers.
The company hasn't yet implemented the system for daily service call dispatch, but it does use it for after-hours dispatching at its 24-hour facility response center, which responds to alarms and monitors systems. When branch offices close at 5:00 p.m., calls are directed to the center from all across the country, and operators enter information, generate a service ticket and send it along to technicians who are notified via pager right from the system.
To further increase productivity, the company is using ServiceAlliance to integrate customer support and parts sales with its accounting, factory ordering and MRP software in hopes of speeding invoicing, improving cash flow and lowering inventory costs.
By centralizing customer information, Johnson Controls has eliminated redundant customer databases and made the information accessible to all 5,000 field service and 100 call center representatives.
According to James Bohn, director of integrated customer solutions, eliminating service and system redundancies has been one of the greatest benefits. "You get all the customers in one system and they get multiple services within that system," he says. "They can register a complaint, buy a part, get technical support, have a service technician dispatched- -all within the same system. It becomes a common language in the organization, as opposed to multiple disconnected systems where you might have been dispatching in one, recording a complaint in another or sending parts out of yet another system."
Customer calls coming into the Customer Success Centers are picked up within 11 seconds. If the call has to be transferred to another service rep, information on the customer can be quickly pulled up. "Customers want to tell their story only once," says Bohn. "We don't have to ask callers to repeat themselves when they're transferred." Because call center personnel are now able to quickly access customer data, problems that can be resolved over the phone are usually handled within 15 minutes.
Having a common system at its Customer Success Centers in the United states and Canada also means the company now has a viable disaster recovery program. "We're constantly replicating information back and forth, so we have full disaster recovery in the event that anything went wrong in either center," says Bohn. "Lots of companies talk about it, we have it."