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All Together Now: WFM Centralization
UPC Nederland's unified approach to agent scheduling leads to cost savings and upped customer satisfaction
For the rest of the December 2006 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Crafting agent schedules for one contact center can be a challenge, but factor in multiple centers--each using its own approach to forecasting--and that challenge can become a workforce management (WFM) nightmare. That was the challenge facing UPC Nederland B.V. (UPC), a subsidiary of international cable operator Liberty Global and provider of television, broadband Internet, and telephone services to more than 3 million customers in the Netherlands. UPC used to be sectioned into three regions--North, South, and East--with a total of four in-house contact center locations and about 1,000 to 1,200 agents. But the three regions relied on different planning and scheduling methods, including Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and two different WFM systems. All calls from its customers in the Netherlands "were being routed by [a virtual ACD], so wherever the least occupied agent was within those three regions [that was where] the call was being distributed to," says Marco Vermeer, manager of planning and reporting at UPC. Unfortunately, "planning and forecasting," Vermeer says, "were still based on region--there were no synergies whatsoever in allocating workforce." Most of UPC Nederland's capacity discussions were made on an ad-hoc basis and were for the most part gut-feeling affairs, leaving the company "trapped in a circular course, continually lowering and then raising staffing levels," Vermeer says. To make matters worse, scheduling snags had a negative impact on customer satisfaction. UPC needed a solution that could centralize its WFM efforts and bring consistency and accuracy to forecasts, all the while integrating with its virtual ACD. The system also had to be capable of handling UPC's pan-European model; in addition to the Netherlands, UPC has divisions in countries like Hungary, Ireland, and Poland. UPC selected the IEX TotalView workforce management solution. The deployment went live in April 2005. TotalView was implemented and integrated across UPC's internal operations; the firm now has a system that uses one switch to deliver calls to its centers throughout the country. The system also "simulates the exact contact routing rules and agent skill profiles by date range, and then calculates staffing requirements down to the interval level," says Paul Leamon, director of product marketing of IEX, a subsidiary of NICE Systems.
The company did away with its region approach, closed down two sites, and started outsourcing calls. UPC now has three internal contact centers employing a total of about 600 agents, and two outsourced contact centers with about 300 agents. Its CSRs handle queries received via phone, email, and mail, but thanks in large part to notable efficiency gains, UPC is moving toward outbound communications. UPC was soon able to begin focusing on quality, "because workforce scheduling was stable," Vermeer says, which helped boost customer satisfaction by nearly 20 percent. UPC has also handled 33 percent more contacts without increasing operational expenses, and maintained its service level of 80 percent in 30 seconds. The system is helping to efficiently handle call spikes that are due to UPC's efforts to migrate analog cable television customers to its D4A (Digit for All) offering, a digital television product. "Analog customers practically never call us," Vermeer says. But because of the product complexities and possibilities associated with digital, the offering's call index shot up. TotalView allowed UPC to handle the spurt, and "helped us to gain control of our workforce and call flow." The Payoff Since implementing IEX's TotalView, UPC Nederland has:
  • increased customer satisfaction by about 20 percent;
  • handled 33 percent more contacts without adding more agents;
  • maintained its service level at 80 percent in 30 seconds; and
  • a consistent method of agent scheduling across various locations.
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