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The Risky Risk Business
PGAC assures better -- and more effective -- service with Upstream Works.
For the rest of the June 2008 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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The contact center is all about solving problems--even more so in the auto-insurance industry: No one who's had an accident wants to wait to know what's covered and what needs to be paid out of pocket. Enter Permanent General Assurance Corporation (PGAC), a nonstandard specialty auto-insurance company for high-risk drivers. PGAC operates in 18 states and through multiple distribution channels, and makes a point of using the contact center to land sales.
This keeps PGAC's Nashville and Phoenix contact centers very busy--and saddled with 14 desktop applications, says Allison Garretson, vice president overseeing the customer service group. As the clutter led to longer call times and issues with first-call resolution (FCR), PGAC's growth drove a search for ease of use: computer-telephony integration (CTI) with screen pop to let agents better navigate the applications and reduce average handle time (AHT). Performance-based agent compensation required analytics to measure customer satisfaction. Garretson says that FCR has never been adequately defined, and that many of the statistics used to measure FCR and customer satisfaction are subjective. "What I've seen done elsewhere really relied on agents' perception of how well they resolved the call, which obviously can be very different from the consumers' perceptions," she says, adding that some firms measure FCR based on satisfaction surveys that may be no more objective, having been cherry-picked by reps.
After narrowing its choices to three vendors, PGAC decided Ontario-based Upstream Works' offerings were best aligned with its goals, and opted for two of Upstream Works' solutions, UpStart Agent Operating Environment (AOE) and UpStart Metrics. Garretson says UpStart AOE not only provided CTI and screen pop, but also supported multimedia transactions--calls, emails, and Web chat. UpStart Metrics provides objectivity, thanks to a quantitative model that "uses analytics based on data and fact." She adds, "It takes all subjectivity out of that measurement and allows you to really develop a purely objective FCR rate."
While Garretson advises caution with any new integration--especially desktop changes for contact center agents--she says this one was "very smooth." Concerns that agents would be resistant were also alleviated: They were trained and operational after just two-and-a-half hours. "[Agents] are very pleased with the CTI screen pop because it really streamlines their work and eliminates redundancy of having to ask for policy numbers," she says. The basic return on investment involved reducing AHT between 15 seconds and 20 seconds--a benchmark exceeded within three months, Garretson says. AHT has now decreased by 22 seconds.
Each call is now assigned a disposition code, which Garretson says helps PGAC understand "on a global basis what's driving our calls and where we have a lot of repeat calls." This should help improve FCR: So far, 4 percent of callers have been found calling four times or more for a single issue--representing 15 percent of total call volume. Garretson says that knowledge would be lost without the metrics and data provided by the UpStart solutions. Upstream Works' success--and its relatively tiny size--became a badge of honor. "[It's] a smaller vendor than some of the other guys in the market, but I find sometimes you get better support and interest in how the product meets your specific needs from a smaller vendor," she explains. "I found this to be very true with them."

With Upstream Works' software, PGAC was able to:
g get agents trained in just 2.5 hours;
g reduce average call handle time by
22 seconds; and
g recognize that 4 percent of its callers--representing 15 percent of total call volume--were reaching out four times or more for a single issue.

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