• May 18, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Rural Arizona Drives Home Service

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Pinal County in rural central Arizona is home to 325,000 residents who are as diverse as the area’s landscape. From its county seat in Florence, 42 government agencies routinely interact with citizens through the Citizen Contact Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

The center has been operating since June 2007, but it only recently improved service to residents by implementing a communications-as-a-service (CaaS) solution from Interactive Intelligence. The system enabled Pinal County government to add features such as skills-based call routing, call and screen recording, a speech-enabled interactive voice response system, and supervisory monitoring.

The implementation, which involved changing from a hosted service to on-premises, began a little more than a year ago. “We started watching our call volumes, and we came up with the numbers to justify it,” says Jerry Keely, Pinal County’s customer service administrator, who notes that the contact center’s seven agents field between 10,000 and 15,000 calls a month. “And we had just completed a data center for the county, which gave us the server capacity for an on-premises solution.”

Bringing the technology on-premises removed the distance, Internet reliability, and call quality issues that plagued the county’s previous system, but cost was the biggest factor.

“Cost is not something I have to concern myself with anymore,” Keely says. “I pay an annual maintenance and licensing fee. My costs have become much more fixed.”

Keely explains that with the hosted model, he was paying on a per-minute/per-call basis. “At the end of the month, I received my bill and I did not know what those costs would be,” he says. “I was paying $10,000 to $15,000 per month in telecom costs with hosted. Now, my basic circuit costs are about $300 a month.”

But Keely has not soured on the hosted model. In fact, he says the solution was perfect for the county at the time. “Since this was all brand new to the county, we didn’t know how much call volume we would get, so we went with hosting so we could grow the solution as needed,” he says. “Hosted allowed us to expand without being tied to a particular location. We could set up at other locations if needed and offer our agents to work from home.”

The county still has a home-based agent approach, but the difference now is that agents log onto a different server.

Pinal County did not abandon its hosted solution, either. Instead, it turned the system over to its Public Health Department for use in the event of a health emergency. “It’s not live now, but they can open it up and turn it on in a moment’s notice if needed,” Keely explains.

Switching from a hosted solution to an on-premises version was an easy process, according to Keely. Interactive Intelligence moved all of Pinal County’s IVR scripting, routing, and other data from its own servers to the new on-premises servers in about three weeks. “The transition was amazingly simple,” Keely says. “I was expecting to have issues, but it was flawless.”

Since the transition, Pinal County has seen its first-call resolution rates jump from 70 percent to 87 percent, and the number of calls answered within 20 seconds has climbed by 50 percent. The average call handling time is now 213 seconds, the average wait time is 114 seconds, and the abandon rate is 15 percent.

“The Interactive Intelligence CaaS Contact Center solution has enabled us to automatically connect residents to the right employees faster, as well as adjust routing in real time based on fluctuations in call volume,” Keely says.

“Providing superior service to the citizens of our county is a priority for us,” he adds. “As a result of Interactive’s innovative capabilities, we can continue to improve on our efforts through faster response times, additional ways for residents to contact us, and improved agent training.”

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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