Sunny Skies for Knology

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Knology, a telecommunications provider, supplies interactive communications services to the sunny southeastern United States. Dark storm clouds, however, were looming over the company's contact center in Augusta, Ga. Knology's commitment to customers had led to impressive growth since the company's mid-1990s birth, but with new business comes new problems: Call volume had ramped up dramatically, while the contact center's basic practices hadn't budged an inch. "We were constantly stuck in the 'poor performance' world," says Scott Evenson, Knology's director of call center operations. With only manual practices for agent scheduling, and tape recorders for quality monitoring, Knology began to suffer low answer rate as well as agent attrition. "We didn't have a tool to find where the calls were coming from and to make staff recommendations," Evenson says. "If you can't get that right, it causes your call line to snowball." For fairer skies, Knology deployed Impact 360 Workforce Optimization from Verint Witness Actionable Solutions (VWAS). Evenson admits that the price was "not an easy pill to swallow." Getting the go-ahead meant promising payback through staff reduction and lower employee turnover. Today, Evenson says, "We've paid it back tenfold, easily." Oscar Alban, principal global market consultant for VWAS, calls Knology a great example of a successful workforce optimization initiative: After only two months -- during which the single road bump was ensuring data flow -- Impact 360 was off and running. As with any new business practice, agents displayed early resistance, but as soon as the company began to see some success the implementation found some fair-weather friends. Knology used key performance indicators for both agents and supervisors to measure accuracy and progress. Performance is aided by a streamlined approach to training. Previously, Knology had to pull agents from their phones. Now, e-learning clips are delivered directly to each agent's desktop, increasing weekly work time by 10,000 minutes. Better training and an incentive structure helped cut attrition by 55 percent. Also, schedule adherence is now a nearly perfect 94 percent. But the real wins are customer-facing. First-call resolution was only 63 percent; now it's 82 percent. The answer rate has gone up significantly, as well--from 69 percent to a nearly flawless 96 percent. This helped drop call volume by 22 percent. And customers are happy: In a periodic email survey, feedback now runs 95 percent to 100 percent favorable, Evenson says, adding that, even though Knology's use of the email survey is fairly new, he knows the prior customer-satisfaction level "wasn't there," and that "customers can absolutely see [the improvement] and feel it." After targeting agent performance and customer service, the company implemented the Impact 360 system with its dispatch group, and 2008 will see the launch of a new interactive voice response system, voice recognition, and chat technologies. Knology is now beginning to implement the system in a new South Dakota contact center, and to connect that location with Augusta. "We're taking our first crack at having a virtual call center," Evenson says. Alban only partly credits the system: Knology's sunny success is due to effort and a clear roadmap, and because "they did more than just look to technology to solve their problems." THE PAYOFF Since implementing Impact 360, Knology has been able to:
  • decrease agent attrition by 55 percent;
  • improve first-call resolution by 19 percent;
  • increase its answer rate by 27 percent;
  • effect a 22 percent drop in call volume; and
  • realize a savings of 10,000 minutes in weekly work time.
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