Total Integration

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Running the best possible call center requires coordination on all levels, from staffing to call forecasting to call routing. And when more than one call center site is added into the mix, the job becomes even more challenging. Helping organizations meet those challenges are TotalNet and TotalView, a pair of call center solutions from California-based IEX. The two products work well as stand-alone programs, IEX Marketing Director Brian Spraetz explains, but when matched together, they create a virtual call center that can handle everything, from pre-answer call routing to enterprise reporting and even leveraging to help a call center manager stagger agent lunch breaks.

"Our two products are designed to work together to help customers," Spraetz says. "Both products' purposes are to assist call center managers in improving the customer experience in delivering and controlling that service better."

The Right Route
Simply put, TotalNet manages calls and TotalView manages people. Using client-server technology and a built-in network, managers using Microsoft Windows on workstation PCs can maintain databases, define rules for network routing and manage call center operations.

TotalNet, which IEX calls the "foundation of the virtual call center," allows multisite call centers to route calls to multiple locations just as if they were a single call center, as well as segment calls and callers by ANI or customer-entered digits, integrate workforce management forecasting and scheduling with call routing and analyze call center operations with reporting, simulation and analysis tools.

"TotalNet's main purpose is to direct incoming telephone calls intelligently to the call center or location where they can best be serviced and answered the quickest," Spraetz says.

With multisite operations, TotalNet is connected to the ACD with a direct connection interface through an IP network, Spraetz explains, so it can monitor the ACD statistics in real time. Highly sophisticated call routing rules, such as skills-based routing or those based on customer status- -such as preferred- -are also possible.

"We try to hit on three main points: planning, scheduling and managing the level of service, which is agent availability," Spraetz says. "Then there's a number of additional features that can be added."

People Mover
The second portion of the IEX virtual call center model, TotalView, integrates human resource management with automated call delivery and offers tools for forecasting, skill scheduling and daily staff management.

"The main benefit [of TotalView] is equipping managers of call centers and contact centers with the ability to predict, manage and deliver the level of customer service they're committed to or their customers are requiring," Spraetz says.

The forecasting capability allows managers to look months, years or just minutes into the future and plan staffing and other resources accordingly. IEX's patented Enhanced Erlang C algorithm utilizes the user's historical data, goals and operating parameters to form its forecast. Other TotalView features include a scheduler that analyzes staff requirements, employee preferences, preplanned activities and work rules; and automatically generates schedules. Drop and drag icons allow managers to integrate staff lunch breaks, in-house training and vacations into the schedule. A Web browser immediately sends schedules to employees and notifies them of any changes. An Intraday Management feature analyzes workload trends and compares them to staff availability, while the Dynamic Workload Allocation feature constantly monitors workload and staffing, allowing for necessary modifications.

TotalView also offers real-time schedule adherence to monitor customer service levels as well as Open Database Connectivity that allows users to create custom reports. Other functionality includes a multimedia contact management feature that can reply to e-mail, Web request, voicemail, fax and other alternative means of customer contact.

Toning the Dial
TotalView's scheduling capabilities made the program attractive to Cheap Tickets, a discount travel product provider based in Honolulu, which purchased the product in May. With more than 600 agents in four call centers, Cheap Tickets administrators were looking for a flexible, efficient way to maintain schedules.

Manual scheduling wasn't really a viable option to help the organization stay abreast of call volume and future planning, says Cheap Tickets Scheduling Manager Tim Fredrickson.

But in addition to scheduling, Cheap Tickets was also "looking for the ability to forecast long- and short-term call volume," Fredrickson says. "We wanted to be able to integrate our existing system in such a way that would provide reliable support to our agents."

Further, the organization was looking for a "reliable reporting system of both agent and call center performance," he says.

TotalView fit the bill on all counts, Fredrickson says, and also received high marks for the flexibility the system offers.

"Most of the other systems we were looking at were very much the type of thing where training entails you going to their office and learning how to use the product in general, then you bring the system back and restructure your call center to match how you use the workforce manager," Fredrickson says.

Training for TotalView, on the other hand, is accomplished using the user's data. "The training and implementation are all designed to the current call center," Fredrickson says. "It's a very flexible system that you design based on how you want the system to run as opposed to saying here's a brand-new system, now you have to run your call center to fit the way this works."

That should keep the agents happy, too. "It's not a bunch of changes we're having to prepare our agents for," he says. "It's just an improvement in the scheduling process." In the future, Cheap Tickets hopes to add TotalView's real-time adherence capabilities to its system, as well as TotalNet's call managing capabilities.

For Fredrickson, the ROI is "the ability to better manage call volumes we're receiving on a more consistent basis, and to be able to handle additional call volumes in a more structured manner as far as providing service levels throughout the day."

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