• November 1, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Work-at-Home Solution Flies for Alaska Airlines

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When Alaska Airlines, the seventh-largest U.S. carrier, added new and domestic routes to its itinerary, it needed to grow its contact center staff without a great deal of expense.

The company found the solution in work-at-home agents. Envision's Click2Coach training and quality monitoring solution makes sure the more than 800 agents deliver consistent performance and excellent customer service regardless of location.

That was important for the Seattle-based airline, which handles more than 17.8 million passengers a year on flights between 64 cities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Alaska Airlines has ranked highest in customer satisfaction in J.D. Power & Associates' annual airline satisfaction surveys for the past five years.

Roughly 600,000 customer service calls per month pass through the airline's reservation and customer service contact centers in Phoenix, Seattle, and Boise, Idaho.

The airline began the work-at-home program in 2006 and is on pace to have 80 percent of its agents working from home by the end of this year. Already in its Seattle location, all of the agents who want to work at home are doing so, says Bette Giboney, manager of call center training and development.

Telecommuting has led to a greater than 50 percent reduction in real estate costs, a savings of about $250,000 a year at the Seattle facility alone. The program has also increased agent retention. Voluntary attrition is less than 2 percent. Most agents have been on board an average of eight or nine years; several have been with the company 20 years or more. "We haven't had to hire anyone since 2006," says Seth Ettwein, manager of contact center workforce planning.

The Click2Coach solution lets Giboney deliver customized coaching when and where it is needed. Alaska's Quality Assurance team reviews recorded customer interactions weekly, conducts spot checks, and develops training materials.

The solution's recording and monitoring features and training modules enable the team to communicate proactive training and handle reactive support calls. In addition, Click2Coach helps identify skill areas that need to be developed.

Envision Click2Coach helped the airline achieve and exceed the objectives it had set at the beginning of the project. It has cut average call handling time by 3.5 percent, improved call center efficiency through an increase in handled calls per day, and increased agents' hard time (time dedicated to active call handling and resolution) by 4.9 percent.

"Key to Alaska's impressive call center track record is our ability to address and support the individual needs of the agents and deliver coaching and training…designed specifically for them" Giboney says. "Envision Click2Coach has helped us keep [our] finger on the pulse of our agents' coaching needs."

Before Click2Coach, Alaska Airlines used tape recordings and listened in on calls, manual processes that didn't really support the work-at-home model. "Click2Coach…is an automated way to look in on and train our agents as necessary," Giboney adds.

The Payoff

Since implementing the Click2Coach solution from Envision in its contact center and home-based agent operations, Alaska Airlines has:

  • reduced call handling time by 3.5 percent;
  • increased agents’ hard time (time dedicated to active call handling and resolution) by 4.9 percent; and
  • reduced agent attrition to less than 2 percent.

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