The Homework Hotline Aces Its Assignments with PureCloud
The Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Homework Hotline is a grant-funded nonprofit that helps middle school and high school students with math and science homework. Open Sunday to Thursday, it employs 140 tutors, with up to 45 of them on call on any busy night to assist its teenage clientele. The campus-based service center doesn’t take walk-in appointments, so it’s essential that the hotline’s software supports multiple interaction channels—phone, email, and chat—flawlessly.
But according to Lindsay Hull, associate director of education and operations at the Homework Hotline, Rose-Hulman’s communications software—from a Microsoft partner, chosen to work seamlessly with Skype for Business—simply wasn’t reliable, particularly as the number of chat-based interactions grew rapidly. The provider couldn’t support the updates that had to be frequently installed to meet security requirements. “Every time there was a Skype for Business update, it created problems for us.”
This led to chat issues—the systems crashed often, and screens closed randomly. The Homework Hotline had to continually restart its servers—a process that required help from the IT department. “We’re only open from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, so we had to keep calling them to restart the servers,” Hull says. “Finally, they gave me access to restart the systems; they were very kind and gracious, but we were bugging them a lot.” Even then, no fix was guaranteed to last for very long. Frustrated students were likely to hang up and simply lose faith in the service. “We weren’t a reliable resource for our students,” Hull says.
A consultant recommended offerings from several software vendors. But after sending representatives to Interactive Intelligence’s 2016 Interactions conference and learning more about its software, Rose-Hulman settled on its PureCloud contact center solution. The vendor—which has been acquired by Genesys—was conveniently located in Indianapolis, not far from Rose-Hulman’s Terre Haute, Ind., campus. “We signed the agreement on June 30, and went live on August 7,” Hull recalls.
Hull worked with a PureCloud customer success rep to set everything up. She was prepared to set aside twice as much time as recommended, as well as a bigger budget, to complete implementation. “So it was a total shift when we went live with PureCloud, because everything worked and was done on time,” Hull says. And working with the company was easier. “If we needed to go longer, that wasn’t a big deal; if we needed to reschedule, that wasn’t a big deal.”
The improvements were noticeable right away. “Our tutors loved it; we weren’t calling support.” When Hull started her job, she assumed she’d work evenings only to support the agents but ended up working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to align her hours with IT’s. That has changed.
The second week after implementation, the hotline hosted visitors who observed the tutors chat, email, and talk to students. “They didn’t even notice the software because it just did what it was supposed to,” Hull says.
As a result, the students are happier, too. “Our satisfaction for chat has grown by 14.6 percent” compared to what it was with the previous system, Hull says—a significant improvement, considering that 22 percent of Homework Hotline’s 33,619 tutoring sessions during the 2015–16 academic year happened via chat.
Before the changes, users who had trouble connecting to the system had no feedback channel and thus were unable to express their frustrations. “The people that were mad at us couldn’t even do our survey because chat didn’t work and they couldn’t get through to tell us what didn’t work,” she says. Now, there is a bigger pool of student opinions to assess.
Most importantly, the hotline is ready for an anticipated increase in chat queries—the number of which has grown by 548 percent since the 2013–14 academic year.
Since implementing PureCloud by Genesys, Rose-Hulman’s Homework Hotline has seen the following results:
- 14.6 percent growth in chat user satisfaction;
- a larger pool of student survey responses to draw from; and
- a decreased dependence on IT.