Chorus and harmonies

24 Sep 2007

Dialling a company call centre is of course a simple task, but ensuring the correct support technology is in place can be a daunting experience for some companies. There are several customer relationship management (CRM) software packages available on the market and each vary in their approach to CRM.

However in solutions provided to UPC, Siemens believe that not only has it installed the correct technology but they have also set out the right approach to enhance UPC’s ability to deal with its customers more efficiently.

The overall objective of a CRM strategy is to consider each company’s specific situation and to meet its customers’ demands and expectations. UPC Ireland, the new parent company of NTL and Chorus has over 600,000 customer relationships and offers homes and businesses in Ireland a range of services including TV, broadband and phones across its national footprint.

A key element of the project consisted of identifying the existing processes, front-house customer service, employee training, marketing, systems and information networks. Siemens worked with the local team in UPC to work on a communications system that would improve operational efficiency from the customer’s perspective and company agents.

Siemens installed a CRM system that supports the customer processes to include the company’s sales or service agents to providing the complete analysis of customer data to support the agent.

In effect, the CRM is providing support to the front-office business processes and each interaction with a customer is fine-tuned to provide a customer’s contact history so staff can retrieve information more efficiently from a database that has been built to support the call centre and their agents.

CRM covers the direct interaction with customers, for a variety of different purposes, including feedback and issue-reporting. Interaction can be through a variety of channels, such as internet, email, interactive voice response (IVR), SMS or through mobile email.

“We run a partnership approach,” says Emer O’Connor, project manager with Siemens.

An innovative use of its front-end system was a major first step.

“What we put upfront was an IVR system with enhanced custom design features,” explained O’Connor. “The system performs database dipping, so when a caller rings from their mobile or landline, once the numbers are in the customer’s database the system will recognise them and supply targeted messaging. We were probably one of the first groups in Ireland to do this. The IVR was integrated with Hipath 4000 PBX and ProCenter ACD system.”

UPC has been actively engaged in merging systems, platforms and IT networks across NTL and Chorus for the past 18 months. The primary reason relates to harmonising the product and price ranges across both operations in advance of rebranding to UPC.
“During December 2006 and January 2007 we amalgamated two call centres into one by migrating onto the Siemens System. Now when you ring UPC’s operations in Ireland you’re getting though to one call centre in Limerick where the calls are distributed to the appropriate agents using skills-based routing.

“Furthermore we had to integrate the Siemens technology with the company database and billing systems. The process of managing these changes is not just about technology but about human relationships,” says O’Connor.

“It involves understanding what the company is trying to achieve with its deployment through active communication.”

“We’re very careful to make sure we gather the correct business requirements,” says Mike O’Donoghue (pictured), key account manager with Siemens Ireland. “We offer a business-based solution rather than just a technology-based solution.”

“We talk to team leaders, supervisors and agents, not just the managers,” says O’Connor.

“Once the systems are deployed it is simple for the clients to use it.

“The call management is in the hands of the customer. They’re not relying on us to come back in and redesign call flows: the call flows are flexible and can be managed in-house,” she says.

“The systems are being written for call centre managers. Version 7 of ProCenter has a fabulous interface that is very easy to use. With a few days’ training the call centre managers or supervisors can do a lot of routing.

“You can get technology from anybody but it’s the actual relationship we have with our customers that makes the difference,” concludes O’Connor.

By Niall Byrne