Thinking differently

28 Dec 2008

A focus on customer service and real business needs will be the hallmark of the telecoms operator going into 2009.

As the economic storm clouds continue to boil across the hemisphere, smart telecoms operators are fired up about how they intend to race into the maelstrom and come out a winner on the other side.

But the smarter telecoms player is a different beast entirely, and realises that businesses that want to survive are not only looking for an edge in terms of efficiency, but a return to basic business values.

When Sean Mahon, the new country manager at Cable & Wireless (C&W) in Ireland, talks about how the world’s economies are falling into recession, his words are peppered with ‘honest’ and ‘open’, and how a tightening of customers’ belts does not necessarily constitute a downturn in business.

“In our Q1 results, we managed to see an uplift in numbers across the board and that reflects our efficiencies as an organisation. Every business has a drive on efficiency right now, there’s nothing different there. What we felt strongly about was putting our efforts into customer services, and a lot of money has gone into that strategy.”

In Ireland, C&W has over 300 customers both north and south in the areas of financial services, construction, logistics and, increasingly, in government. Globally, the firm has clients such as Citigroup, Cisco, Aviva, JP Morgan and Nokia Siemens, to name a few.

Locally, the company provides key PBX and data services to companies such as Ryanair, Canada Life and Irish Ferries.

One of the big drivers right now, says Mahon, is the demand for videoconferencing, as well as traditional PBX and call-routing services.

“We’ve differentiated ourselves in the local market by leveraging our resources to provided unique bespoke products that are all about driving efficiencies for the customer.”

Although primarily a business-to-business telecoms provider, C&W has done substantial government work across the island of Ireland. For example, the company holds the Government Secure Internet contract for Northern Ireland and the UK.

“There’s a major reform agenda running across Northern Ireland right now, and the civil service there has modernised itself to handle public needs better. Among the contracts we’ve worked on is Records NI, which puts all documents into one repository. We did the disaster recovery for that. Also, we’ve been involved in the Electronic HR initiative to mange over 18,000 civil servants across the North.”

In the Republic of Ireland, C&W has strengths in the areas of business telephone services. In recent months, the company launched its Contact Lite service, which provides call-centre operations with the ability to combine multiple call-centre sites, small branch offices or remote professionals into a homogeneous call-answering resource.

Contact Lite is a managed interactive voice-response service that’s menu driven. It optimises customers’ incoming call-management services, permitting improved staff workload planning and agent skills-based call delivery. Contact Lite can help save businesses money and provide their customers with the right information from the right person at the first attempt.

This service permits customers calling a business to select the destination of their call by responding to a list of pre-programmed menu options. Consequently, much staff time is saved by not having to transfer calls around a business, as calls are immediately directed to the most appropriate person.

Interactive voice-response systems can also be used to provide and collect information. Callers can be directed to pre-recorded announcements (eg office opening hours), or you can allow callers to leave a message during peak periods or when your business is closed.

“Contact Lite helps firms achieve efficiencies and cost reduction, but also improves business continuity and risk management.

“One advantage of the service is that it is useful for non-geographic numbering. If disaster strikes or an office is closing, the calls can be rerouted to an alternative location in a matter of minutes. We regard this as intelligent call-routing, and for businesses, it means they need never shut in the event of a problem; it mitigates risk.”

Across Ireland, C&W has its own mesh network, which exits the country at three points, making it ideal for multinationals.

“If you’re an organisation in Ireland with international connectivity needs, this is ideal. For the island of Ireland, this capability stimulates business.

“Organisations today want to have a global network with global reach, and we’re one of the few telecoms providers here that can provide that reach,” Mahon concludes.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years