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July 1999

PrimeTime Enterprise

Blue Pumpkin Software, Inc.
800 West El Camino Real, Suite 240
Mountain View, CA 94040
P: 650-429-6300; F: 650-429-6411

Web site: http://www.bluepumpkin.com

Price: Starts at $31,500 for up to 100 agents, Skills-based scheduling module add-on starts at $10,000 for 20 agents, Real-time adherence module add-on is $15,000 per ACD.

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Installation: 5
Documentation: 4.5
Features: 4.5
GUI: 5
Overall: A

Last year, TMC Labs reviewed Blue Pumpkin’s PrimeTime software in the March 1998 issue of CTI� magazine, and it performed superbly. When we learned that Blue Pumpkin had released PrimeTime Enterprise workforce management software, we felt it would be a perfect product for [email protected] CENTER Solutions readers to learn more about. Since the powerful design of the original software is inherent in the new product, we will focus on the enhancements, changes and new features of PrimeTime Enterprise.

The first procedure was to install Microsoft SQL Server 6.5, which we did without a problem. Our platform was a Pentium 300Mhz PC with 96 Megs of RAM, running Windows NT Server 4.0. While this is a significant improvement over the testing equipment we used over a year ago, we feared some of the applications might run slowly because of the type of product we were testing. We were pleasantly surprised to find that, for the most part, PrimeTime Enterprise ran at a satisfactory pace.

We installed the PrimeTime Enterprise server database after rebooting, followed by the automated call distributor (ACD) utilities and then the client. The process of installing all of these essential ingredients generally posed no surprises — they were standard, quick and easy to install, and most important, they worked flawlessly with each other once they were all installed. Also, we were able to access the PrimeTime Enterprise database from within Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 without really searching for it.

When we started PrimeTime Enterprise, we had to type in the long registration code that was given to us when we received our license. Once completed, a dialog box came up, which asked for the entry of the server name. It then asked for the user name and password to log in. Unfortunately, we didn’t know what to enter here because the default user name and password were not listed in the manual. Fortunately, a call to Blue Pumpkin’s technical support helped us quickly obtain the information.

The most impressive part of the PrimeTime Enterprise manual is chapter four — the tutorial section of the manual. By looking at this section closely and following the tutorial as if it were a hands-on demo, you really get a good sense of the product.

The remainder of the manual is functional — it tells you what you need to know, although it is often disjointed in that it doesn’t always present information as clearly and precisely as it should.

The appendixes and the index of the manual are very helpful to the overall documentation. Also, the program’s help files are concise, well thought out and context-sensitive. The status bar even reminds you of this last capability by stating, “For Help, press F1.”

PrimeTime Enterprise consists of many tools to help manage your call center. To meet your customer service goals, an intuitive interface is used for all of your needs, including forecasting and scheduling analysis with understandable graphs and intelligent reports. The software also supports most popular ACDs, a flexible set of work rules and can accommodate an extensive employee database.

Two add-on options are real-time adherence and skills-based scheduling, both of which are welcome additions to PrimeTime Enterprise’s set of features. Real-time adherence helps you evaluate how well service goals are being met through the use of real-time data from your ACD. Skills-based scheduling links your agents’ skills to your ACD queues so the appropriate agent can take calls on a specific subject.

Operational Testing
When we first opened PrimeTime Enterprise, we were presented with work options: working on a campaign, as an organization, opening an example, returning to our last activity, accessing the help files, or exiting the program. We initially chose to open an example and follow the tutorial given to us in the manual. Eventually, we would be ready to “play” with the program in both the organization and campaign modes, but for us, the example mode was really the best way to identify how the entire program would work for a call center. Of course, a call center manager must invest a lot more time than we did to enter the proper data in the appropriate places and make sure everything is correct; after all, no matter how good your software program is, forecasts are only meaningful if the call center manager inputs accurate data.

Organization Mode
The organization mode is where the call center manager enters most of the basic data. It consists of six icons on the left-hand side of the screen: operations, work rules, employees, calendar, pulse and reports. When we clicked into the organization mode, the operations screen automatically appeared. On this screen you can add general information pertinent to scheduling. The most obvious of these is entering the hours the company is in operation.

The work rules module allows you to set the start-times for both regular and part-time shifts, specify the periods when employees are off the phone, such as during lunch, meetings, breaks and training sessions, and schedule the work patterns for employees (what days they work, etc.). For the off-phone periods, you can specify the time when an agent will be away from the phone, if that time is paid or not, as well as a description of what the employee does during that time.

In the employees module you list the names of the employees, their minimum and maximum hours paid, the employees’ supervisors, the employees’ wages and the employees’ Social Security numbers. Since you must scroll right to enter all of the data you need, the first and last name columns move as you scroll so you always know which employee you are entering data for. After you have entered the employees into the grid, you can sort them in ascending or descending alphabetical order. These small features make a call center manager’s work easier and are examples of impressive little touches from Blue Pumpkin. Also included in this section, if you decide to take the option, is a tab for skills-based scheduling, which is based on the proficiency level of an employee for a certain skill. For example, a score of 1 is average while 0.5 is above average and 1.5 is below average.

There are two different types of calendars that can be accessed. One is the calendar module, which can be accessed by clicking the icon on the left side of the screen. It lists the agent’s working hours for a selected week and allows for the administration of events such as vacations. The other can be viewed when you pull down a specific date off the toolbar, which Blue Pumpkin affectionately calls a Date Picker.

In the campaign mode, changes for breaks, lunches and work times for the employees can easily be administered with a simple click-and-scroll of the mouse . The Date Picker selects the current date or the active day being scheduled.

The pulse module helps you track your call center performance, so it is typically used in the campaign mode and is used here primarily for viewing purposes. This module allows you to view one of six line graphs, including analysis from your ACD for call volume (per 15 minutes), service level and staffing.

Rounding out the organization mode is the reports module. Here, you can create new reports from a template or can use preset reports. The preset reports in the organization mode include adherence, employee and management staffing reports. Performance reports are included only in the campaign mode since these are targeted reports that focus on customer interaction. Generating preset reports is truly simple. In the simplest case, just click the report you want, enter a start and end date, and click Generate Report. You can also preview the report on-screen or print it.

Campaign Mode
The campaign mode is where the call center manager schedules and forecasts on a weekly basis and manages campaigns. It has all of the same modules as the organization mode with the addition of the forecast, service goals and agent requirements modules.

There is one noteworthy difference in the operations module of the campaign mode. Since the organization mode does not have any scheduling features within it, most of the additions in the campaign mode have to do with scheduling. In the operations module's case, queues can be linked to the campaign so that a pool of agents can be employed into one or more campaigns and certain organizations within the company can also be linked with the campaign . In this way, PrimeTime Enterprise will automatically schedule within the campaign. Skills can also be presented here in order to match the right agents with the right campaign. An agent can be on more than one campaign, but can only switch campaigns on a daily basis.

The forecast of a campaign focuses on call volume and average handling time (AHT) as well as shrinkage to determine how many agents are necessary at any given time in a workday. It is based on the historical call volume data for every 15-minute interval. We had little problem accessing the weekly data and displaying a meaningful line graph to show the results, as depicted in Figure 4. All we had to do was load the weekly profiles, and there was the forecast. Of course, it is not that simple because the profiles have to be accurate in order for the graphs to be meaningful. When we pressed the scale button, we could adjust the number or the percentage changed in the call volume in order to address our current needs as compared to what the historical data offered. We could also press the shrinkage button to adjust to a higher absentee rate of employees (day off of work, employee needed for other matters, tardiness, etc.) that might occur on a Monday or Friday, for example. This helps the call center manager know whether or not an extra employee may be needed at any given time.

One of the graphs  gives the acronym of AHT as its title. We must note here that AHT for PrimeTime Enterprise is the average length of time working on a call (hold-time is not included in this average). AHT is not ‘Average HOLD Time’ as commonly referred; Average Speed to Answer (ASA) would be PrimeTime Enterprise’s version of average hold time.

The service goals module is one of the most direct of an array of straightforward modules of PrimeTime Enterprise. The point of this module is to set how fast an agent should pick up calls. This is measured by an average of the speed to answer calls or by the percentage set to be answered within a specific number of seconds. When we pressed the Make A Goal Constant button, a line graph corresponded to our entries. We could also change the percentage of calls answered based on how important a call might be on a specific day by zooming in and out on that day. For example, a company might decide to set up more important business transactions on a Monday, therefore, the percentage of calls taken within a certain amount of seconds should be increased for that day.

To round out the additional modules of the campaign mode, the agent requirements module is set up similarly to that of the service goals module. This module is used to view a line graph of the staffing hours set for the campaign week, and you can zoom in to view a specific day.

Finally, after the entire system was set up, we were ready to actually schedule the campaign week based on the data we entered. We entered the calendar module in the campaign mode, recalculated the statistics by pressing the second-to-last button of the toolbar on the right side of the screen, and entered the scheduler set up (fourth-to-last button from the right side). We accepted the default settings listed. Moments later, the schedule was set. One of the best parts of this functionality is that if there is a problem with the schedule, PrimeTime Enterprise alerts you to it with an intuitive dialog box that helps you solve the problem. This is beneficial for call center managers, no matter how proficient they are.

Room For Improvement
Within PrimeTime Enterprise, we can suggest little to improve. The graphical interface is one of the best we’ve seen, and the feature set is excellent. Of course, there are still a few areas where some functionality could be added. A minor feature we would add is the ability to schedule an employee for more than one campaign a day. Also, we would suggest the ability to paste information from one application into PrimeTime Enterprise. As it stands now, you can copy and paste within PrimeTime Enterprise, but cannot copy from, say, Microsoft Excel to the employees module of PrimeTime Enterprise. If call center managers have a list of employees in an Excel spreadsheet, why should they have to type-in the information again?

PrimeTime Enterprise has many line graphs for forecasting and managerial purposes, which is definitely helpful to the call center manager. The addition of other charts and graphs, such as pie charts and bar graphs, would help even more to pinpoint useful and accurate information.

Our final suggestion is to add recording for quality assurance functionality so that a manager can determine how an agent is performing. This would help agents identify and try to rectify any mistakes they might be making on the phone and would make PrimeTime Enterprise an even more well-rounded and complete call center solution.

Blue Pumpkin has again built an exemplary product that in many ways is better than their product we reviewed in the March 1998 issue of CTI� magazine, and that’s saying a lot, especially since we gave Blue Pumpkin a glowing review the first time. Furthermore, we liked how the tutorial uses forecasts dated after the year 2000, basically telling us that this product is Y2K compliant.

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