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January 2010 | Volume 28 / Number 8
Special Focus

Short Message Service (SMS)

Smooth Sailing With Aspect's PerformanceEdge (News - Alert)

By Brendan B. Read,
Senior Contributing Editor

Contact centers are central to the travel and hospitality industry, handling reservations and sales, questions, and managing any issues that arise. How effectively and efficiently they perform is therefore vital to these businesses.

International Cruise & Excursions, Inc. (ICE) is a cruise and vacation club affiliated with the world’s leading cruise lines, 650 luxury resorts and international tour and travel providers. ICE operates three contact centers with a combined 550 agent positions in Phoenix, Ariz. and San Diego, Calif.

To schedule contact center staff ICE had been using Excel spreadsheets. Yet its managers found this process inefficient and difficult to use. Insights into key performance metrics like average handle time, shrinkage and real-time adherence were nonexistent.

ICE’s leadership learned that it needed a robust workforce management tool, as well as a solid performance optimization strategy, to achieve higher closing percentages, better sales margins and more efficient operations. In late 2006 it decided to implement a workforce management (WFM) solution blended with a performance management enhancement package that would provide coaching forms, dashboards and out-of-the-box key performance indicators (KPIs) measuring agent and team performance.

ICE chose Aspect (News - Alert)’s PerformanceEdge solutions: Aspect eWorkforce Management with the Analyze II enhancement package, a pre-packaged performance management feature that provides a coaching form, dashboards and out-of-the-box KPIs. It selected Aspect Performance Edge for its unlimited what-if scenarios capabilities, for its sound forecasting mechanism and user-friendly navigation.

“We sold our senior management on the new investment and Aspect PerformanceEdge’s solution by presenting to them a crash course on ‘Workforce Management 101’ and demonstrating how it could save us approximately one million dollars a year,” recounts Adelina Petrov, director of sales and operations analysis. “I detailed how measuring and improving KPIs would translate into large cost savings as well as increased revenue generating potential without the need to hire and train new agents.”

ICE installed Aspect eWorkforce Management/Analyze II in fall 2007. ICE and Aspect developed a customized system of dashboards and reports for KPI tracking and goal setting. In 2008 ICE added a performance optimization module.

Petrov took the lead in managing the entire project from start to finish. She educated her team about what the numbers mean, and how to best address the multitude of scenarios that crop up in the contact center on a daily basis. She would sometimes allow an employee make the wrong decision and learn from it instead of working with a person who requires a supervisor’s sign off on every task.

“A contact center cannot rely on one individual or center of knowledge. Responsibility needs to be distributed and owned by the team in order for the operation to function successfully,” says Petrov. “I work to ensure that every member of our workforce management team is confident and capable to call the shots when they need to.”

Petrov’s estimate of what the workforce management/performance management strategy could achieve was way off the mark, in a good way. Improved productivity arising from hikes in schedule adherence to 93 percent from the 78 percent it was tracking prior to it materialized in approximately $2.5 million dollars per year cost savings. ICE’s initial investment repaid itself within just four months post implementation while sales revenue improved by 22 percent in 2007 compared to the previous year. In addition, the software saved 6,500 hours of frontline management time per year, translated into not employing four full time equivalent supervisors.

The increased efficiencies gained with PerformanceEdge enabled ICE to survive the economic downturn that rocked the travel and hospitality industry. In late 2008, the company made the conscious decision to operate an under-staffed contact center during 2009 to survive the economic uncertainties.

“We were able to meet all of our service levels but this required a much higher level of analytical effort on the workforce management front,” says Petrov. “PerformanceEdge made it possible for us. We ran more efficient schedules, more robust forecasting, and intraday performance with the help of PerformanceEdge.”

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