Case Study

Making Multimedia Work

By Brendan B. Read, Senior Contributing Editor  |  October 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Customer [email protected] Solutions

Multichannel/multimedia contact handling has long been prophesized and advocated which has resulted in products being created to support these contact channels. Yet, in practice, it receives only lip service as most customer contact is via voice to a live agent.




This is now changing thanks to a wide array of factors including broadband to homes and mobile devices, which are making chat, e-mail and SMS popular. Businesses need to seamlessly integrate self-service with live agent interactions to deliver high quality, customer-retaining experiences.

These two examples illustrate how firms are making multichannel/multimedia work in their centers.

 Superior Service/Support, Lower Costs

Esri, based in Redlands, Calif., makes GIS mapping software that is sold in every major country. It has over a million users of their software in all 50 U.S. states, as well as in U.S. federal agencies, local government, and county health departments. Customer support is provided through four contact centers: at its headquarters and in Charlotte, N.C., Mumbai, India and Manila, Philippines, as well as a network of 100 international distributors and over 2,000 business partners.

Facing increased demand from a growing customer base and the resulting rising call volume and higher costs, in 2007 Esri decided to expand from handling mostly voice-only interactions to efficiently intake e-mail and chat channels and provide Web self-service. It beefed up its PBX (News - Alert) (News - Alert) with a Genesys (News - Alert) (www.genesyslabs.com) Interaction Management (CIM) platform solution to automate its call answering and routing, installed with the switch in its Redlands, California location. Esri liked the Genesys (News - Alert) software, citing its robustness, extensibility and that it had the scalability it needed. The Genesys software incorporated an IVR system to handle simple self-service interactions, efficiently route voice calls, integrated routing for e-mail and chat inquiries to the best available agents and integrated callback into the queues. It also applied business intelligence rules to trouble tickets.

Michael Kim, Esri director of support services, says that the firm was already using e-mail and the phone to engage with their customers, but most of it was off-line. Their customer support staff would call back rather than engage customers directly. E-mail requests were handled by either sending a reply e-mail or by phone call back.

“We had incorporated automated-routing and event management capabilities into our customer support organization, but we realized that we needed to take a multimedia approach since many customers were demanding different options for receiving support,” explains Kim.

Esri began installing the Genesys software in late 2008 with the work, including testing and debugging, fully completed a year later for the e-mail channel and in June 2010 for the chat channel. The work took place in phases. The first phase, which took 10 months, implemented the IVR, routing, and seamless integration into its CRM system. The second phase, which took over four months, included deployment of multimedia, chat and customer Web-based systems. Both required some desktop development which was simplified by using the Genesys SDK (software development kit).

Esri’s greatest challenge with the installation was integrating into the CRM. It simplified the tasks by using the SDK platforms jointly developed with and provided by Genesys. Esri’s goal was to decouple available agents from any particular channel so that they could make ready to take e-mail, phone, or chat as the situation demanded. In turn customers have many options, allowing them to contact Esri by the channel of their choice; they can initiate a session by chat, by phone call or e-mail.

This amount of flexibility required a lot of testing and debugging, but Kim estimates that even with all of the customization, the project was completed within 10 percent of its budgeted timeline.

The Genesys solution has paid off dramatically. Agent/rep productivity increased by 150 percent: through closing that many more cases per employee and by using chat that enable them to engage more than one customer at a time.

Permitting trouble tickets to be closed rapidly and implementing chat drove customer service scores up by over 50 percent and net promoter scores by over 200 percent. The data showed that customer satisfaction is 15 to 20 percent higher with chat.

Esri also implemented the Genesys Web-based portal as a medium to communicate with their international distributors, allowing them to get updates via a Web portal and to take feedback. That worked so well, reports Kim, that after a year of use by the distributors, the platform has now been extended to all customers worldwide.

More interaction methods are in the works. The firm is planning to deploy an outbound callback service, plus concierge and rendezvous functions. A Web-based calendar function for scheduling is also on the calendar as well as implementation of virtual hold.

“Although some of the satisfaction may be assigned to the excitement of a new communication method, many are pleased with the capabilities a chat channel now provides them,” explains Kim.  “There are many situations where the chat sessions must support large file transfers and long conversations that could last several hours, not just minutes. 

“Customers appreciate the ability to stay online for these long periods of time, enabling them to complete an activity in less time because it is not dragged out over weeks of slow and intermittent communications associated with pure e-mail channels.”

Small Center, Big Needs

Summit Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in Wisconsin with $1.5 billion in assets. It has one contact center located in Madison, Wis., with 35 seats. Up until 2005 it had been using a multimedia, advanced contact center system from a startup company. Unfortunately the vendor ran into financial problems and went out of business.

That situation put Summit in a bind. Since it was used to using multimedia capabilities in the contact center, staff had to find a new voice vendor that offered the same.

Fortunately Summit had a solution readily at hand. In 2003 it had installed a ShoreTel (News - Alert) (News - Alert) (www.shoretel.com) business phone system at all of its offices that had been functioning very well. After contacting the supplier’s reseller, Transcend United, it selected the ShoreTel Enterprise Contact Center (ECC) system. Transcend customized several apps for Summit to duplicate some functionality that it had with their old system and completed the work in four to six months; cutover successfully took place in July 2006.

“It made sense to Summit to move to ShoreTel ECC and get a contact center system from the same vendor as phone system; especially as we wanted a connection between the two important functions: phone and contact center capabilities,” explains Lisa Hayes, assistant vice president, Call Center. “We saw the value in not having to work with two separate companies.”

ShoreTel ECC offers text chat, e-mail, and callback features, which is what their agents were using before on the old system, but provides them more seamlessly and with greater productivity. To be efficient, voice calls come first as a priority, and are delivered first to the agents, and then text chat and then e-mail is last.

The Summit system has call back feature where credit union members can go to its website to schedule a call by going online and completing a small form; plugging in when they want to be called; the ShoreTel ECC system dials out at that time for the agents. Members calling in can also leave a message and hang up and leave the queue, but the message stays in the queue, so the agent hears the message in the order that the call was received. Faxes that they send in now arrive on agents’ desktops as e-mails: which avoids leaving their workstations to go to a fax machine.

“The ShoreTel ECC coordinates all of these different types of communications which gives managers time to coach and give feedback rather than spending time moving people around,” says Hayes. “This is a much better use of the manager’s time.”

Summit is now planning to upgrade the ShoreTel installation to a new version of ECC in sometime in 2011. The new application will allow agents to have lot more knowledge of what is going on in the queues, rather than just supervisors having this information. The newest version of ShoreTel Agent Manager will also permit agents to know so much more about queues and make good business decisions on how to use their time.

“Multimedia allows members to gain access to their money and services in whatever way they want to communicate and from any location,” explains Hayes. “Members can be very sensitive about getting help, so Summit wants to deliver excellent service, however suits them best. Summit agents are all on one system, rather than having to get off the phone to e-mail and communicate with members in other ways.”