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[March 28, 2005]

Multi-Channel Contact Center Technology Supports Customer-Focused Strategy for VSP

Case Study Provided by Aspect Communications

With more than US$2 billion a year in revenue, VSP is the largest provider in the United States of high-quality eyecare coverage. Thousands of companies rely on VSP to provide vision programs for their employees. A challenge for VSP was delivering excellent cust omer service by giving cust omers a choice of contact channels. As a solution, Aspect Communications provided an integrated, multichannel contact center that uses leading-edge technology to achieve business goals. The results have been higher-quality cust omer service, a competitive advantage in a tough market, and higher employee morale and retention.

The multisite, multichannel, multiskill cust omer service contact center at VSP is a perfect example of the technology-rich, world-class cust omer contact center. But it's not a technology-driven operation. Business goals such as quality cust omer service, competitive differentiation, and employee retention come first.

Quality service is VSP's primary mission, according to VSP's Dan Salter, who is responsible for seeing that VSP members have seamless access to the contact center, whether they prefer the telephone, e-mail, or the Web, and that they get the assistance they need quickly and without hassle.

Although more than 95 percent of VSP's contacts are telephone calls, the center offers e-mail contact via software from Aspect partner eGain and live Web contact using Aspect Web Interaction, which offers callback, shared browsing, chat, and other ways to interact directly with agents in the contact center.

Project manager Wendy Kimball, who evaluates and implements technology for VSP, admits that interactive Web is a more expensive channel than traditional self-service Web technology or even telephone calls, but she stresses VSP's commitment to quality service:

"The main benefit of using Web Interaction is cust omer satisfaction. We've gotten feedback from our members telling us that they really appreciate having a choice of ways to contact us. So even though it's a more expensive channel, cust omer satisfaction is extremely high, and that is the key driver."

Bringing together all the information about each cust omer is an important step in building cust omer relationships, and Kimball has selected the Aspect Cust omer DataMart to collect and consolidate cust omer information from the center's various systems.

"We've looked at all the data repositories that Dan's team has," she says. "The amount of work involved in putting a picture together can be pretty daunting. We see DataMart putting all that data in one place, making it more effective and easier to get at. We'll be able to do more scheduling—know what's going on with the e-mail and chat."

Kimball also intends to use the multichannel queuing capability of the Aspect Enterprise Contact Server to integrate telephone, e-mail, and the Web. "We'll be able to understand each cust omer better," she says. "We can go out to the various data sources in our company and know more about the cust omers, prioritize differently, and deliver more complete information to our service representatives, so that they can serve the cust omers better. And that in turn will make our employees' experience of dealing with the cust omers better."

Making the employees' experience better—both to retain skilled agents and to keep them in a frame of mind that helps them deliver pleasant, efficient service—is in itself a key objective. In 2003, VSP is listed on Fortune Magazine's "100 Best Companies To Work For" for the fifth year in a row.

"We are a very good company to work for," says Salter, "and we try very hard not to be overly Big Brotherish. We use Aspect eWorkforce Management software not so much to measure the productivity of our cust omer service representatives as to schedule work plans and deliver report cards to them that empower them to monitor and manage their own performance."

"We've been an eWorkforce Management cust omer for nine or ten years," he adds, "since it was TCS, in fact. It's a very powerful calculator from a forecasting standpoint. I can't imagine functioning without it, scheduling two call centers over two different time periods and 400 agents. My organization would at least triple in size if we had to schedule and produce the reports out of the ACD manually."

Contact center technology meets another extremely important goal as well: it differentiates VSP from other plan providers in a competitive marketplace. Salter points out that the companies that purchase Vision Service Plan are looking for reasonably priced, member-friendly, quality healthcare plans to offer prospective employees.

"Companies look very carefully at what we can do to serve their employees," agrees Kimball. "They really look at the technology we're using, and they're pretty savvy about it. They understand that one of the reasons VSP is such a high-quality provider from a service standpoint is the high quality of the technology our contact center uses. We can do things that many contact centers can't, so we have our cust omers come and tour the contact center on a regular basis. What they see is that VSP is a relatively inexpensive way to differentiate their company, as an employer, from the guy next door."

Although business goals rather than technology drive VSP's cust omer contact strategy, having the right technology, from the right vendor, is crucial.

"Aspect has given us an extremely stable environment for us to work in," Salter says. "And being able to change routing on the fly rather than having to wait two weeks has been huge for us." As an example, he notes that the contact center consolidated several queues to increase staffing efficiency. He estimates the resultant savings at around US$1 million.

"Because the Aspect Call Center gives us such a flexible development environment," he adds, "we could think creatively and not be hindered at all by what we could and couldn't do with our queuing structure."

Kimball notes that ease of integration is another big plus. "We're really looking at the entire costs of our architecture at VSP," she says, "and the fact that the Aspect Enterprise Contact Server uses Web services based on standards such as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) is going to make our infrastructure easier to maintain and upgrade without having to change the components we already have in place."

As for the company behind the technology, Salter says, "There are individuals within Aspect who understand our contact center in a pretty detailed way. That's the approach Aspect has to business."



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