College of the Canyons Gives NEC Solution High Marks

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  August 01, 2010

This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine.

The recession has sent hoards of employees packing. And when these folks can’t find a job with their existing skill sets, many use their free time to go back to school. That has been both a boon and a curse for College of the Canyons.

That’s because while the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based community college welcomes the expanded interest and enrollment, it wasn’t near ready to handle the capacity of calls that hit its front desk as a result of the early pick-up in activity.

“Our contact center is one of the first impressions experienced by students and prospects of our campus, and we need to ensure it is a positive and efficient operation," says Jim Schrage, vice president of facilities planning, operations and construction for College of the Canyons. “COC has experienced a record number of enrollments by individuals seeking additional education and training to re-enter the job market during the recession, which has in turn caused an increase in call volume. Without the budget to hire additional staff to support the increased call volume, we needed a solution that could help us staff appropriately while also increasing our service level."Robert Betancourt, telecommunications coordinator at College of the Canyons, says the school originally had an old ACD system. The only real visual users of that system had about call volume was how many calls were in the queue; but, he adds, users had to seek out such information, so even that feature seldom was used.

As a result of growing call volumes and inefficient call handling with the ACD, Betancourt explains, many callers would get caught in the system, being put on hold for long periods of time, and sometimes dropping out and calling again in an attempt to reach the operator. This vicious circle was creating a huge bottleneck that eventually would flood the operator, the counseling and admission departments with more than 900 calls per day each, Betancourt realized after doing some statistical data mining on the school’s voicemail system. Clearly, he says, it was time for a new system that included an interface that was palatable to callers.

So Betancourt worked with Digital Telecommunications Corp. to select and install the NEC (News - Alert) UCB Contact Center Solution. The NEC system has the capability to support call center and UC functionality, and deliver mobility and conferencing, all in a single server. Customers can add licensing for functionality as they need it.

The new system is making a huge difference at College of the Canyons because everybody using it can see from their desktop computers what’s happening from a call handling standpoint, including how many calls are in the queue, who’s logged in, approximate caller wait times, and the like, he says. These capabilities, he adds, have enabled College of the Canyons to cut down its circle of calls by three fourths.

 “Our efficiency rate has just gone up tremendously,” he says.

David Seller, the college’s account executive at Digital Telecommunications Corp., notes that the new system offers rules-based routing, and because of its multiple queues organizations like College of the Canyons can set things up to have primary and secondary answering agents. For example, after 30seconds or a minute, a call can be sent to a secondary agent if the primary agent is unavailable.

Betancourt adds that although new systems that require employees to learn new ways of doing things can often create resistance within an organization, there was very little pushback with the implementation of the NEC solution.

“It wasn’t rebuffed,” he says, adding that although there was some initial fear about the system, DTC went out of its way to help employees get comfortable with the new processes, which already were extremely intuitive.

In fact, Betancourt adds, the folks who are on the front lines answering calls at the college are now much more relaxed.

 “It’s just made a huge difference, especially because we don’t have people zeroing out just to reach a department,” he says, adding that some of those callers were pretty unhappy by the time they reached a live person. “The stress level has gone down among all the departments who use it.”


Edited by Stefania Viscusi