NRMA services call centre, holds back VoIP

Roadside assistance calls for proven technology

Motoring services and roadside assistance organization NRMA has upgraded its business continuity site with new telephony equipment but stopped short of deploying voice over IP due to concerns about the maturity of the technology.

NRMA opened its newly upgraded call centre in Gosford, about one hour north of Sydney, earlier this year with refurbished workstations to double the number of call centre staff to as many as 115 people.

The Gosford site also acts as a business continuity centre in case the Sydney-based call centre is shut down in an emergency.

NRMA Motoring and Services' CIO Craig Gibbons told Computerworld the upgrade to the Gosford centre gives the organization three key IT operations sites with its main site at North Strathfield in Sydney and its disaster recovery provider, Macquarie Telecom, also in Sydney.

Telstra provides NRMA's data communications links.

Gibbons said there is a small data centre at Gosford to support e-mail and files, but after a detailed business case it was more cost effective to outsource DR to Macquarie Telecom than run it in-house.

"We run our own data centre [in Sydney] so we have a big server room with 30 primary systems and a PABX," he said. "With 20 staff we are very self-sufficient and do all level-1 and a lot of level-2 support. Vendors help us with level-3 support."

While IP telephony was looked at for the Gosford DR site, the decision was made to stay with conventional PABX technology, with IP used to connect the sites.

Gibbons is "not confident" with VoIP because robustness is paramount for its roadside assistance call centre operations, and is prepared to sacrifice new features until the technology matures.

NRMA's telephony vendor is Avaya and it has watched its IP telephony road map "with interest", but Gibbons believes there is no need for it "but that may change".

The call centre upgrade coincided with a new computer aided dispatch system to improve "the whole capability of the company".

With three primary sites and seven remote sites, NRMA does look at toll bypassing to save on telecommunications costs, but Gibbons said the savings are not significant and it works closely with Telstra on that.

NRMA now plans to concentrate on a new CRM system to replace its ageing member database.

The mainframe-based system is likely to be replaced within two years "lock stock and barrel" including a new data warehouse.

"We have a data warehouse now and in two years will have a parallel project to upgrade capabilities," Gibbons said. "Our company is about services to our members so we understand what our systems have to do. When our members call us they are having a bad day we can't be down."

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