Call centre project sparks off business benefits

Using software rather than personal preferences to roster call centre staff is bound to ruffle a few feathers but the business benefits have made the $500,000 investment worthwhile.

While call centre staff at Aurora Energy, Tasmania's electricity distribution and retail company, are still adapting to the cultural change, the workforce management software is achieving first-call resolution for customers.

Boasting core assets valued at $715 million, 208,000 residential customers and 40,000 business customers, Aurora Energy receives about 1650 calls each day at its call centres in Hobart and Launceston.

Call centre operations manager, Heather Smith, said its 75 operators can now meet call volumes following the implementation of the workforce management system which can forecast how many staff are required daily, and the skill sets the operators require. The system is Blue Pumpkin Director Enterprise from Premier Technologies, as a third-party supplier through Commander.

Smith said the system is based on the business need for a particular skill set and overrides staff roster preferences.

While this has caused consternation, Smith said it has dramatically improved efficiency levels and the cultural challenges are being overcome. Smith said that after the deployment of skills-based routing in the call centre earlier last year, an accurate rostering system like Blue Pumpkin was necessary to overhaul previous practices and ensure operations were more transparent.

Teleworking capabilities were installed at the same time and Smith said, "If there is a single lesson I have learned, it's don't do too many implementations at once."

The skills-based routing is a server connected to the Siemens and Commander PABX which stores the call centre operator's resumes, and finds the most suitably qualified operator to take a call. The most expert operator is the first option, but if they are unavailable, it looks at the skill sets and drops down to the next most experienced operator who can deal with the customer enquiry.

Calls go via the PABX in Hobart and are diverted to match customers with the right operator.

Smith said that for the last financial year service standards were met with 80 per cent of calls answered in 20 seconds.

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