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STUDY: Bristan updates customer contact

By Retail Technology | Tuesday April 9 2013

UK bathroom product supplier implements next-generation customer contact infrastructure to future-proof its customer services strategy

Bristan was committed to ‘Delivering an Extraordinary Customer Journey,’ however its contact centre environment operational performance wasn’t able to match the company’s ambitious programme. 

To address this, the company embarked on a major telecommunications refresh its existing system, and to provide a contact centre infrastructure that would help the company develop its customer service capabilities as an important competitive differentiator.

Eliminating customer service bottleneck

Wes Mason, Bristan Group head of IT, explained: “We had reached the stage where our business growth had outstripped the capabilities of our legacy telephony system – and this was creating a customer services bottleneck. We knew that our next contact centre platform would be key to the success of our major customer service transformation programme.”

While Bristan’s existing phone system was just four years old, it hadn’t proved powerful enough to cope with the company’s growth, or flexible enough to support multi-site requirements. More specifically, Bristan was finding that its telephony system was a limiting factor: “We couldn’t rely on reports to help us make the right decisions, we weren’t able to virtualise our operations across multiple sites, we couldn’t make real-time changes to improve performance, and we had no ability to implement skills-based routing,” said Mason. 

“This was having a serious impact on our overall service levels – our call abandon rates were much too high, our average handling times were still going up, and we were spending too much time resolving service issues with our trade customers. Looking back, we weren’t offering a particularly encouraging environment for our agents and our attrition levels were too high,” he continued. “In reality we were spending too much time looking at our wallboards – effectively managing to abandon rates rather than remaining clearly focused on the actual service we were delivering.”

“It was clear that we needed to fix our voice access as a priority,” added Mason, “especially if we were to secure the maximum business value from our contact centre HR [human resources] investment. We had to concentrate on reducing abandon rates and meeting our key 80/30 SLA [service level agreement] guideline in customer services, however the reality was that our valuable agent time was all too often being spent negotiating FOC [free of charge] items to keep trade customers satisfied.”

Specifying system to meet requirements

After an initial consultancy engagement, contact centre systems provider and Avaya support partner Sabio recommended a solution based on a core Avaya Aura communications platform across Bristan’s Tamworth, Bristol and Birmingham sites. This was supported by a portfolio of additional technology including Avaya IQ contact centre reporting and analytics, an Avaya Data Networking infrastructure across the company’s multiple sites and workforce optimisation applications including workforce management (WFM), quality monitoring and call recording. Bristan also selected Sabio to provide ongoing support for its next-generation contact centre infrastructure.

“Avaya was offering particularly competitive pricing, however we also wanted to make sure that we got to work with an Avaya Connect Platinum Partner that could support us in our deployment, and who could work with us as part of a longer-term, sustainable partnership,” continued Mason. “When Avaya introduced us to Sabio, it quickly became clear that we had identified a proven contact centre specialist who would take ownership of all aspects of our solution, drawing together and integrating all the different technologies we needed to fulfil the project."

He also said that the project represented a major investment for Bristan, so it was essential that it could move to quickly demonstrate value. “With its clear focus on developing a ‘self-funding roadmap’ to support the implementation, Sabio was clearly speaking our language,” he added.

Establishing next-generation contact

For Bristan, the combination of a next generation Avaya communications platform, Verint Impact 360 workforce optimisation and comprehensive reporting has helped deliver significant performance improvements.

At the start of the project, Bristan found that its legacy phone system was making it hard for the company to meet customer service goals. “At times we were abandoning up to 30% percent of calls, but with the new Avaya platform in place and, following Sabio’s implementation of Impact 360 Workforce Management, we’re now handling upwards of 98% of calls. Performance is continuing to improve and we are now able to focus on the more qualitative aspects of customer engagement,” reported Paul Osborne, Bristan’s head of customer services operations.

“Before engaging Sabio we didn’t have a working schedule, so we could only forecast for availability, but not adherence. Now we’re much more in control, and our Impact 360 WFM tool and Avaya reporting means that we have much greater visibility across our broader customer contact activities,” Osborne continued. “From a planning perspective, we’re now able to optimise performance in real-time, and we’re starting to see real benefits, with adherence already improved by some 23%,” he added. “We’ve hit a really consistent performance level over the last six months, and that’s meant we’ve been able to optimise resourcing. As a result, we are gradually managing our contact centre headcount down to 90 from 103 – effectively realising a £280,000 bottom-line saving, while at the same time significantly improving performance.”

According to Osborne, “having Avaya telephony in place has allowed us to look at our resource across both locations and functions. This has helped in terms of multi-skilling, particularly where we’ve been able to integrate our sales and service operation into a single telephony team. Another key benefit for agents is that we’ve added a lot more variety into their role, which we believe has been a contributing factor to the fall in our attrition rate.

Increased flexibility through multi-skilling

“With Sabio’s help we’ve successfully deployed and optimised our Avaya Aura contact centre platform so that we’re now much more efficient at balancing our agent resources against actual service workloads,” he added. “Because we’re meeting customer demand more effectively, we’ve found, for example, that there’s less requirement for us to deliver a full-scale service after 6.30pm, as callers are able to resolve their queries during the day. Similarly, we’ve nearly halved our spend on FOC parts, as we’re enjoying much higher levels of customer satisfaction.”

Working with Sabio has seen Bristan successfully complete the first phase of its contact centre infrastructure project – resulting in the deployment of an advanced communications platform that has enabled new levels of speed and efficiency for the business.

“Now that we’ve fixed our telephony and comms, we’re in a position to address more advanced requirements such as channel management and performance optimisation,” concluded Mason. “With Sabio’s support we’re now looking into solutions that can help deliver more qualitative performance for the business, and we expect to involve technologies such as post-call customer feedback, individual agent and first contact measurement, as well as approaches to help encourage a channel shift towards self-service. We’re confident that Sabio’s expertise will help us on this next important phase of the project.”

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