Centech Solutions

Case Histories

PCS Wireless Telecommunications
Centech believes that excellent customer care will become the key differentiator in the marketplace as global firms continue to equalize their competitive advantage in terms of product quality and cost. This case history shows how one company used customer care to differentiate itself from its competitors and to build a successful company, literally from scratch, based on these principles.

PCS Wireless Communications, Inc. (not their real name) was formed as a new PCS wireless services provider with markets throughout the eastern half of the US. Part of the firm’s operating strategy was for the new company to be acquired after going public, provided it met certain profitability and performance criteria. The performance criteria required that the company’s customer care department maintain a service standard that 80 percent of all calls offered must be answered within 20 seconds or less. Further, customer satisfaction criteria required that 80% of all customers surveyed by an independent customer satisfaction measurement firm must report being satisfied or very satisfied with customer care.

Centech was recommended to PCS Wireless as experts in providing customer care solutions. One of the first tasks was to evaluate and select a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform for use by its outsourced customer care provider. The outsourcer would answer the first inbound sales calls, providing credit assessment, activation and general customer care. It would also staff a group of technical support representatives to assist other customer care representatives with complex activation and service issues.

The first step in building a customer care organization is to define expectations for call center size requirements by developing a workable forecasting model. Centech developed a call forecasting model for PCS Wireless that would predict initial call volumes and project growth for the coming months.  The custom forecast model was built using assumptions from the company’s marketing plan. This included the number of planned advertising and mass market media impressions and the total number of prospects in each market. It also included acquisition percentages used by Marketing, and industry indices from Centech’s research regarding the percentage of customers who would contact customer care, with the frequency and the average call length by call type. Centech developed separate forecasts by market for TeleSales, Activations, Customer Care and Technical Assistance.  The forecast model also suggested appropriate staffing requirements for each operating group by half-hour and call center capacities by month based on projected call volumes by call type. Since the custom forecasting model was built using variables and assumptions, it was easy to replace assumptions with actual indices as soon as they became available in the first few months of operation. PCS Wireless would be able to use this tool when it became operational to immediately begin fine-tuning its forecasts, staffing requirements and work schedules on a regular basis as call volumes grew.

Site Selection
Having defined initial sizing requirements for the outsourced customer care center, the next step was to select a location from among those offered by the outsourcer based on available workforce, cost, and accessibility. Centech provided recommendations for the outsourcer site, as well as for PCS Wireless’s first internal site. Sites were chosen. The outsourced site would be the first to launch, followed by the internal center three months later.

PCS Wireless turned its attention to developing systems to support Customer Care Representatives that would enable them to activate new customers, answer billing questions, and add features and services to existing accounts. The tools and programs that a Customer Care Representative uses to perform these functions are complex and intensive. They include access to a billing system as well as access to the activations system, a credit evaluation tool, an optical imaging system for archived bills, and access to the wireless system infrastructure. To help the Customer Care Representative manage each contact, PCS Wireless knew that a CRM tool would be invaluable, along with a knowledge database as a repository for methods and procedures.

The company had already identified two companies with experience in providing CRM tools to the wireless industry. Centech managed a detailed assessment process to evaluate vendor capabilities, system costs and customer references. Centech also evaluated knowledge base systems and diagnostic platforms, finally providing a recommendation to PCS Wireless with its findings from the evaluation process. Developers from the CRM vendor worked according to functional specifications developed by Centech and PCS Wireless to implement the new systems at launch.

Agents would have access to:

  • A CRM tool to track customer contact history and notes on the account which would also manage trouble tickets and other “to do” lists for customer care
  • A knowledge database as a repository for methods, procedures, rate plans, coverage areas and other table-based data which would change frequently and need continual update
  • An optical storage system to view past bills for each customer
  • A billing system for checking account status, call detail, bill totals, account data, rate plans and other subscription information
  • An activations system for activating new phones and new services
  • A credit system for assessing new customers’ credit worthiness

Centech worked with the outsourcer’s technical staff to implement access to PCS Wireless’s systems on the outsourcer’s desktops via Virtual Private Network (VPN) with  tight security restrictions on both ends. System implementation, training development, recruiting, selection and agent training were coordinated by way of a detailed project plan managed by Centech during regular conference calls with the outsourcer and PCS Wireless’s IT staff. Centech’s business planning process incorporated the use of detailed project plans and timelines to identify the tasks, dates and people responsible for implementing them in granular detail. Regular updates and conference calls served to keep everyone on track and implement programs on time.

Call Routing
Before the first call center was implemented, Centech developed a network routing plan for routing customer care calls to the right agents and groups. Agents in each center would be able identify one of several 800 numbers the customer had called, and thus the nature of their call:

  • TeleSales (prospective customers)
  • Credit and Activations (new customers with new phones to activate)
  • Customer Care (existing customers needing assistance

They would also be able to determine where the call had originated in order to help them to identify available rate plans to match local competitors in each market.

Network routing tools called enhanced features from its long distance carrier allowed PCS Wireless to distribute call volume among multiple call centers by 800 number and by market. When Marketing needed to know how many calls were received from local ads running in a specific market, they would be able to access reports by 800 number showing how many calls were received by that market.

Soon, PCS Wireless initiated plans to develop its first internal center. Centech provided telecommunications resources to evaluate ACD (automatic call distributor) providers, sending an RFP to three of the top vendors with bid specifications for the call management system.  Centech designed the bid specifications based on call center size, call routing requirements and call flows that had already been designed with PCS Wireless. After negotiating final offers and hosting vendor presentations for senior management, Centech provided recommendations for the vendor finalist.  When final pricing and contract negotiations were concluded, Centech provided project management and design services for the installation and configuration, defining agent groups, queuing logic, vectors and overflow rules.  Centech also wrote the greetings and messages for voice announcements, defining routing numbers to correspond with the routing plan, along with display labels for the telephone and whisper tones to identify each call for the agent on their headset. All of this information was contained in a functional specifications document for the long distance carrier, the outsourcer and the ACD vendor.

The First Internal Center
Centech had already provided suggestions about the benefits of former shopping centers as potential sites for the new internal center call center. PCS Wireless located a property and contracted with an architect to design the new facility. Using a wide open floor plan with optimum size cubicles, ergonomically designed furniture and aesthetically pleasing colors, the architectural firm designed a highly functional, pleasant and cost effective new customer care center for PCS Wireless.
Centech provided input to call center operations management issues, including call center organization design, detailed job requirements, job descriptions for supervisors and agents, and best practices for the call center.

Since PCS Wireless now had an operating history for its call volumes, Centech began to fine-tune the forecasting and staffing model.  It also assisted with the selection and purchase of a commercial workforce management program which would pull data from the local ACD to build agent schedules for the call center.

In addition, Centech provided telecommunications resources to size the incoming call volume planned for this center and designed a fully redundant voice network based on SONET ring technology and multiple ISDN T-1 circuits.  Centech also provided design specifications for the wiring and cabling of the new center. When the new ACD was installed, Centech provided testing services for the voice network and the ACD. All call routes were tested, and the center went live flawlessly, on schedule.

Call Quality
In preparation for the Memphis launch, Centech provided PCS Wireless Customer Care with recommendations for an effective set of call center standards, goals and measurements to manage the customer care center. Centech then taught supervisors and managers to apply these standards by developing and delivering a training program for supervisory coaching and development. This training program included call observation, coaching and development tools, and a document outlining behavioral expectations for customer care representatives. These expectations were tied to job descriptions, company goals and customer expectations.  From there, supervisors were taught how to observe calls, give feedback and identify areas for development for each Customer Care Representative. These development plans were used to help Customer Care Representative to continuously improve their skills and thus their performance. This method was highly effective for developing and maintaining call quality.

Further Growth
Within a year, PCS Wireless had become a public company with three call centers, having continually grown its customer base. Now, it needed more sophisticated call routing technology to reduce manual intervention in the process of distributing calls to each center.  PCS Wireless selected GeoTel (Cisco) for its intelligent routing platform, and asked Centech to provide project management services for the installation. Having designed the original network routing plan as well as the ACD configuration, Centech was intimately familiar with the complex routing requirements that would evolve (multiple 800 numbers with multiple markets and three call centers and several skillsets).

Centech worked with the local telecommunications team and several vendors to implement the new technology in less than 9 months.  By implementing Intelligent Call Processing, PCS Wireless was able to reduce its enhanced routing fees from its long distance carrier, reduce the amount of manual intervention and supervision required to manage the routing plan, and improve overall service levels using the same number of agents in its three centers.

Mergers and Acquisitions
PCS Wireless continued to grow, adding another outsourced site to support its ever-growing customer base and, later that year the company purchased its nearest competitor.

Centech helped PCS Wireless integrate the latest call center into the routing plan as PCS Wireless’s fifth call center, installing a new ACD and configuring it to work with the PCS Wireless routing plan. Within 3 years, PCS Wireless was in the process of being acquired, acknowledging the company’s overall success and growth.

By this time, the company had achieved significant call volumes. Automating some of those calls by offering customers a self-service option now made good financial sense. PCS Wireless asked Centech to provide recommendations for adding an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system with voice recognition and a data interface to the billing system and GeoTel. By integrating the IVR with GeoTel, PCS Wireless could also avoid further charges from its LD carrier for intelligent call processing. Centech developed a pro forma cost analysis and a business case identifying the best call routing configuration; one that would save the company over $1.5 million per year in call routing charges. In addition, the company could expect further savings by automating approximately 10% of live agent call volume. The new system was implemented successfully in 3 months.

Since its inception, PCS Wireless’s reason for success has been its attention to service level and call quality.  The company knows that sound forecasting and proper business planning are the keys to maintaining service level when they are integrated with strong recognition, coaching and development programs for Customer Care Representatives. The company combines three elements in its quality program to keep customer satisfaction high:

  • Customer Feedback (Voice of the Customer telephone surveys)
  • Coaching & Development
  • Quality Monitoring & Analysis

Overall customer satisfaction remained at 80% or higher throughout PCS Wireless’s four year history. Service levels were maintained at 80% even as the company grew its subscriber base, making it an attractive acquisition target and a valuable addition to its new parent’s continuing growth. Centech is proud to have been a part of this company’s phenomenal success.

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