Productivity and Profitability can be shifted into top gear

Certainly true, but many companies think you need tailored telecommunications that cost the earth to do that, when in fact an off-the-shelf system often needs to be retro-fitted and can end up costing even more states Tony Russell, Technical Director at Clarotech Consulting.

Every day we encounter clients who are looking to upgrade their existing telecommunications infrastructure. Such a project can be very simple, or it can span a range of complexities. Consider a company which spans a number of sectors in the financial services industry, with offices across the country that need to communicate with one another as well as with customers; add an outbound call centre with 350 agents, an inbound office with 80 agents and a busy sales environment that needs to respond instantly to customer call-backs. This adds up to a significant communications challenge, and the way it is handled will have repercussions for future growth and profitability.

In 2007 one such company, headquartered in East London, installed a telephony system that suited its needs at the time. Since then, the company has enjoyed significant growth and its clients’ needs have increased as well. In 2010 when it was time to review the capability of the incumbent system, it proved to be too inflexible to meet its changed business needs.

The company reviewed some twenty-odd quotations, each offering a “one size fits all” approach that fell short of meeting their unique needs. This I find incredible, given that here in South Africa we have world-class telecoms providers which should have been able to provide a tailored solution to meet those needs. Fortunately at that point, the company’s CIO was referred to us by an existing customer and the rest, as they say, is history. Clarotech’s incisive systems are not only geared to the company’s existing framework, but also easily adaptable to accommodate increasing demand and customised development. This has been comfortably demonstrated over the past 18 months of operation, as the shift*eight system from Clarotech has expanded in synthesis with the company’s growth.

The technology switch from the rigidity of a proprietary system to an open resource that is fully scalable and without the need for any licensing fees, has unlocked many opportunities. This is what telecoms providers should all be providing; business is dynamic, so why should systems be inflexible?

Adaptability and innovation is key to survival

While every situation is different, in this case the main obstacle that Clarotech faced was how to provide a modern technological system that could ‘talk’ to both old school environments and more sophisticated urban audiences. In one of the units, the majority of the company’s clients come from outlying areas where internet access is limited and broadband is non-existent; handwritten application forms and faxes are the order of the day.

The answer lay in finding the right tools and harnessing them to work together. A plan was devised to fully integrate a bulk faxing system (HylaFAX) with the shift*eight system, so that the company could quickly respond to its clients’ needs while improving operational efficiencies and client satisfaction.

After the faxing solution was installed, Clarotech dispatched a configured shift*eight system for a 50 Outward Bound Call Centre (OBCC) agents to East London, as part of the Proof of Concept (POC). After being operational for less than five days, the outstanding results quickly convinced the executive of the system’s capability; 50 agents made more calls in one day than 300 agents had accomplished in a week using the proprietary PBX.

Since the POC, the system has been expanded in East London to include 150 agents in the OBCC and a full production system for another division. The telesales centre and inbound centre for customer services based around Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has been rolled out. It includes a secure, state-of-the-art disaster recovery system. In Cape Town, the cellular sales office has gone live with over 40 agents. More recently, a shift*eight system has been deployed to function as a PBX and call centre for the Johannesburg office.

Thanks to the ease of customisation of the system and the flexibility of the dial plan and reporting components, the company itself now has full control over its own telephony system and is able to install an appropriate solution at each of its offices.

Productivity comes standard

Besides enormous savings in capital expenditure, there are many other exceptional benefits that require some mention when making the shift to a customised communications system.

A significant increase in productivity and profitability across all the company’s units has been seen and tracked. The sales team has seen a substantial boost in target achievement; more calls equals more sales. The powerful dial plan component of the shift*eight system ensures that there is little or no ‘down time’ between calls, as it presents the next call after a pre-set wrap-up time; the ‘human element’ is thus managed to provide optimum efficiency.

There is also scope for healthy competition within each team. Easy tracking of targets and feedback on achievements has resulted in a noticeably happier staff complement, whose ‘sick’ days have dramatically decreased. This has, of course, yielded a direct saving on operational expenditure.

Perhaps one of the more unexpected plusses of installing a customised solution like this one is the resultant skills enrichment. Call centre agents and supervisors are learning valuable analytical thinking abilities with the information from reports generated out of the use of shift*eight. This, in turn, assists them in managing their own environments; it improves overall job satisfaction through self-empowerment and knowledge sharing.

“One of the key aspects to working with Clarotech and the shift*eight solution, is that my team and I can get to the heart of the ‘machine’. For IT people, this is a dream come true, as the transparency and openness of working with Clarotech means that we can get the job done” said the CIO of the company in question. “By taking all the different components and knitting them together and by listening to our needs, Clarotech has formed a partnership that is dependable and trusted and one we would also be happy to recommend.”

Perhaps the ‘deal clincher’ for those considering the shift, should be to consider how much control you want or need over your own telecommunications system, because isn’t that what anyone in business ultimately wants – control over their own efficiency and destiny?

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Productivity and Profitability can be shifted into top gear