Specialist Holiday Group Creates a ‘Virtualised’ Contact Centre

Avaya, Inc systems and services, today announced that Specialist Holiday Group (SHG) has implemented a new Avaya Internet Protocol (IP) based contact centre system across its two sites in Kingston, Surrey, and Harlow, Essex, and has extended this network to its home-based agents, which has enabled TUI to reduce agent churn (and thus cost) by providing more flexible working practices.  Azzurri Communications, a leading communications and technology company and an Avaya Platinum Partner, was responsible for implementing the project, which produced substantial return on investment (ROI) on the first day of implementation.

SHG operates a variety of specialist holidays to a range of destinations. The contact centres receive customer calls covering various issues, such as customers booking holidays, pre-travel enquiries, customer services and special requests. Previously, SHG’s two contact centres ran on independent networks using traditional TDM switches and digital handsets. Customers dialling the company’s single call centre number were assigned equally to either one of the centres and queued there until an agent was free to answer their enquiry. If one of the centres became excessively busy, or there were fewer agents at one site, the system prevented SHG from releasing allocated calls to the other, less busy site, creating large queues at one site while agents at the other site might be free.

Having two separate systems in place meant that SHG was forced to produce two sets of analysis on call rates, response times and purpose of calls. Also, it prevented SHG from listening to calls taken by its 35 home-based agents, which is an essential part of protecting employees and improving service levels.

SHG decided to move to IP telephony as part of an improvement programme initiated by its parent company, TUI UK designed to increase customer service through the virtualisation of their contact centres. As Azzurri was already providing telecommunications support to SHG, it requested advice on the best-fit solution for its requirements. Azzurri proposed an upgrade to their existing Avaya system to allow a combination of the current digital turrets and new IP connections. This enabled SHG to create a ‘virtual’ contact centre environment which could distribute customer calls more efficiently. IP telephony is software-based technology that uses Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) to transmit voice as data over a computer network.

“Our move to IP telephony was driven by a company-wide initiative but we already knew of the potential that implementing this new technology could bring to the customer experience through our contact centres,” said Billy Fish, head of telecommunications at SHG. “We were confident that Azzurri would provide us with the best solution for our needs as we have worked with them for over ten years and the team has a full understanding of our business and technology requirements.”

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The new solution enables all agents to access the same network, allowing them to work as if it were a single contact centre. All calls are queued together and distributed to the next available agent, irrespective of their location, shortening call waiting times and making better use of agents’ time.

On the first day that the new system went live, all the telephone lines connected to the Harlow system went down which would have meant the call centre was totally unusable for the day. . With the Avaya solution in place, the 100 agents based at the Harlow site were able to utilise SHG’s wide area data network to log on to the Kingston contact centre and continue working within minutes. “It was a pure coincidence but having the new technology in place meant that we could continue business as usual, rather than losing a whole day’s custom, which would have happened otherwise. It turned out to truly be a lifesaver and probably provided ROI in that one day alone,” continues Fish.

Martin St Quinton, chief executive officer of Azzurri Communications, said: “Customer loyalty and satisfaction levels are often linked to how accessible a company is when the customer wants to speak to them. Lengthy queues at faceless contact centres only serve to frustrate, and those companies who value their customers, such as SHG, have sought ways in which to improve the experience. SHG has benefited further from suffering a severe failure in its existing infrastructure, which was easily recoverable thanks to the IP telephony solution it had in place, otherwise the potential loss would have been substantial.”
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