A welcome side effect of operating with antiquated systems can be leap frogging to a state-of-the-art solution at a cost-effective price. Such was the case for Arbella Insurance Group when its legacy PBX telephony provider, Nortel Networks, began dissolution proceedings in mid-2009.
While developing plans for a new telephone system, Arbella also recognized the need for a new call center solution for its claims and customer service centers. "We had no way of tracking or measuring what our staff were spending their time on," recalls Elizabeth Kim, director of the claims service center at the Quincy, Mass-based insurer.
Initially, attempts by Arbella ($1.2 billion in total assets) to locate an appropriate call center solution were unfruitful. The company investigated several systems, but none of the fit the needs of a company its size.
Meanwhile, the insurer also evaluated new telephony environments, ultimately deciding to adopt an Avaya (Santa Clara, Calif.) VoIP solution in early 2011.
Then the integrator for the Avaya system, Carousel Industries (Exeter, R.I.), introduced Arbella to Zeacom (Irvine, Calif.). Zeacom offered a cost-effective solution with all the management features Arbella desired.
Beginning in the fall of 2011, the Zeacom deployment ran in tandem with Avaya. "A Zeacom subject matter expert spent two days at our location hammering out business and IT requirements," says Jim Flanagan, a project manager at Arbella.
"The up-front time was well worth the effort," he adds. "When the Zeacom solution arrived it was pre-configured with queues, timing and IP addresses. All we did was tweak the system once the Zeacom technician installed it on our network."
Otherwise, the implementation proved painless. "We've had smaller projects with more issues," says Flanagan. "This one was like painting a room – you spend 90% of the time preparing and the painting is easy."
With CSRs jumping from analog to digital technologies, the biggest challenge was training. "We set up a complete simulation area," says Flanagan. "We ran CSRs through numerous scenarios so, after the first couple of live calls, they were completely confident."
Since going live in March 2012, Zeacom has essentially been rock-solid. "It just works," Flanagan reports. "In IT, the only thing we've wished for is more streamlined fail over capabilities, which we understand has been addressed in Zeacom's latest release."
Just one operational issue has cropped up: an obscure glitch that was ultimately resolved. "Although we expected finger-pointing, there wasn't any," says Flanagan. "In the end, it was an Avaya problem, which they fixed."
On the business side, the rewards of modernizing have mounted up as call abandonment rates have dropped and routing calls to the proper representative occurs seamlessly.
In addition, personal accountability is up due to significantly improved visibility. "The flat-screen TVs in our claims center display the number of calls in the queue, average wait time and the status of each agent," explains Kim. "The improved accountability is really driving service levels."
Gains are similar in customer service. In addition to better CSR accountability, the new reporting capabilities enabled Arbella to improve its staffing model. The resulting efficiencies allowed the insurer to pursue other projects in support the business.
For example, Arbella is piloting a courtesy call program with one of its agencies where outbound calls are placed to customers who have missed a payment. So far, the success rate is better than expected, creating new agency partnership opportunities for Arbella to explore. This includes establishing a service-center model with specific agencies based on their contract with the insurer.
Moving forward, Arbella also plans to leverage Zeacom's web chat and email queuing functions. This will enable moving chat, email and voice calls onto one desktop, making CSR tasks even more efficient than before.
Company: Arbella Insurance Group (Quincy, Mass.; $1.2 billion in total assets).
Lines of Business: P&C.
Vendor/Technology: Zeacom (Irvine, Calif.) Zeacom Communications Center, call center solution.
Challenge: To modernize and automated call center operations, cost-effectively.
Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio