Already facing scheduling challenges to deal with high call volumes, Lincoln, Neb.-based Ameritas Life Insurance's ($2 billion in total assets) call center became overwhelmed when the insurer decided in 2003 to build an online call center customer information database, for which the carrier's 17 customer service representatives (CSRs) would be responsible for populating with data. Under the existing scheduling system, which used Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Excel spreadsheets to schedule CSRs based on the volume of calls expected to be received that day, managers had difficulty distributing the CSRs' time between answering calls and data entry, according to Joyce Dauel, the insurer's contact center coordinator. "We knew we needed a system that would enhance our customer service as our call center grew," she says.
Later in 2003, Dauel and Debra Sterns, second vice president of individual client services for Ameritas, began searching for a solution that could analyze data from the insurer's contact center call routing technology from Avaya (Basking Ridge, N.J.) to create CSR work schedules. The first solution Ameritas considered was Witness Systems' (Atlanta) Blue Pumpkin Software, but it specializes in contact center development software for large call centers. "Our contact center was extremely small, ... so the software would not be able to adequately predict what we needed to do," says Sterns.
So it wasn't until 2005 that Sterns and Dauel found the program for which they had been searching -- right under their noses. Another division of the company, Ameritas Group Dental, had been using a call center workforce management solution from Calabrio (Longueuil, Québec) for about a year. The Windows-based software forecasts call volume and length, schedules CSRs and tracks agent performance in real-time reports. "Calabrio was so versatile that it would allow multiple sites within our company to use the same server without buying a separate package for our area," explains Sterns. In fact, Ameritas Life only needed to purchase two data capture modules, one for basic call volume data and a separate Avaya Real Time Adherence capture module.
In March 2005, Calabrio engineers remotely integrated Ameritas Life's IT network and the Avaya call distribution system onto the Calabrio database server at Ameritas Group Dental. Then Calabrio engineers installed the workforce management software on-site and introduced the system to the employees through a four-day training program. "Calabrio customized their service for our call center," says Sterns. Implementation and training were completed within two weeks, and by April, Ameritas Life was using the software to schedule CSRs to work on the online database.
Customer service improved immediately, according to Dauel, who notes that the solution's business forecasts are 99 percent accurate and the software schedules CSRs to work on the database around high-volume call times. For example, hold times and the abandonment rate have dropped. "That's because our speed to answer has increased," Dauel says. In fact, the implementation was so successful, she adds, that Ameritas will be deploying the Calabrio solution at Union Central Life (Cincinnati; $7.4 billion in total assets), with which it recently merged.
Workforce Management company:
Ameritas Life Insurance (Lincoln, Neb.; $2 billion in total assets).
lines of business:
Individual life insurance and annuities.
Calabrio (Longueuil, Québec) contact center workforce management solution.
Deliver higher levels of customer service by scheduling customer service representatives in the contact center more effectively.