When decade-old Homesite Insurance Group began outgrowing its internal call center systems early in 2007, the Boston-based homeowners insurer was at a crossroads. "With two distant call center sites, we couldn't sustain our growth projections using a routing system that forced manual balancing of calls across two sites," explains Chris Conti, operations VP. "And we knew we needed a true workforce management tool, rather than continuing to use Excel spreadsheets."
For Homesite ($300 million in annual premiums), which was experiencing double-digit growth, the IT task list was long. "With so many things to accomplish simultaneously, we set a goal of having a call center system in place by the first quarter of 2008," Conti recalls. "It would immediately address three challenges out of the box: virtual call routing capability, call recording and workforce management [WFM]. Long-term we hoped the system could be built-out to include outbound dialing, multichannel management and computer telephony integration [CTI]."
Initially Homesite considered in-house development and sought advice from two vendors, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories (Daly City, Calif.) and Avaya (Basking Ridge, N.J.). "But the insourcing costs and time frame were prohibitive," Conti says. "So we hired a consultant to assist with exploring outsourcing because there wasn't time for an appropriate RFP process."
After narrowing the vendor list to three finalists, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Echopass' Contact Center On-Demand solution, which is delivered via a software as a service model, was selected for three primary reasons, according to Conti. "First, the company was similar in size to us, which gave us C-level access for resolving issues inherent in major migrations," he states relates. "Second, Echopass uses the Genesys platform, which provided the flexibility to bring the system in-house in the future. Finally, Echopass furnished customer references for call centers similar to ours." As a bonus, Echopass' Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) telephony-based solution also included CTI functionality out of the gate.
Immediately following vendor selection in September 2007, implementation began. "Our cross-functional six-person implementation team worked with the three onsite Echopass representatives," Conti says. "Because IP telephony was new for us, we elected to keep the first deployment phase simple by retaining our existing call center processes."
After the initial cutover occurred uneventfully in mid-December 2007, system tuning began. "IP telephony requires network performance tuning to minimize latency and jitter," Conti explains. "But it was a challenge to achieve optimum sound quality with our existing analog telephone hardware. Ultimately Echopass suggested a global move from analog hardware to session initiation protocol [SIP] phones."
Once SIP phones were installed in Homesite's call centers in late 2008, leveraging the systems' recording features began. "This allowed us to establish a formal quality assurance program, including focused training, for the first time," reports Conti. "Selling effectiveness has already improved by 25 percent, and we're on track for similar customer retention benefits as we continue fine-tuning."
Homesite currently is deploying CTI processes and piloting a significant distributed expansion of the platform by moving to home-based agents. WFM implementation is also underway. "The workforce management tool has already helped us more tightly forecast staffing needs and more efficiently allocate staffing resources," says Conti. "But we've not yet driven the full capability and benefit we'd like to see at the half-hour interval, which is an initiative for 2010."
Operationally Homesite is doing considerably more with less. "We've maintained headcount despite continued growth," Conti reports. "In fact, since implementing the Echopass platform, we have seen the equivalent of a 15 percent headcount reduction versus continuing with our old systems."
Going forward, Homesite will cultivate internal IP telephony expertise while continuing to build out the Echopass platform, Conti reveals. "Echopass has been a responsive provider," he says. "Its focus on delivering a scalable architecture has clearly met our immediate goals and needs."
Case Study Profile
Company: Homesite Insurance Group (Boston; $300 million in premium income).
Lines of Business: Homeowners insurance.
Vendor/Technology: Echopass (Pleasanton, Calif.) Contact Center On-Demand and IP call center automation solution.
Challenge: Automate the call center to streamline processes and facilitate lean double-digit growth.
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