Moving to the next level of service for a growing customer base required Tower Life Insurance (more than $1 billion in insurance in force) to move beyond its existing call center technology. A third-party administrator that specializes in providing turnkey health and welfare programs to large employers, San Antonio-based Tower Life was operating a basic call center that lacked capabilities for managing both caller queues and individual customer service representatives (CSRs), relates VP Ben Zachry.
"We first and foremost needed to upgrade technology, improve self-service options, achieve greater efficiency of customer service reps, and have enhanced reporting to support future changes in self-service options, pricing and client contact management," he says.
After considering call center platforms from Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya and other providers, in mid-2007 Tower Life selected Aukland, New Zealand-based Zeacom's Zeacom Communication Center (ZCC) solution through reseller Cross Telecom (Bloomington, Minn.). Tower Life also purchased an Avaya S8500 PBX (private branch exchange). According to Ernie Wallerstein, president of the Zeacom America's division in Irvine, Calif., Tower Life sought to transform its call center into a true contact center with unified communications, stronger reporting mechanisms, bilingual IVR capabilities and rich presence capabilities, which incorporate a visible icon that enables everyone in the organization to see whether a particular CSR is at his or her desk.
Flexibility and Convenience
Tower Life went live on ZCC in late 2007 and upgraded to a later version of the solution in May 2009. ZCC enables Tower Life's CSRs to manage call queues across a variety of media -- including phone, e-mail, fax and the Web -- directly from their desktops, according to the firm's Zachry. "I cannot overstate the flexibility that our new system provides," he says. "Our customers have enjoyed many benefits from a greater ability to self-serve if they do not need to speak to a CSR."
Today Tower Life customers who enter a queue to speak to a Tower Life representative are routed via ZCC's skills-based routing features to the CSRs best equipped to handle their specific questions, Zachry notes. All callers reentering the contact center after a previous call are automatically routed to the CSRs with whom they last spoke, provided that person is available. Customers can even utilize a call-back feature during heavy call volume hours that lets them schedule a call with a CSR at a convenient time.
According to Zachry, "wrap up" codes used within the solution that identify the reason for each call provide the basis for analyzing activities to further improve service. Also, ZCC's presence features, as well as IVR capabilities that help reduce call resolution times for inquiries that don't require talking with a CSR, have improved efficiency.
In addition, Tower Life reports that the solution's call-routing capabilities have fostered a new sense of teamwork among the company's CSRs, and training time for new representatives has been reduced by 50 percent. And ZCC's reporting capabilities are able to quantitatively analyze the costs associated with supporting each of the company's large employer group clients, extending the benefit of the solution beyond the immediate borders of customer contact.
"The new system has positively affected everyone within the organization and was not limited to the customer service department," Zachry emphasizes. "Companywide buy-in was a net effect from this realization."
Tower Life invested roughly $400,000 on the initial implementation of ZCC and the Avaya PBX, including some first-year hardware and software maintenance costs, implementation costs, and the licensing of software components based on seats, Zachry reports. The company took a weekend to execute the original implementation in order to include time for testing and other preparations for a Monday launch, he says. "The actual cut-over between the old and new system took less than 24 hours," Zachry recalls.
Zachry attributes the success of the system to the vendor's commitment to the implementation. "Zeacom spent an incredible amount of time on the front end of the project, understanding our business and its related needs, and addressing our needs with their technology," he stresses. "The project coordination and scheduling was outstanding, and the follow up and technical support we received from Zeacom has been superb."
Tower Life's implementation of the Zeacom Communication Center platform has driven numerous improvements, including:
- Greater management control and teamwork.
- Enhanced customer service through self-service, call back and skills-based call routing capabilities.
- Improved cost analysis and reporting capabilities that go beyond basic service.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio