One of the top challenges of running a call center is handling the busy times when call volumes are higher than normal. For Primagaz, a propane provider to more than 30,000 businesses and consumers in the Benelux, the volume of calls skyrockets on cold winter days, when everyone needs fuel.
We have two call centers in the Netherlands and Belgium, which employ 25 agents who handle as many as 1,000 telephone orders per day. Until recently, our call centers used a traditional telephony system. Call center agents weren’t able to identify callers when they answered their phones, nor were they able to see how many customers were waiting to have their calls answered. On those wintry days when orders for propane gas were at their highest, wait times could take 10 to 15 minutes, which didn’t meet our customer service standards.
As we researched solutions to help us with our call center challenges, we considered Cisco and Avaya, but decided both were too expensive. We chose Microsoft Lync both because it was a cost-effective solution and because our employees found the interface really intuitive and easy to use.
With the help of our network partner Easynet, we moved all 150 employees to Lync over a year ago, hosting the solution within Easynet’s data centers. We also developed several applications based on the Microsoft .NET framework that runs on top of Lync. One is a live dashboard application that shows information such as the number of callers waiting, average wait times, and available agents. Another is a caller-ID application that displays the caller’s information and a link to his data stored within our customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Professionalizing Our Call Centers
Lync has helped us to professionalize our call centers. With our old telephony system, call center agents had to ask customers for their street address and postal code to look up their information. But with Lync and our .NET applications, our agents can now identify the customer as soon as they answer the phone, enabling them to offer a far more personalized experience.
Perhaps most importantly, we’ve dramatically decreased customer wait times. With Lync and our .NET applications, the long wait times are gone. We now have real-time insight into the customer queue and wait times, which means that we can increase capacity instantly if needed. According to our internal performance indicators, 75 percent of calls are now answered within 30 seconds, and no customer has to wait longer than two minutes. This means customers are much happier.
Higher Efficiency, Reduced Travel Costs
Lync has also led to greater efficiency within our broader organization. Using features such as presence, instant messaging, and screen sharing, our employees can easily communicate and collaborate between countries. They can quickly connect with suppliers and customers. And our salesforce no longer has to travel to a central location to hold its weekly meetings in person.
Using Lync, I’ve personally reduced my work travel to the Netherlands from three days per week to one, lowering my travel expenses and freeing up tens of hours to focus on work. As an IT manager, this is the first project I’ve ever participated in that really without exception all of our employees have been enthusiastic about. Our employees have come to depend on Lync. They can’t imagine working without it.
As a next step, we plan to make Lync available on mobile devices, which will help us increase efficiency even further, especially for our sales staff, which spend most of their time on the road. We also plan to collaborate even more across the Benelux region, which includes Belgium and the Netherlands—and Lync is making this integration easier. Microsoft Lync is a super product. Our employees love it, and it is helping us to improve efficiency while providing the best possible customer service.