In an industry where customer service sets a company apart, JJ Food Service Limited achieves the edge by using Cisco® IP Communications solutions to create a highly personalized, better customer experience in its contact center. Multiple techniques for resilience help ensure that customers can always reach a sales agent, even when disruptions occur.
In the food distribution business, the company that makes it most convenient to place the order wins the sale. For JJ Food Service Limited of Middlesex, United Kingdom, the contact center is the heart of the business. Seventy agents handle inbound and outbound calls to serve 20,000 customers, with peak hourly sales approaching a quarter of a million dollars. "Most of our customers have multiple suppliers," says Rif Kiamil, IT manager. "If they can't get through to us, they'll call one of our competitors. Therefore, the availability and efficiency of our call center is mission-critical."
When JJ Food Service Limited decided to build a new distribution center, the company evaluated five contact center solutions. "We prefer to keep IT functions in-house, so use of standards like HTML, Java, and Web Services topped our list of criteria," says Kiamil. "We wanted to avoid hidden scripting languages because they would require us to rely on the vendor for even small changes."
Resilience, too, ranked high in importance for the new contact center solution. During the UK's fuel strikes in 2002, JJ Food Service Limited's 150 distribution vehicles-like those of many companies throughout the country-were grounded. The company resolved to do everything in its power to ensure business resilience. "We have onsite generators that will run for a month and 80,000 liters of diesel fuel, and we wanted to apply that same vigilance to our contact center solution," says Kiamil. "Any down time at all is unacceptable."
After evaluating leading contact center solutions, JJ Food Service Limited selected Cisco IP Contact Center (IPCC) Express Edition-a single-server, integrated contact-center-in-a-box that provides independence in agent location, improves agent scalability, and provides powerful automatic call distributor (ACD) features, such as conditional routing, call-in-queue and expected-wait-time messages, enterprise data displays, real-time data, and historical reporting together with integrated interactive voice response (IVR) services. Cisco IPCC Express Edition provides true integration of ACD and IVR functions, offers a single, integrated service creation environment, and helps organizations create a better customer experience. Cisco IPCC Express Edition also interoperates with the Cisco CallManager call-processing solution. "Cisco CallManager is based on standards like Windows, SQL Server, and Java-skills that we already have in-house," says Kiamil. "And only Cisco CallManager provides the resilience our business demands."
Redundant Design for Resilience
JJ Food Service Limited deployed its Cisco IPCC Express Edition solution in a redundant configuration, with two Cisco CallManager servers in different buildings on the campus, each connected to separate Cisco routers with multiple lines from different service providers. "We doubled every solution component and even configured redundant hunt groups," says Kiamil, who notes that the architecture follows standard Cisco Systems® design guidelines. "If one server becomes available or we want to do maintenance, we can simply push the service to the other server so the contact center operation continues without interruption."
For additional resilience, JJ Food Service Limited uses Cisco IP Phone Agent as a backup for agent PCs. Cisco IP Phone Agent displays text and graphics on the display of the Cisco IP Phone, helping agents log in and out, record call outcomes, and see the queue length and hold time. "If the power is cut, our agent PCs shut down," explains Kiamil. "But because our Cisco IP phones are powered by an uninterruptible power supply, they remain on and agents can use Cisco IP Phone Agent." Supervisors can use it to silently monitor calls, barge in, and intercept.
Flexible Routing, Multiple Queues
The first time a customer calls the contact center, the IVR function of Cisco IPCC Express Edition asks the customer for a preferred language: English, Urdu, or Turkish. Cisco IPCC Express Edition associates the language preference with the customer's phone number, storing it in a Microsoft SQL database. For all subsequent calls from that customer, Cisco IPCC Express Edition places the call into the appropriate language queue, even before the customer hears a ring, and plays Music on Hold in that language. When an agent answers a customer call, a screen pop indicates the customer's preferred language (most agents speak two) and shows the customer's call history for the day. To see the previous history, the agent can use the JJ Food Service Limited enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Kiamil adds, "To improve agent productivity, we use a new feature in Cisco IPCC Express Edition to impose a limit on the time that agents take to wrap up after a call."
Real-Time Contact Center Metrics and Customer Survey Results
Because customer service is what differentiates its business, JJ Food Service Limited pays close attention to contact center statistics-number of calls answered, average call time, and sales-publishing them on a key performance indicator (KPI) system visible on the company intranet. With the company's previous call center solution, an IT staff member had to manually enter report information into the KPI system, creating delays and increasing workload. Cisco IPCC Express Edition eliminates the time lag and IT overhead because it integrates with the KPI system, an advantage made possible by its use of open standards such as enhanced Web Services. "Now agents and supervisors can easily monitor their own performance or their team's performance, with up-to-the-minute, accurate metrics," says Kiamil.
To further improve customer service, JJ Food Service Limited plans to publish customer survey results on the company intranet, as well. In the past, results were delayed up to two weeks while company representatives contacted customers to ask about the call quality and then manually entered the results into the KPI system. "Now, with the built-in IVR function in Cisco IPCC Express Edition, we can conduct the survey immediately after the call, while the experience is still fresh," says Kiamil. "And because Cisco IPCC Express Edition now supports enhanced Web Services, we can dynamically update the KPI system to provide immediate feedback so that supervisors and agents can take immediate corrective action if necessary."
Improved Customer Service
Cisco IPCC Express Edition immediately improved customer service by automatically routing calls to an agent who speaks the customer's language. Now JJ Food Service Limited intends to improve customer service still further by considering other customer attributes, stored in the customer database, when routing calls. For example, priority routing will ensure that the highest-value customers advance to the head of the queue. Skills-based routing considers not only the customer's language, but also the type of food establishment: café, government, fish-and-chip restaurant, and so on. Agent-based routing, a new feature in Cisco IPCC Express Edition, will allow the company to route a caller to the available agent to whom the customer has spoken most in the past month. "To differentiate our service, we want to foster one-to-one relationships between customers, contact center agents, and delivery drivers," says Kiamil. "With agent-based routing, we can route each customer to the agent who is most familiar with and knowledgeable about the customer's needs, improving customer service and strengthening loyalty. In this way, Cisco IPCC Express Edition gives us a competitive edge."
Ease of Administration
Kiamil reports that Cisco IPCC Express Edition has eased the administration burden because of its tight administration with Cisco CallManager. "With other solutions, we would have had to enter configuration information, such as agent extensions, in both the switch and the contact center application. Cisco IPCC Express Edition cuts configuration time in half because we can enter the information in either Cisco IPCC Express or Cisco CallManager, and it's automatically replicated to the other."
IT saves more time by applying the same skills used to develop Webpages to develop new contact center forms. "With support for XML 2.0 in Cisco IPCC Express Edition, the same developers who build Webpages for our Internet and intranet Websites can also build forms for Cisco IPCC Express," says Kiamil. "We prefer to manage IT solutions in-house, so it's a real advantage that Cisco IPCC Express Edition lets IT take advantage of existing skills for our contact center solution."
Support for Home Agents
Attracting and retaining good contact center agents is an important part of JJ Food Service Limited's strategy for providing excellent customer service, and the Cisco IPCC Remote Agent Option gives the company an edge in hiring. The company is in the process of setting up its first agents to work from home, using a laptop with Cisco IP Communicator, a wireless phone, and a Cisco 800 Series router used for VPN connectivity over a standard DSL line. "We'll be able to attract better employees by offering more flexible hours," says Kiamil. A new feature in Cisco IPCC Express Edition will also allow on-demand recording and monitoring in home offices. "Contact center solutions until now could not record or monitor calls on a broadband connection across a gateway," says Kiamil. "Now an agent can simply connect a PC into the phone to take advantage of the centralized monitoring server."
By enabling personalized customer service, resilience, better agent management, ease of administration, and home office setups, Cisco IPCC Express Edition creates a strategic advantage for JJ Food Service Limited. "The true `best practice' for contact centers is to provide excellent customer service," says Kiamil. "Cisco IPCC Express Edition gives us the flexibility to run our contact center the way we want, not the way a vendor imagines we want. And its use of standards makes us self-sufficient."