Call Center Technology Results in Significant Savings for PG&E
As the largest electric service supplier in California, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has a customer base of 4.4 million households and businesses distributed across 70,000 square miles. The utility`s Credit and Collections Center in Stockton, Calif., is staffed by more than 200 agents who must meet the daily challenge of growing competition and strict utility regulations. Faced with the rising cost of manpower, the utility needed to find a way to drive down the costs of complying with utility regulations. PG&E needed a system that would decrease the cost of outbound calling by increasing productivity, improving processes and providing scalable technology designed to meet changing needs.
PG&E found its solution with Davox`s Unison Call Center Management System. The utility credits the system and desktop automation tools for providing new levels of productivity in its call center. “The system enables us to automate both labor and paper-intensive processes,” said Brian Gillick, customer services consultant. “Now we are able to perform a host of manual functions with a simple keystroke or click of the mouse.”
Within 18 months of installation, PG&E was able to reduce headcount by 75 percent, allowing agents to be reassigned to other key areas of the call center. In addition, the utility saw a twofold increase in agent productivity and was able to automate various labor-intensive, manual tasks. “We went well beyond our initial goals,” said Doug Braun, PG&E`s credit and collections director. “When we installed Davox`s Unison Call Center Management System, we expected to reduce headcount by two or three people–but we cut it by 75 percent–and doubled our productivity at the same time. That adds up to significant savings for us because manpower is one of our highest costs.”
One requirement that kept 18 call center agents and two supervisors busy is PG&E`s “final notifications” procedure. PG&E is required to make two attempts to notify customers–by phone–before shutting off service for non-payment of bills. That adds up to approximately 2,300 phone calls each day. With the new system`s implementation, the number of agents handling final notification calls went from 18 to six. In addition, one supervisor was reassigned to another department.
Before installing the Unison system, collections agents received a paper list each day with 120 to 150 accounts to call. Agents manually prepared follow-up correspondence and filled out forms in triplicate in ink. Today, all those processes are automated and each agent has almost doubled his/her call volume to 280 calls a day.
PG&E`s agents utilize a GUI-based desktop application that enables them to be more productive by displaying information in a consistent, user-friendly format. Using a simple mouse click, agents can access customer accounts, leave pre-recorded messages on answering machines and update customers` files–all from a single desktop PC.
Automatic screen pops present agents with customer data prior to dialing so they can review account information before the call is placed. By being better prepared to handle each contact, agents spend less time with each customer and process more calls per hour. As a
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result of these automated processes, the six agents previously handling final notifications now work only part time in this capacity and are able to assist other departments within the call center that have backlogs.
PG&E also takes advantage of Unison`s many productivity tracking features. For example, when an agent logs out at the end of the day, the system records the logout time as well as how many accounts the agent has handled that day. Supervisors use agent statistics to determine how and where they need to improve processes or individual performances.
“We`re seeing a big return on our investment,” said Gillick. “It`s really easy to expand features, add functionality and automate more tasks. We do all the work in-house.”
Today more than 150 employees in PG&E`s Credit and Collections Center use the Unison system. PG&E has expanded its original eight seats to 25 audio and 64 non-audio seats. “The Unison system technology enables any of the 200 workstations on our network to be a dialer agent at any time,” concluded Gillick. “This gives us enormous flexibility, and we`re just scratching the surface of what this system can do for us.” n
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