Flying blind no longer: Cable One's Stephen Fox improves contact center management with a switch to IP communications across 50 sites in 19 states.Over the past 10 years, Cable One executives began to notice how difficult monitoring and tracking calls coming into its 49 customer service centers nationwide had become. The digital cable and broadband Internet See broadband. service provider's older telecom system did not allow even for the tracking of basic statistics such as average call time, total call volume or abandonment rate. This deficiency began to limit opportunities to better train and educate Cable One's associates as it related to call quality assurance.
The prospect of upgrading an entire organizations contact center structure to IP telephony The two-way transmission of voice over a packet-switched IP network, which is part of the TCP/IP protocol suite. The terms "IP telephony" and "voice over IP" (VoIP) are synonymous. across 19 states and 50 site locations is a difficult and potentially costly proposition for any company' to undertake. Cable One knew it was time to face the future, however, and began the long and arduous ar·du·ous
1. Demanding great effort or labor; difficult: "the arduous work of preparing a Dictionary of the English Language" Thomas Macaulay.
2. process of revamping its entire communication structure to help better serve its customers.
"We needed to bring our telephone systems nationwide up to speed," says Stephen Fox Sir Stephen Fox (March 27, 1627 – October 28, 1716), was an English politician.
Stephen Fox was the son of William Fox, of Farley, in Wiltshire, a yeoman farmer. , Cable One's vice president of digital services and technology. "Our old methods of communicating were becoming dated and certainly were not productive for giving our customers the best service possible."
Phoenix-based Cable One, the cable division of The Washington Post Company, serves 702,000 subscribers in its 19-state region, including Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma and Mississippi. The company specializes in bringing digital cable television and high-speed cable modem cable modem
Modem used to convert analog data signals to digital form and vise versa, for transmission or receipt over cable television lines, especially for connecting to the Internet. to smaller, rural areas such as Joplin, Mo., and Aransas Pass, Texas Aransas Pass is a city in Texas, United States. This city is located across the intersection of three counties: San Patricio, Aransas, and Nueces counties. The population was 8,138 at the 2000 census. The city is named for the nearby Aransas Pass. . Cable One typically offers more than 125 digital channels in each of its rural markets, including satellite-delivered, high-definition content from the most popular programming services, local high-definition content, and high-definition digital video recorders See DVR. . Excluding the company headquarters in Arizona, Cable One operates 49 remote locations housing approximately 1,880 associates--all of who would be affected by the company's upgrade plans.
One overriding issue that emerged as a "must watch variable" was telephone responsiveness and reliability of the companywide telecom system. Historically, Cable One operated with a decentralized de·cen·tral·ize
v. de·cen·tral·ized, de·cen·tral·iz·ing, de·cen·tral·iz·es
1. To distribute the administrative functions or powers of (a central authority) among several local authorities. management structure. General managers in the field were given wide latitude to run their operations as they deemed appropriate. In order to quantify and eventually change the telephone responsiveness research variable, a centralized cen·tral·ize
v. cen·tral·ized, cen·tral·iz·ing, cen·tral·iz·es
1. To draw into or toward a center; consolidate.
2. communication methodology was required.
"We essentially were flying blind, not gaining any sort of particular insight into customer service effectiveness," says Fox. "It was becoming increasingly obvious that our old telecom system was now a liability, not an asset. Our CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. became increasingly frustrated frus·trate
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart: and it soon became apparent that a major upgrade was not only needed, but necessary if we wanted to become a better company and position ourselves for the future."
WASTED RESOURCES, MONEY
Cable One also knew it was wasting money on its current technology, trying to monitor calls on a costly individual basis, rather than utilizing an automated system that filtered data and sent information to a main server. The result was wasted resources and money spent on manual tasks, something Cable One could no longer maintain. A switch to an IP-based system undoubtedly would make financial sense, Fox figured, as well as organizational sense.
"We would have to spend numerous hours a week manually compiling call reports at each site location," he says. "It was a huge waste of our time and money, and became increasingly futile. What we needed was a complete and fully functional contact center that could take this headache off our hands, save time, and give us the accuracy and detail of call reporting that we lacked before. We needed true contact center management, not mismanagement mis·man·age
tr.v. mis·man·aged, mis·man·ag·ing, mis·man·ag·es
To manage badly or carelessly.
mis·manage·ment n. ."
Cable One's executive team, lead by President and CEO Thomas Might, met with all general managers in November 2003 for a brainstorming-strategy development session. One of the many initiatives to come out of that meeting was the upgrade of the telephone system infrastructure.
First, Cable One issued a request for proposal, with each potential vendor provided with details on each remote site location, the line count, handset count and the existing switch technology. The vendors then were given a list of goals Cable One wanted to achieve with the implementation at each individual location. Cable One executives also attended vendor demonstrations and visited several reference clients in order to make the best vendor choice for this significant and long-term undertaking.
A variety of vendors submitted their proposals to Cable One and four finalists were chosen for the last round of consideration. After much deliberation deliberation n. the act of considering, discussing, and, hopefully, reaching a conclusion, such as a jury's discussions, voting and decision-making.
DELIBERATION, contracts, crimes. , the contract was awarded in April 2004 to NextiraOne, an enterprise communications service and solutions provider based in Houston. Chosen for its service organization, experience and expertise in contact center technologies, as well as in voice, data and convergence, NextiraOne was able to propose and later provide a solution that delivered advanced capabilities for Cable One's contact center needs.
In an effort to ensure continuity and interoperability The capability of two or more hardware devices or two or more software routines to work harmoniously together. For example, in an Ethernet network, display adapters, hubs, switches and routers from different vendors must conform to the Ethernet standard and interoperate with each other. across and between the remote sites and headquarters, NextiraOne recommended Cable One install platforms and systems from a single equipment manufacturer. Nortel was chosen to provide identical systems at each of the 49 remote sites and also the systems at the main contact center headquarters in Phoenix.
AN IP PBX (Internet Protocol Private Branch eXchange) A telephone switch that supports voice over IP (VoIP). IP PBXs convert IP phone calls into traditional circuit-switched TDM connections for the PSTN. SOLUTION
The Phoenix site would use the Nortel Communication Server 1000M-MultiGroup (CS 1000M-MG), utilizing Contact Center Manager Server as the centerpiece of the installation. The CS 1000M-MG is a server-based, full-featured IP PBX, which allowed Cable One to achieve a fully integrated customer contact center, contact center applications via the Contact Center Manager Server, unified messaging Having access to e-mail, voice mail and faxes via a common computer application or by telephone. For example, unified messaging may send faxes and digitized voice mail to a mail server that turns them into e-mail attachments. via CallPilot, the use of IP phones and eventually wireless voice over Internet protocol See Internet and TCP/IP.
(networking) Internet Protocol - (IP) The network layer for the TCP/IP protocol suite widely used on Ethernet networks, defined in STD 5, RFC 791. IP is a connectionless, best-effort packet switching protocol. (VoIP).
"The Nortel VoIP solution seemed to make the most sense to us because it was an end-to-end solution (jargon) end-to-end solution - (E2ES) A term that suggests that the supplier of an application program or system will provide all the hardware and/or software components and resouces to meet the customer's requirement and no other supplier need be involved.
Compare: turn-key solution. ," explains Fox. "The other vendors were offering multiple third-party products and that didn't seem to make much sense to us. Using equipment by the same manufacturer throughout has made this upgrade more of a seamless end-to-end effort, which was a very important aspect and requirement of this project."
The CS 1000M-MG met Cable One's needs in Phoenix, with the ability to serve 15,000 IP clients per call server, allowing the company the ability to grow and expand along with the system. The IP PBX utilizes Nortel's Contact Center Manager software package, making the integration seamless for Cable One.
The dedicated Contact Center Manager Server provides skill-based routing, call treatment flexibility, real-time displays, multimedia routing, comprehensive management and reporting functionality. Of crucial importance to Cable One were the upgrade capabilities of call recording, which finally would allow managers at the Phoenix headquarters to monitor and train individual employees based on the level of satisfaction with each specific call.
The converged voice and data network utilizes the Nortel Ethernet Switch A device that connects clients and servers to each other in an Ethernet network. See switched Ethernet. 46024T-PWR power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switch. This gives the VoIP system the backbone and flexibility to accommodate 10-Mbps or 100-Mbps devices, as well as PoE for end-user devices.
The system also allowed for the multiline trunking See port aggregation. that would be required for Cable One's new upgrade. It supports full-frame forwarding and filtering across all ports at wire-speed performance. With this system, Cable One avoided having to install power supplies at every phone location, saving space and resources.
Cable One knew that the upgrade it faced would not be an overnight project. After assessing the project scope, Nextira-One and Cable One concluded that the most effective implementation plan for all 50 locations would take approximately 15 months, cost just over $2 million and be completed post-first quarter 2006. For CEO Might, that meant educating and informing his associates of the many changes that lay ahead.
Not everyone was ready and willing to accept them.
CHANGING EMPLOYEE MINDSETS
"Our infrastructure ran a certain way for years and people got used to doing things a certain way," says Fox. "Some associates were tied to the old telephone system and were concerned that the upgrade would be too difficult to achieve and would prove too confusing or difficult to negotiate."
With that in mind, Cable One began perhaps one of the most challenging tasks of the upgrade: educating its associates. The call center upgrades began in June 2004, starting with the company's head quarters in Phoenix. The main building was outfitted with the full Nortel system, providing Cable One with two main IP-based call centers.
Understanding associate concerns with training, Cable One made sure to bring its new system online side-by-side with the old system, so the switch could be as seamless as possible. The downtime The time during which a computer is not functioning due to hardware, operating system or application program failure. and turnover time to the new system was measured in minutes, not hours, surpassing the expectations of Cable One executives.
After the Phoenix upgrade was complete, the first installation in a Cable One remote site began in October 2004. Despite the wide variety of older telephone systems used at each site, NextiraOne installed a Nortel Business Communications Manager (BCM BCM Baylor College of Medicine
BCM Business Communications Manager (Nortel)
BCM Broadcom Corporation
BCM Business Continuity Management
BCM Business Contact Manager (Microsoft) ) V3.6 at each location. This allowed for the advanced call reporting that addressed the most crucial need for Cable One's rural sites. Each BCM location called for installation of the latest advanced contact center software for the BCM, fully integrating each site with the necessary tools to manage and run a fully functional VoIP call center.
The BCM contact center software gave customer-service supervisors at Cable One's remote sites the ability to have intelligent routing for the first time in the company's history, allowing the source, destination and nature of the call to be transferred and routed to any department or location within Cable One's call centers nationwide. If an issue cannot be resolved at the local level by a customer service representative, intelligent routing can forward the call to Cable One's headquarters in Phoenix. This capability allows the company to retain the local touch and feel of a regional hub at each location, coupled with the flexibility of national supervision, when required.
Cable One's project was approximately 60% completed in late summer and the remaining remote sites will be upgraded by mid-2006. Company executives say it is too early to measure the return on its investment, because ROI (Return On Investment) The monetary benefits derived from having spent money on developing or revising a system. In the IT world, there are more ways to compute ROI than Carter has liver pills (and for those of you who never heard of that expression, it means a lot). data is limited at this time, but they report associates are making a seamless transition to the new system and gaining more satisfaction with each passing month.
Cable One is in the process of installing the latest version of Contact Center Manager Server in its Phoenix headquarters, as well as upgrading CallPilot voice mail and Contact Center Manager Server contact center application software. These additions will allow for the combination of voice, fax and e-mail for each phone station, as well as offer the ability to store voice mail at computer workstations as .wav files The native digital audio format in Windows. Using the .WAV file extension, 8- or 16-bit samples can be taken at rates of 11,025 Hz, 22,050 Hz and 44,100 Hz. The highest quality (16-bit at 44,100 Hz) is the sampling rate of an audio CD and uses 88KB of storage per second. , rather than relying solely on voice systems.
Whatever growing pains grow·ing pains
Pains in the limbs and joints of children or adolescents, frequently occurring at night and often attributed to rapid growth but arising from various unrelated causes. may ultimately develop with the new system, the company now has access to call detail records and all the full call-tracking functionality that VoIP offers. The expected result is improved company efficiency and the ability to offer more personalized per·son·al·ize
tr.v. per·son·al·ized, per·son·al·iz·ing, per·son·al·iz·es
1. To take (a general remark or characterization) in a personal manner.
2. To attribute human or personal qualities to; personify. service to Cable One customers.
"We expected the completion of the installation would be a lengthy and challenging process," says Fox. "But the benefits ultimately will far outweigh the sacrifices. We already have gained the ability to provide more detailed call analysis than we've ever had at Cable One, and that ultimately will benefit both our associates and customers. In the future, we hope to have our local automated system so defined that it will be highly unlikely for customers to need solutions from our Phoenix office. The increased education of our associates at the local level will leave them much more equipped to handle any customer needs that may arise."
NextiraOne North America North America, third largest continent (1990 est. pop. 365,000,000), c.9,400,000 sq mi (24,346,000 sq km), the northern of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere. is an enterprise communications services provider that specializes in the delivery of managed and maintenance services for traditional, IP and converged voice and data networks-from information security to IP telephony to contact center applications. NextiraOne is owned by Platinum Equity Platinum Equity is an American information technology and private equity firm. It was founded by billionaire Tom Gores in 1995 and is headquartered in Beverly Hills, California. , a global acquisition firm specializing in the strategic operation of mission-critical services and solutions businesses.
Dale Booth, president and CEO for NextiraOne LLC (Logical Link Control) See "LANs" under data link protocol.
LLC - Logical Link Control , possesses more than 20 years of technology and telecommunications industry expertise. His background includes experience in areas such as corporate management, sales, information technology, customer service and product development. He serves on the boards or councils of EngineX Networks, Telcove, Riverstone Networks Riverstone Networks, was a provider of networking switching hardware based in Santa Clara, California. Originally part of Cabletron Systems, and based on an early acquisition of YAGO, it was one of the many Gigabit Ethernet startups in the mid 1990's. and the Texas Governors Business Council. He also is a member of the International Engineering Consortium, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers The Society of Manufacturing Engineers  (SME) is dedicated to bringing people and information together to advance manufacturing knowledge. SME is internationally recognized by manufacturing practitioners, companies and other organizations as a source for information, , the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Turnaround Management Association.
For more information from NextiraOne: www.rsleads.com/511cn-254