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Customer service gains valuable tool.


When I compare our old communications system with our new one, I like to describe the difference in terms of what I know best--Bausch & Lomb's products, specifically contact lenses.

There are many types of contact lenses available--hard, soft, tinted, even disposable.

But usually what matters most to wearers and eye-care professionals is the fit. If the lenses don't fit properly, there will be problems.

Such was the case with our old communications equipment, an ACD (automatic call distribution) system. It didn't fit properly.

Even though we had expanded the system over the years to accommodate increasing call volumes in our call center, we had difficulties as our business needs outgrew the system's capabilities.

At the incoming-call center for our contact-lens division in Rochester, N.Y., agents receive and process calls from ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, and other eye-care professionals.

The center operates 11 hours each day, Monday through Friday, handling thousands of calls for sales, technical consulting, service, order status, billing, and distribution.

As the contact-lens division grew, the system we were using became less adequate.

During busy periods, calls were either lost in queue or abandoned.

Rescuing Calls

Although agents were working as efficiently as possible, each call took time. The agent had to collect the account number, type it in, and verify it to ensure accurate billing and shipping.

We worried that callers were getting frustrated. We had to do something to minimize lost calls and maximize customer satisfaction.

Also, looking ahead to the 1990s, we expected call volumes to increase even more as we introduced new products and initiated new marketing techniques such as catalog sales.

Our challenge from upper management was to incorporate anticipated growth without increasing the center's operating expenses.

Clearly, we needed a communications system that better fit our business needs.

To select a new, state-of-the-art communications system, I formed a task force of engineers, customer-service managers, telecommunications managers, purchasing agents, and call-center supervisors.

We developed a detailed 25-page proposal outlining technical requirements, equipment features, implementation needs, training specifications, and price parameters.

We invited four vendors to bid on our proposal. We narrowed the field to two after we received their written quotes.

We decided to accept AT&T's proposal for an integrated communications solution.

Immediate Upswing

That solution would include:

* AT&T's Definity Generic 1 communications system,

* an ISDN (integrated-services digital network) gateway,

* an AT&T computer-based call-management system,

* an Audix voice-mail system,

* and Megacom and Megacom 800 services.

The system was installed last November.

We began to see an upswing in our customer-service levels immediately.

One of the features we're most enthusiastic about is ISDN automatic number identification (ANI). With AT&T's Info-2 ANI Service, the caller's billing telephone number is received by the Definity PBX.

Through the ISDN gateway interface, the caller's number goes from the PBX to our Tandem host for a database search for the customer-account file that matches the caller's phone number.

Once that file is identified, the PBX (which held the call during the database search) sends the file and the call to the next available agent.

When the phone rings on the agent's desk, the customer's file simultaneously appears on the agent's computer terminal.

Four Seconds Saved

We expect this technology will save an average of four seconds on each call.

Database search and routing to agent's terminal takes only a fraction of a second.

It happens so quickly, it's transparent to the caller.

Our customers tell us we're answering calls faster today than before.

Strategic use of the ISDN ANI feature is making a world of difference.

We want Bausch & Lomb to remain the premier customer-service provider in the eye-care-products industry.

We have developed another ISDN ANI application that sometimes can dazzle our customers, helping further enhance our position as the industry's service leader.

Here's how it works.

If a caller hangs up (for whatever reason) before speaking to an agent, we have a record of the caller's telephone number through Info-2.

We have leveraged this information into a marketing tool.

One of our agents can call the customer back and ask how we might be of service.

Our customers are sometimes surprised that we knew they were calling and impressed that we care enough about their business to follow up on what would otherwise be an abandoned call.

Making It Easier

We're also using voice mail for customers who don't have time to hold until the next agent is available.

They now have the option of leaving a message.

Our new Audix voice-mail system saves time because customers can leave messages regarding their specific needs.

Our agents get to work on the customer request when they can dedicate full attention to the project, often without a callback.

The Audix voice-messaging system and the ISDN services available through Definity are flexible and will enable us to add new sophisticated telemarketing features over the years as business demands.

To complement the Definity system, we chose CallMaster sets, AT&T's top-of-the-line ACD workstations.

CallMaster's feature displays help improve productivity by providing information such as the number of calls in queue and dialed-number information service (DNIS).

For example, our cross-trained agents can provide personalized information on order entry, billing questions, or technical consultation even before picking up the phone.

They simply look at the DNIS number on the CallMaster display.

As a result, we provide faster, better customer service.

Redundancy Routing

In the event of a power failure, our large battery-backup capability will allow agents to stay on line for four hours.

Or, in the case of equipment failure, we would activate our 800 Command Routing feature, which redirects calls elsewhere.

I predesignate alternative locations, and AT&T preprograms them.

If a failure occurs, I simply call an 800 number, calls are rerouted in five minutes or less.

These elements of redundancy in our communications system are vital.

Bausch & Lomb simply can't afford any downtime.

Surprisingly, all the new AT&T equipment and features that we bought last year cost less that what we paid for our old system 11 years ago.

Over and above the equipment savings, we have signed up for a three-year term contract that will saves Bausch & Lomb more than 17% on AT&T 800-service charges.

The savings we have realized in our call-center operation have helped us to hold down operating expenses while positioning ourselves strategically for growth.

We're confident the technology we have in place now is the right fit for us.

With our new digital communications system and ISDN, we're achieving peak productivity levels and superb customer-service results.

Our ability to use technology to improve customer service helps assure Bausch & Lomb's preeminence in the eye-care-products industry well into the next century.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Bausch and Lomb's new communications system
Author:Glerum, Janice
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1990
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