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Grace under pressure in L.A.

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE IN L.A.

In earthquake-prone Lost Angeles, City Hall's telephone operations center now has an electronic directory of emergency numbers. Using an emergency contact list, operators can quickly reach officiala--from the mayor on down--by dialing their home, office, or car numbers with a single keystroke.

After the operator conveys the necessary information, the console moves to the next number on the prioritized list. Until the 12 PC-based Conveyant Systems TeleDesk workstations were installed, City Hall operators had to do manual look-ups of emergency numbers from printed directories.

"We would have been hard pressed to get the word out efficiently in the event of a major disaster," says Janice Harris, chief operator at the telephone operations center. "The stress of manually looking up numbers, dialing and often redialing them, dividing up the list of number to be called, and so on--all of that could spell chaos. Now we work effectively under pressure."

The consoles also optimize the day-to-day workings of the Pac Bell centrex-based center, which distributes calls to all city departments at more than 150 sites. The centrex services include simplified message desk interface (SMDI) and uniform call distribution (UCD). SMDI provides onscreen caller information for calls coming from within the centrex system, including the caller's name, department, and extension. UCD queues calls for operators and provides a delay announcement to callers. Ability to identify callers within the centrex enables operators to provide personalized service for the mayor's office and other executive sites.

Ten consoles are used by operators, who process about 12,000 calls a day. Each console's integrated phone directory allows the operator to quickly direct calls to city departments.

Monthly Updates

The directory, which contains about 30,000 entries, is maintained on the PC's hard disk and updated monthly. In the event of a citywide emergency, a diskette containing the emergency contact list can be immediately inserted into each console.

The list contains the off-hours numbers of officials the off-hours numbers of officials in the mayor's and city attorney's offices, and of general departmental managers. The other two consoles are used by Harris and her assistant; these supervisory onsoles collect and display performance data for total calls handled, average duration of calls, average number of rings, and abandoned call rate. Reports are printed out on a Hewlett-Packard LaserJet II desktop printer.

All consoles are linked in a LAN, so supervisory consoles can be used to monitor operator performance.

Operators also have a way to easily route calls to one another.

"The ability to transfer calls among operators is especially important in a bilingual city," Harris says. "About 20% of the incoming calls are from Spanish speakers. By single key access, we connect them to a Spanish-speaking operator. If necessary, the operator can also act as a translator after the call is put through."

The PC-based workstations replaced antiquated centrex consoles that were put in service with the centrex installation in the lat 1970s.

The aging consoles were subject to increasing downtime, a sharp concern in view of the decreasing number of technicians familiar with them. As the old consoles lacked an integrated directory, operators had to manually look up numbers, which often entailed working from scribbled notes and memory. And the printed directories, issued every year, were obsolete the day they were published.

"Disgruntled callers and harried operators were common," Harris says. "It was all we could do to keep up."

NowM each operator station has a fully integrated electronic directory displayed on-screen. Searches are conducted electronically from an up-to-date database, mistakes minimized.

The operator can find an individual or department by typing a few characters and transfering the call automatically.

The old consoles were unable to provide system statistics for management. "We were really working in the dark," remembers Harris. "We had rudimentary statistics on caller traffic and operator performance. Now we don't have to guess how we're doing--the running statistics are immediately available. I can anticipate bottlenecks and shift resources as needed."
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:disaster response in Los Angeles
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:660
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