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Telecomm novice finds ACD relieves over-taxed system.

What do you do when your customers resort to overnight letters and telegrams when they can't get through to you on the telephone?

That was the dilemma faced by a fast-growing software company that produces the number-one tax preparation program, TurboTax.

ChifSoft sells their product directly to the consumer as well as through distributors. Because their customers are repeat buyers each year, ChipSoft must constantly satisfy their needs, especially in the busy tax-season window.

With a 65% sales growth last year and a 100% increase expected in 1991, ChipSoft was definitely "successful."

The price of success in 1990 was an immense increase in the volume of sales and technical support calls, up to 3200 per day, that overloaded their telephone system. Calls would get "lost" while waiting to be picked up or transferred and, of course, there were lots of complaints. The support staff to handle all these calls also required more than the base crew of 75 representatives.

"We were underlined and understaffed, and desperate for more capacity," says CEO Charles Gaylord. "We knew we had to do something to support our customers or be out of business."

At first, management considered simply getting more phone line capacity by changing to a new switch (or centrex service). Then Customer Service Manager Linda Main, who was directly responsible for sales and service support, decided to take responsibility for a long-range decision rather than a quick-fix solution.

"I didn't know anything about telecommunications, but I knew what I needed and decided to take the time to learn enough to make the right decision," notes Main.

According to Main, "In talking to other software companies, the first thing I discovered was what an ACD system was, and how it was designed to reliably handle heavy incoming-call traffic. I wanted to select equipment that would evolve along with projected growth needs to let me keep control of my operations."

The sophisticated and flexible supervisory controls and management reports of ACD systems also were important to customer support operations, according to Main. So, she set out to acquire an ACD system to solve problems common to any company that must deal directly with customers.

Non-blocking required

Then Linda Main was able to develop ChipSoft's requirements into an RFP (request for proposal). This was sent to PBX and ACD manufacturers but, after looking into PBXs with ACD "features," Main found they could not provide the kind of non-blocking capacity she forecast for ChipSoft's future incoming-call traffic. A standalone ACD system was a safer direction for such needs.

At this point, the vendor providing ChipSoft's existing phone system recommended they consider contacting Rockwell. Rockwell had not been sent an RFP because, according to Main, "I thought they would be way too expensive and would not pay much attention to the needs of a small customer like us. Rockwell systems were good only for really big operations, like airline reservation operations."

Rockwell's response, however, was a pleasant surprise for ChipSoft. Not only did they pay attention to ChipSoft, but because Linda Main knew what she wanted, Rockwell accommodated her specific requirements. These requirements were critical to ChipSoft's operations and included the following:

* A robust call-handling system designed for maximum incoming call capacity growth and reliability.

* Dynamic control of call routing and queue management as well as agent assignments.

* Comprehensive software options for future applications.

* A customized maintenance and support agreement to ensure maximum system uptime during the critical tax season period (on- premise spares, 24-hour on-call service, 2-hour on-site response, etc.).

* Installation and operational readiness timed with ChipSoft's move to new quarters.

For a smaller company that will grow, like ChipSoft, the initial Rockwell configuration provided for 384 ports to accommodate six primary call access paths (gates) for various classes of customer calls. This can be upgraded to accommodate up to 720 ports as call traffic and access selectivity increases.

The use of voice response facilities will increase port requirements for the future, while reducing call staffing requirements, making port capacity an important consideration.


Installation of the ACD system went without any major problems. The ACD system was interconnected by tie lines to the administrative telephone system to allow callers to be transferred to other departments.

The initial setup was very "vanilla," to allow personnel to adjust to the new features and functions of an ACD operation. One of the first additions requested by ChipSoft was for a voice response "front-end" module, provided by Rockwell, for use by certain kinds of calls, such as, inquiries on the status of the tax modules.

Call queues are effectively organized to meet the needs of callers, and both sales and customer service representatives are pleased with the new call-handling facilities.

Supervisory functions that allow better operational management and control over call assignment flow is being effectively put to use, particularly with the customized activity reporting capabilities.

In the near future, a LAN will link the ACD system to ChipSoft's customer database, enabling callers to identify themselves by their customer number and display their customer information record to the customer service representative.

Other enhanced services will be offered to callers via the voice response module and the ACD link to the host database system, including fax response. Another feature, Dialed Number Information Service, will be used to track the effectiveness of advertising, promotions, etc.

Linda Main is forecasting the ACD system will enable ChipSoft to respond to every new call within three seconds, and handle sales calls within three minutes and technical support calls in seven to eight minutes.

Previously, callers with technical support questions could expect to wait "on hold" during busy periods for 15 to 20 minutes or longer. With voice response facilities and routing strategies, technical inquiries will be handled in less than three minutes.

Because so many calls deal with repetitious information, and because most ChipSoft customers are "computer literate," Main expects 40% of future call activity will be handled by voice response facilities.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:PBX/Key/ACD Systems; automatic call distributors
Author:Rosenberg, Arthur M.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jul 1, 1991
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Next Article:Utility's switch adds agents within seconds.

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