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Utility realizes powerful savings with call accounting.

Like most companies in these recessionary times, Carolina Power & Light, a Raleigh, N.C.-based utility serving almost a million customers, is always looking for ways to enhance its bottom line.

CP&L has discovered call accounting as one way to accomplish that goal.

Case in point: The average annual phone bill at its two nuclear plants in Southport, N.C., has dropped by approximately $60,000 in the past two years, from about $400,000 to around $340,000. Telecommunications director Bill Padgett credits call accounting for a significant part of the savings.

"Everybody today is trying to figure out how to do more with less and do it better. As a public utility, Carolina Power & Light is no exception.

"Companies are starting to look at phone usage more seriously, because it's a big item and it's something that can have a real impact on a budget."

One of the ways call accounting makes a difference for Padgett is by allowing him to accurately monitor a complex network of private and public trunks.

To do this and other call accounting functions, he uses Telemate, a PC-based system from Complementary Solutions, Inc., of Atlanta.

"We've got three paths on our private network that we make long-distance calls on," explains Padgett. "The switches route the calls out of here to these three locations through T1 trunks going to each site. We're using our private network as our primary route for long-distance calling and calls to our other locations."

The leased circuits are for local calls and backup for long-distance calling. If the leased WATS circuits are overrun, calls go over CO trunks, the most expensive route."

The Brunswick site encompasses approximately 2000 extensions and more than 250 trunks. To make things even more complicated, during power out-ages, it can add up to 2000 temporary contract workers to the normal level of 1100 employees, sometimes for up to five and six months at a time.

Under normal circumstances, the site handles about 125,000 calls per month, but with contract employees, that number can climb to 150,000.

"We watch trunk traffic pretty closely, especially when we have contract employees," says Padgett, who uses Telemate's trunk summary and trunk detail reports each month to check on the system's efficiency.

CP&L also saved money and enhanced employee productivity by curbing excessive personal and other unauthorized phone calling by employees.

"On any large site, there will always be some abuse," says Padgett. "Because we are so remote, about half of our employees live in Wilmington, N.C., which is long-distance from Southport. Occasionally people are going to make phone calls during the week to conduct personal business, but what we have to look at is, is it being abused?

"That's left up to the supervisor," he continues. "We give them the information so they can make that determination."

Padgett used Report Writer, a custom reports option, to create a report that would allow supervisors to scan for abuse without wasting the time and paper it would take to generate detailed reports on each extension.

"We modified the department summary by deleting equipment costs and substituting fields to show average telephone time and cost for each group and for the entire site," explains Padgett, who distributes the report to all supervisors to enable them to spot trends and see how their department compares with the site averages.

"If the site's average time per phone call is 2.5 minutes and three people in a department average 10 minutes, then the supervisor can choose to investigate further.

"If those people were working on a special project, that might justify the longer calls. Otherwise, the supervisor can request more detailed reports on those extensions to determine if they were business or personal calls."

As aresult of this report and others, some contract people who abused their phones had to reimburse the company for their long-distance calls and the time they spent on the phone, Padgett says. In a few extreme cases, they were terminated.

Phone abuse isn't always a matter of long-distance costs. The time involved in abused calling is more important than the cost of the call.

"If someone is making personal calls for 10 hours out of a 40-hour week, the cost may only be a couple of dollars, but the company has lost one-fourth of that person's time and productivity," says Padgett.

Call accounting can also help provide the security needed to nip hacking in the bud.

With this goal in mind, Padgett uses call accounting to monitor trunks for unusual numbers, a sign of an outsider trying to break into the system.

"If we see a string of numbers or a pattern that looks unusual, it could be an indication that someone is trying to find the access codes," he says. "If we suspect we have a problem on a particular trunk, we can monitor it for unusual numbers and also look at what's going on inside the switch."
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.

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Title Annotation:Carolina Power and Light Co.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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