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WEPCO's intelligent link to VRU improves service.

Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO) is leading the utility industry in its use of advanced automatic call distribution (ACD) technology.

"Our industry is normally conservative when it comes to adopting new technologies," explains Jim Peirce, customer center specialist, WEPCO. "But our use of the Aspect CallCenter coupled with our VRU (voice response unit) and predictive dialing is unique in the industry. We don't know of any other companies that are using their ACD systems as efficiently and innovatively as we are--and we are just beginning."

From 1980 through mid-1991, WEPCO's call center in Milwaukee was handling customer calls locally and providing limited WATS service for customers outside the Milwaukee area using an older generation ACD system. In addition, 14 local district offices handled customer calls. Most calls received in either Milwaukee or the district offices concerned billing, moving orders or outage reporting. After-hours emergency calls were handled at one of three WEPCO control centers.

In early 1990, WEPCO began analyzing its call-handling needs and determined that a new ACD system was required. In addition, a separate study conducted by an outside consultant recommended that all daytime calls should be centralized into the Milwaukee telephone center. As a result, WEPCO purchased the 300R from their local distributor, Norstan, to support their consolidation.

Today, the Milwaukee call center handles calls from 7:30 a.m. until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. After-hour calls are automatically routed to one of the three control centers using AT&T time-of-day routing for WATS service and a switching system from Wisconsin Bell for local calls.

Also in 1991, WEPCO installed an Aspect Application Bridge which intelligently connects the CallCenter to a CCS VRU which accesses WEPCO's customer database residing on a Amdahl host computer. The VRU emulates a 3174 cluster controller so that a customer's touchtone phone functions the same as a normal computer terminal and allows customers to access their accounts following simple instructions from the VRU.

Wisconsin Electric's system provides flexibility and flow control of the 3,800 average calls received daily. Callers use Caller Directed Call Routing provided by the integrated voice subsystem to determine which agent groups of VRU receives their call. Callers to one 800 number can choose 1) payment arrangements, 2) moving or 3) bill inquires. In addition, the system uses ANI to identify callers from the Appleton area and automatically routes those calls to the local service center. This feature allows WEPCO to retain a small telephone center in its Appleton office which not only handles calls from the surrounding area but can also handle other calls when volumes and/or wait times in Milwaukee are high.

The system had its first true test in handling outage reports when a major storm struck the WEPCO service area last June. According to Laurie Olsen, customer center specialist, "The results were incredible. We were able to handle many more calls than normal. The average time to answer calls was two seconds when the VRU was up. During a brief period of time when the VRU was down due to a problem with WEPCO's computer system, the average wait time jumped to 49 seconds."

During the time the VRU was in operation, it handled 1,584 calls while WEPCO representatives took an additional 5,645 calls.

Supervisors can constantly monitor and control the flow of calls; for example, they can decide whether to send calls to representatives or to the voice processing system for callback messaging.

Representatives then return calls during low call-volume periods, which smooths out peak calling times.

WEPCO also uses the Aspect Application Bridge connected to a Croyle & Croyle Associates predictive dialer for outbound call applications. A recent marketing campaign in which WEPCO was seeking customers who would voluntarily be part of its air conditioning load management control program was facilitated by the use of the predictive dialer. More than 76,000 calls were made in record time, enabling WEPCO to attain its goal in number of customers signed up for the program.

Future applications for the predictive dialer will include making calls to deliquent customers, making appointments for meter readings and scheduling appointments for service calls.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Wisconsin Electric Power Co., voice response unit
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:698
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