Fortis Health last month began operating a new customer contact center in Milwaukee that is allowing it to implement skill-based call routing and speed customer service by providing agents with more complete views of each customer’s history of contacts with the company.
The Milwaukee-based health insurance marketer also said the new contact center would help steer the company toward its goal of providing customers with an equal caliber of service whether they contacted the center by phone, fax or e-mail.
Barbara Lefebvre, telecommunications manager at Fortis Health, said the company had looked at the possibility of outsourcing its call center needs before it decided to keep the operations in-house.
“We looked at outsourcing and decided the best way to provide the best service for the customer was to control how that service was handled,” she said. “Then, having decided we would handle it internally, we looked at where we were with technology and what we would need to do to provide the best customer service.”
She said the company determined that its old Rolm automatic call distributor would not be sufficient to provide the type of reporting that the company wanted to generate. The company also wanted to upgrade its computer/telephone integration and voice-response unit applications so that it could channel multiple media — voice, fax and e-mail — to its agents’ desktops.
“What we did was create an infrastructure where the clients would want to deal with us based on their preference,” Lefebvre said. “If we just said, ‘Here’s our 800 number, give us a call,’ maybe they would want to fax us, maybe they would want to contact us via e-mail or maybe they would want to leave a message and have us call them back.”
The company, which provides health insurance for individuals and small businesses, built the new call center as part of a $2.5 million telecommunications upgrade from Lucent Technologies. The technology package includes Lucent’s customer relationship management solution, which provides assistance in marketing and service by tracking customers’ individual experiences and allowing Fortis to perform market analyses to determine customer satisfaction and pinpoint potential problems with any new policies or marketing offers.
Previously, Lefebvre said, the company would have to issue a different 800 number each time it brought a new product to market if it wanted to gauge the impact of that product.
“We ended up having multiple 800 numbers, which became very difficult to manage versus having the information available through a database,” Lefebvre said.
With the new system, agents are able to input call reason codes when they receive a contact from a customer. Fortis can then analyze these reason codes and quickly determine the impact of a particular marketing program. The new system will thus allow the company to react immediately if there is a problem with any of the information presented in a policy by analyzing the call reason codes.
Although the system has been in place for only about a month, Lefebvre said she is seeing benefits, particularly from the skills-based routing technology.
“Because they are getting someone to answer their question that has the most knowledge, it has the tendency to shorten the call lengths because it shortens the time the agent has to spend with the customer,” Lefebvre said.
Agents in the 170-seat customer service center generally spend about five and a half minutes per call, she said.
Lucent said the new system would save Fortis $200,000 a year in network charges and would generate a 10-percent to 15-percent increase in productivity.
Fortis also is using Lucent to consolidate its voice systems operations around the country. The company installed a Lucent Definity Enterprise Communication Server that allows Fortis Health to send overflow calls from the main call center at its headquarters in Milwaukee to a center in St. Louis Park, MN.