Help Desk Phone Tag Drops With Advanced Call Routing

Six months after implementing new software designed to perfect and speed the routing of calls to information technology help desk specialists, Lockheed Martin Energy Systems has seen a 20 percent drop in the amount of queries that suffer prolonged cases of phone tag before they are resolved.

The Lockheed Martin information technology help desk responds to questions and problems from three U.S. Department of Energy power plants in the Oak Ridge, TN, area and uses a primary contact support group to route calls to specialists in approximately 12 areas of expertise. Since installing Xantel Connex six months ago, the company has been able to capture information about callers through an interactive voice response unit before the call reaches the primary contact desk. In some cases, it has been able to bypass that desk if enough information is captured.

Also, information captured in the IVR can be accessed anywhere in the computer system, allowing members of the 80-person help desk to pick up calls in their own office or any of the dozens of other buildings where they could be working on projects.

“The biggest difference for us is that this has cut down on the amount of phone tag,” said Janis Foreman, department manager in the information technology division of Lockheed Martin. “Often, if a client had been working with a member of our support staff and called back for that person, they would get voicemail, and then when the person they had been working with returned the call, there would be voicemail on the other end. This has probably cut by 20 percent that type of thing.”

Now, technical support personnel can see return calls from someone they had been speaking to earlier appear on their computer screens. If the call was an important problem, they can put the current call on hold to fix the earlier situation.

Xantel Connex is designed to be able to recognize callers by their phone number and display customers' histories upon recognizing the phone number they are calling from. However, Lockheed Martin has chosen to bypass that feature.

“We find a lot of time people are wandering around and they may call from their phone or they may call from a phone down the hall. So if we recognized a phone number we may or may not be assuming we had the right person,” Foreman said.

Instead, the company has set the system so that callers input a badge number, and if they are calling related to a problem they have already called about, they must input a trouble ticket number. The primary contact help desk diverts open trouble ticket calls to the appropriate specialty group without picking up the call, and allows callers with a continuing problem to speak with someone familiar with their situation, without having to re-explain their troubles.

The company began experimenting with different types of call-recognition software shortly after the Energy Department decided to change the way it awarded its contracts.

“Lockheed Martin used to supply the systems for all three plants, but three years ago the DOE decided to split up large contracts like that. Now, Lockheed Martin provides the systems for two of the plants, but we provide the help desk for all three,” Foreman said. “We went from being an internal help desk within one family to a help desk for different companies. That's why we decided we had to start experimenting with different types of recognition software — so that we could answer the phone representing different companies.”

Although the system can be set up to automatically route calls to certain areas depending on the data associated with a phone number or gathered through an IVR, Lockheed Martin is letting the primary contact support group decide whether to pick up the calls and ask more questions or send them on to the appropriate group.

The company has taken advantage of a flagging feature that causes the phone to ring differently for VIP customers. “Normally, if someone doesn't get the person they are looking for the call would go into voicemail, but now the system would say 'we recognize you are a priority client and we will find someone to transfer you to,' ” Foreman said.

The latest version of Xantel Connex, Version 2.5, announced at the Call Center '99 Conference and Exposition in Dallas last month, includes a feature called PersonalAgent that allows incoming calls to be intelligently routed to a specific agent. The company also announced its WebClick application, which adapts the Connex features to a Web site so that when customers enter their phone number into a Web site for a call back, the same identification and routing features available for the phone version of the product go into play.

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