I like experiments...in fact I love them.
That's kind of how I got involved with Fused Solutions and SpiceCSM. Having grown up in Northern NY and having attended Clarkson University, I wanted to help revitalize an economy that hadn't weathered the transition from agrarian and smoke stack to technology very well. Its a long story but suffice it to say the last several years have been an interesting and fulfilling ride. But that is for a different day back to the experiment of sorts.
So what if you took a bunch of folks...young and old alike...from right here in Saint Lawrence County in the good old USA...and brought them together to do technical support for a bunch of internet service providers, ISP's. You know...a call center. By the way have you seen that viral video with the guy waiting on hold for an agent? It hilarious! I'm sure you know the type we hired, great people skills but average point and clickers. Folks that know just enough about computers and technology to navigate some screens. High schoolers looking for some part time work in nights and weekends, college students trying to pay for books and food and retirees trying to augment their dwindling savings accounts. Good hard working people. And what if, you turned them loose supporting a bunch of customers from 22 different companies all at once? Companies that only similarity was being a rural telephone company? How about if that number was 80+? How would it turn out? Probably not to well huh?
Well, truth is that it actually happened, in the largest and one of the most rural counties in upstate New York and what's come of it is pretty astounding.
Quick bit of history...At first it went really bad, really really bad...irate customers, confused agents, long call times and stressed management. You get the picture!? Good news was their wasn't a lot of choices for the customers if they wanted to join the world on the Web. Everyone was well meaning enough but you just don't know what you don't know and the available technology really lacked for the shared agent/multi tenant environment that was envisioned.
But then good old American ingenuity kicked in and a team of upstarts took ownership of their future. Instead of asking why? Folks started asking Why Not! First, they studied how to write code. Not just any code, they reviewed the available options and picked the latest and greatest for what they were trying to do! They were thoughtful and learned how to write software to manage many customers and many shared agents...not only learned how to write it, the learned how to architect it for future growth and stability. Best of all they did it with a vision for Saas and Web 2.0. In short, they put those cold winter nights to good use and crafted something special...and SpiceCSM which is now in release 7.0 was born...yep there were six major releases and numerous sub releases over the last 10 years.
Today that little call center is growing by leaps and bounds and the people that have and do work there are the foundation of the "Solution Economy". The tool...SpiceCSM...the CSM stands for Customer Service Management, takes subject matter expertise and distributes it to agents in guided workflows that are brand specific. Applicable content can be shared among brands and the tool is bi-directional, able to give and gather information to deduce the root cause of even the most challenging network security problem for instance. Ultimately, in most instances, it provides a prompt efficient solution and First Call Resolution (FCR). If it is a new issue that requires escalation it fires business rules and uses the captured information for routing purposes. It also plays nice, reading and writing to all legacy systems.
More importantly from the agent's perspective, by following these workflows, the agents are trained over and over in deductive reasoning. They also gain valuable technical skills critical to what I call the Solution Economy with each and every resolved call. After a few days of classroom training, newbies are on the floor shadowing experienced agents. A few days later, they are sitting in the pilots seat taking their first calls. Within hours and days and through repetition they learn to solve problems. It is also great for teleworkers or remote agent environments. Over time, just like a child that has learned to run, a whole new world opens up and they are able to take on higher level support jobs...good for then and good for the call center. Granted, some of these folks have moved on to run most of the major networks in the north country, while others remain with the company to work with customers who need to provide a higher level of support. In fact today, several are acting as virtual network and systems engineers for international hardware and software providers.
So, yes by using guided process workflows, call centers can bring good jobs back to the US and provide our workers with the opportunity to revitalize their towns and villages. It is happening in northern NY and the Adirondack Park http://www.clarkson.edu/adk/. And its happening for our customers, resulting in the increased bottom line profits! Glad to share more about it...