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Otay Water District Calls on Flexible Solution to Improve Customer Service

Interactive Intelligence software keeps the public utility's call center operations flowing smoothly.
By Michele Masterson - Posted Sep 10, 2012
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Spring Valley, Calif.–based Otay Water District, founded in 1956 as a public water utility, distributes water to more than 206,000 customers within approximately 125 square miles of southeastern San Diego County. It has more than 150 employees.

When its NEC PBX legacy phone system reached the end of its life, the company knew it was time for an upgraded solution. The utility wanted to install a communications system that supported Voice over IP, so it could consolidate the infrastructure at its headquarters. In February, after considering several options, Otay deployed Interactive Intelligence Group's all-in-one IP communications software suite, Customer Interaction Center (CIC). The call center software solutions company provides unified IP business communications solutions, which can be deployed on premises or via the cloud, and serves industries such as financial services, insurance, outsourcers, collections, and utilities.

"Because water is a commodity, we needed a system that would give us competitive differentiation through superior customer service," says Otay's chief information officer, Geoff Stevens. "We selected CIC because it gave us the widest array of applications, along with open software architecture for ease of customization and integration."

Otay Water District purchased CIC through Interactive Intelligence reseller Advanced Call Processing (ACP) and with the help of consulting firm Fandel Enterprises. ACP and Fandel provided deployment services and are also responsible for ongoing CIC support.

"Fandel worked closely with us to identify our telephony requirements, and ACP was extremely responsive to our questions throughout the pre- and post-deployment phases," Stevens says. "Thanks to both organizations, we had an incredibly smooth deployment and are enjoying even more benefits than expected."

The California utility company has reported improved customer service and increased efficiency as a result of deploying CIC's contact center automation and unified communications functionality across the organization.

"CIC's automated and self-service applications, such as ACD, IVR, and in-queue callback, have enabled us to maintain a ninety-eight percent answer rate, while actually reducing staff levels," Stevens says. "As a result, we've been able to reallocate our staff by one position [a $90,000 savings per year in overhead]. We have more time to discuss payment options with customers, which has driven our bill payment method from paper to online processing. That transition has saved us more than $80,000 this year alone, and holds the promise of even more savings. In addition, Stevens says the company's call drop rate has decreased from 2 percent of dropped calls to 1.5 percent of dropped calls.

Otay Water District is also using CIC's outbound dialing, recording, and customer feedback survey applications.

"The Interactive Intelligence applications have enabled us to do things like send automated notifications to customers about late payments, high water usage, and changes to their accounts," Stevens says. "We can also now monitor and record agent calls, then use automated feedback surveys to better target areas for improving service."

In addition, Otay Water District integrated CIC with its billing system to deliver information to agents via screen pops simultaneous with incoming calls. CIC gives the company's business users unified communications functionality for voicemail, presence management, unified messaging, and desktop faxing.

As for the future, Stevens says the company is further developing CIC&'s automation application, and is specifically seeking more focused and accurate screen pop information to help its operators get more involved in customer issues.

"We're also exploring the use of workflow to speed up order processing to prevent clients from being "locked out," or being restored more quickly, always a touchy and complex issue for a utility," Stevens says. "Finally, we're looking at integrating CIC into some of our more complex information viewing tools, pulling up district and Google maps for a client's address, and representing the specific water infrastructure (meters, pipes, mainline connections, water pressure, etc.) along with land-related information.

"We looked to CIC to be a foundational tool in our infrastructure and the tool we felt had the best chance of adding value to each customer call," Stevens adds."So far, that has been true, and we feel that we are only at the beginning of realizing the huge potential this system has for business process improvement and efficiency."

App at a Glance

After implementing CIC solutions, Otay Water District was able to:

  • Achieve a 98 percent answer rate;
  • Reallocate one staff position, resulting in a $90,000 savings in overhead; and
  • Save more than $80,000 by increasing usage of online bill payment.

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