This Call Center Solution Delivers
Talk about extra toppings: Founded in 1967, Toronto-based Pizza Pizza boasts more than $416 million in annual sales, operates 637 restaurants, employs millions of people, and is the biggest (and some would argue best) pizza chain across Ontario. In the past year alone, Pizza Pizza, which acquired rival Pizza 73 in 2007, filled more than 28 million orders. That’s a lot of pizza. And behind all of that pizza is the power of speech technology.
The company recently upgraded its call center—which takes about 85 percent of the orders Pizza Pizza receives—with flexible technologies that allow for at-home agents, call routing capabilities, and ease of management to increase efficiency and redundancy. In selecting a solution, Pizza Pizza turned to a familiar friend, placing its order with Interactive Intelligence, a firm with which it has a long-standing relationship.
Pizza Pizza first deployed Interactive Intelligence’s Enterprise Interaction Center (EIC) 10 years ago. This time around, the pizza chain upgraded to Customer Interaction Center (CIC) 3.0, Interactive Intelligence’s all-in-one IP communications software suite. It had already converted its Pizza 73 brand to CIC 3.0 with SIP in October 2008, and made the change at its Pizza Pizza locations this past August. It also expanded the solution to its corporate offices across Canada to take advantage of local calling and office virtualization.
“[The] CIC solution with SIP allows us to have at-home agents virtually anywhere there is a reliable Internet connection,” wrote Amar Narain, manager of network telecommunications and service at Pizza Pizza, in an email. “We were able to integrate our two brands under one telephony system.”
The system also allows Pizza Pizza to record agents for quality assurance, monitor their live calls, and provide coaching for improved customer service.
According to Narain, Pizza Pizza initially chose Interactive Intelligence and remains a customer a decade later because the software vendor has the functionality and flexibility Pizza Pizza requires. “Initially when we looked at Interactive Intelligence, it was a fairly new company with lots of potential coming into the telephony market.… This was the only company that had the features and flexibility, at the time, for Pizza Pizza,” he wrote, adding that the company was looking for recording, real-time monitoring, custom queuing, and call management capabilities. “Over the years, we have continually invested and taken advantage of their features as new releases become available.”
Jo-Anne Finney, Canadian channel sales manager at Interactive Intelligence, cites the purchase of Pizza 73 as another factor in the upgrade. “The decision to do that big upgrade and the continued investment was really based on continuing to drive the cost of operation out of their solution,” she says. “[It was also about] being able to take advantage of reduced telecommunications costs and even more flexibility with the way they deploy their technology.”
CIC At Your Service
The new releases, particularly CIC 3.0, have delivered for Pizza Pizza. “They literally can download over the Internet to a remote worker’s home the Pizza Pizza package, which is, in essence, the way to sign in to the different systems in a secure manner to process pizza orders,” says Patrick Jutras, Canadian presales engineer at Interactive Intelligence. He notes that the solution also features an embedded softphone. “People actually get to use their own at-home computers.… They install the software, and once they can sign in, they become a Pizza Pizza order-taker.”
Jutras says the pizza maker is using the solution to power additional applications within the system. When a customer calls in, the IVR recognizes the person’s information and, depending on his ordering habits and history, will either offer what he had last time or present him with new specials and offerings.
Narain credits CIC 3.0 with helping Pizza Pizza monitor at-home agents via the presence management capabilities in the system. “Agents who leave their stations without changing their status to ‘unavailable’ are automatically switched to ‘unavailable’ after the first unanswered call,” he wrote. “The unanswered call will be presented to another available agent. No further calls will be presented to that agent until she manually changes her status back to ‘available.’”
Pizza Pizza monitors all agents in real time and after calls via the solution’s call recording features. “Our teams of supervisors are there to support and empower our employees. By providing invested, constructive coaching, our supervisors are able to use the monitor-and-coach functionality to help our employees attain success by continually mentoring to provide the best possible customer service,” he wrote.
But despite these impressive results, Narain says the deployment wasn’t without its share of hurdles. “Implementing new technologies, like VoIP, always poses some risk,” he wrote. “Sometimes the benefits are worth the chance.”
According to Narain, at first the CIC card-based system didn’t handle VoIP. But because Pizza Pizza needed more flexibility, it developed a hybrid system using Cisco Call Manager as its VoIP component. This allowed the company to route calls to different physical locations across Ontario without incurring toll charges.
“Our IT team spent long hours on configuration, simulating, and testing of the CIC system,” Narain wrote, stressing that the company received—and will continue to receive—assistance and technical support from Interactive Intelligence.
“Based on our experience with Interactive Intelligence’s ability to work with us to creatively solve challenges, if and when they arise, we are confident that the flexibility and robustness of the network will stand the test of time in providing a quality virtual call center,” he wrote.
Since the beginning, CIC has been a boon for Pizza Pizza. It had already decreased overhead costs by more than 25 percent; with the upgrade, Pizza Pizza will be able to further reduce costs, better share resources across time zones, plan ahead for call spikes, and reduce hold times, according to Narain.
Finney says Interactive Intelligence can provide reduced telephony costs because it offers a flexible software solution as opposed to solutions that require investments in proprietary hardware. “We are an all-in-one software suite,” she says. “Fundamentally that’s where the value is, and then that leads to low total cost of ownership.”
At Pizza Pizza, reaction to the solution has been very positive. “Our call center managers and business users are happy with the functionality and tools offered with the CIC product,” according to Narain, who notes that users in the company’s offices were excited by some of the solution’s other features, such as desktop faxing and accessing voicemail from Outlook or a BlackBerry. “Our training for business users consisted of a simple handout by our HR department. It was an effortless transition.”
In assessing the deployment’s success, Narain asserts that network infrastructure is key: “Start with a well-designed network. Avoid congestion and unnecessary broadcasts, and ensure you have enough bandwidth available for real-time traffic and maintaining quality of service.”
According to Finney, other businesses can glean a lesson from the Pizza Pizza story: Organizations don’t need heavily customized, multivendor deployments.
“Pizza Pizza is running their entire organization on our software suite, primarily using it out of the box,” she says. “They have not spent gobs of money to integrate and customize and do all of these things.… A lot of other organizations get caught in that trap.”
App at a Glance
Since deploying Interactive Intelligence’s Customer Interaction Center (CIC) 3.0 to increase efficiency and improve call routing capabilities, Pizza Pizza has:
- decreased overhead costs by more than 25 percent;
- integrated two company brands under one telephony system;
- improved its ability to record agents for quality assurance, live monitoring, and post-call coaching; and
- improved its monitoring of at-home agents via the solution’s presence management capabilities.