Delivering the Intangibles

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When a piece of cooking equipment in a restaurant kitchen goes down, it’s crucial that the restaurant be able to get it back up and running quickly. So it’s no surprise, then, that AllPoints Foodservice Parts & Supplies, which furnishes replacement parts and related items to the repair technicians, equipment dealers, and others in the business of servicing commercial kitchen equipment, is under a lot of pressure to perform. 

The 25-year-old company, which carries about 40,000 SKUs in its inventory, can ill afford to have anything disrupt its business. That was a pressing concern when in 2007 it began integrating ICS and CCC, two competitors that it acquired, under the AllPoints brand.

Because of these acquisitions, the company found itself operating sales and distribution centers in three disparate locations: Winstead, Conn., Morton Grove, Ill., and Las Vegas. Lacking was management control over what was going on among the 12 call center agents at each of the facilities. Problems with long call waiting times and misdirected calls were also common.

“We have three call centers, and it was very difficult to understand who was doing what,” says Phil Wisehart, director of client services at AllPoints. “We needed the right tools to drive a central customer experience.”

So in September 2008, AllPoints turned to OAISYS, a Tempe, Ariz.-based provider of call recording and contact center management solutions, and its Tracer solution. AllPoints relies on many key features of the Tracer solution, including:

  • Tracer Live Call Monitor, which allows call center managers to monitor calls while they are in progress; 
  • Tracer Auto Call Monitor, which flags calls for call center management based on dynamic business conditions, such as call length or tagging by an agent, and then lets the manager listen in on the call; and  
  • Tracer Quality Control Module, which enables an evaluator to review a call live or after it has ended and grade it based on predetermined criteria.

“All three operations act as one now, with one queue,” Wisehart says. “We took three call centers that acted as three and made them into one call center in less than a year. We could not have done it without Tracer.”

Full Plate

Combined, the three facilities handle between 2,100 and 2,500 calls a day, mostly related to sales and sales support. Every call is recorded, though Wisehart and his managers listen to only about 400 calls a month and evaluate about half of those to score agents’ performance. Although that’s a very small amount of the total calls received, Wisehart points out that most call center agents at AllPoints have been with the company for years and don’t require much hand-holding.

Nonetheless, the Tracer solution allows managers to review problem calls to help improve agent skills and overall customer service. The solution also lets them share exemplary calls with all agents to highlight the outstanding customer service given by a particular agent. “It has made a huge difference in attitude, morale, and other intangibles that add back to the business,” Wisehart says.

With Tracer, average call time has been reduced from three minutes and 45 seconds to just around three minutes. Calls that exceed the 15-minute threshold automatically pop up on a manager’s screen so he can intervene if needed. “Sometimes the customer wants an odd part, sometimes it’s a difficult customer, or the agent has a problem,” Wisehart explains. “That’s where Live Monitor helps. We also use live chat to help the agent through the call. It’s a very nice feature to have.”

Tracer also was able to identify another sore spot for AllPoints: Agents were spending a lot of time—roughly 123 hours a month—on the phone with vendors trying to track down parts that customers had requested but AllPoints didn’t stock. “Most of this time was hold time. We would be on hold 20 to 40 minutes with a vendor,” Wisehart says.

Once the problem was identified using Tracer, AllPoints asked vendors for alternate means of contact, such as email or fax, which cut the time chasing out-of-stock parts in half. “We are down to 65 to 66 man-hours a month and only call the vendors when there is no other option,” Wisehart says. “It gave me back one-quarter of an employee per month.”

Another key benefit has been a reduction in the cost of returns. Previously, AllPoints had no way of determining where an error was made and bent over backward to appease customers with free or expedited freight or other high-cost options. “We took a hard look at returns and the cost of returns and have been able to cut our cost of returns by a third by being able to review the calls when a return comes in,” Wisehart says.

Finding Flaws

In addition, the Tracer solution has allowed AllPoints to identify the cause of errors, like agents entering the wrong part number, wrong quantity, or wrong address. With the solution, AllPoints was also able to uncover duplication in part numbers as a result of bringing the three companies together. Shipping accuracy has increased by 5 percent as a result of these improvements.

 “Tracer is the best tool for a call center to have,” says Wisehart, who has 20 years of experience in call centers at RCA and General Motors, and has used call recording and monitoring solutions from a variety of vendors. “If I had to give up every other tool and just keep one, I would keep Tracer.”

At a price of about $12,000 to roll it out across all three locations, Wisehart says Tracer “gives you the maximum impact on a limited budget.

“It was the simplest software we’ve ever had. It was up and running in an hour,” he adds. “Even for my managers who had never been exposed to this technology, it was five to 15 minutes, and they were up and running too.”

And thanks to input from AllPoints, OAISYS was able to improve the Tracer solution so it could be even simpler. AllPoints supplied feedback that went into Tracer 6, which OAISYS released in mid-2009. “We didn’t have to do anything unique,” says Brian Spencer, president of OAISYS. “We listened to them and developed the next release based on the feedback we received.”

Among the improvements AllPoints asked for were call leveling, metrics, action reports, and the ability to pull calls randomly. All of these features help Wisehart make sure his managers are doing their jobs. “I don’t have to go search and count,” he says. “It tells me who does what, who listens to calls, how many, etc. From an operations perspective, this is one of the biggest advantages Tracer has given us.”

AllPoints plans to add screen capture to its Tracer implementation and, before the end of the year, hopes to have agents doing self- and peer evaluations.

But even without those capabilities, Wisehart says he couldn’t be happier with the Tracer solution. “Using Tracer has significantly impacted our ability to provide superior customer service and has improved agent training and overall call center productivity,” he says.

Since implementing the Tracer call center solution from OAISYS, AllPoints Foodservice Parts & Supplies has:
  • turned three disparate call centers into one operation with a central queue;
  • eliminated duplication it its inventory;
  • reduced average call times by 45 seconds;
  • cut the cost of returns by one-third; and
  • cut the amount of time agents spend on hold with vendors in half.

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