Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

The Waiting is the Hardest Part, But That May Change for Metropolitan Utilities District

September 16, 2014

Like the song says, the waiting is the hardest part, at least that seems to be the case at Omaha's Metropolitan Utilities District's (MUD) contact center. But the hardest part may be on the way out as the contact center looks to ramp up its level of service with a particular eye on shortening wait times for users to get access to service.

The contact center brought on fully 13 new employees, each with a new mission: to help the MUD both reduce wait times for customers on hold and answer the calls of those whose calls would have gone unanswered, addressing two of the biggest customer service problems the MUD faced. The problems facing the MUD had gone on for quite some time, running from about 2010 to 2013, in which calls that went unanswered outright rose from one in 10 to around three in 10, a substantial increase by any standard and a likewise substantial portion of the total. In January alone, the average caller into the MUD spent over nine minutes on hold; but now, thanks to the new hires, the MUD's goal is down to just three minutes on hold, and that's a maximum number.

One significant problem the MUD faced that was contributing to its increasing issues handling callers was the sheer number of calls received. Reports suggested that, since 2010, calls to the customer service arm of the MUD were up fully 14 percent, representing a large influx of new calls to deal with. Worse, constant turnover in the MUD left the facility constantly lacking in terms of experienced help; turnover among contact center employees reached as much as 50 percent at its highest. Since the positions were generally regarded as entry-level, it didn't take long for the employees to move on to other jobs in the district, jobs that paid better than the contact center did.  Finally, there was an issue of billing; the MUD recently changed over billing and customer service software, right in the midst of perhaps the worst such time to do such a thing, in the wake of an unusually strong winter.

But it's not just about new hires that's augmenting the MUD's capabilities; new programs are also coming into play. Not only is there a new quality assurance program, but also a greater focus on training and an incentive program based on customer feedback. Plus, the MUD is looking to set up billing in a different way so as to make bills more immediately understandable for users, a development that should result in fewer customer service calls overall.

What's particularly great about the MUD's approach is that it recognizes all the various parts of the problem. Instead of blaming the contact center agents, the MUD is looking to bring in more to help reduce the workload. But recognizing that the contact center agents do have a stake in this, there's more training being brought in to address the shortfall of experienced workers as well as an incentive program that focuses on quality results. There's even a recognition that the MUD made some of its own problem, and is working to fix that by restructuring billing systems.

Virtually every part of the customer experience spectrum is being addressed here, and that should help ensure that the best results are had in the long term. Only time will tell just how well it works, but long-term, this multi-faceted approach should pay off quite well.

Edited by Maurice Nagle