Here are the influential voices leading the conversations where nonprofits and technology overlap.
Customer service is a key to success in any industry. It needs to be part of a company’s culture. And at CooperVision, it’s a concept that has helped the Fairport, N.Y.-based organization grow from a niche contact lens manufacturer to a market leader in more than 31 countries.
As with many companies, CooperVision’s call center is a principal vehicle for building customer relationships. However, after migrating from a traditional time-division multiplexing (TDM) phone and contact center to an IP-based system in 2004, the company began experiencing call center downtime.
Fortunately, a solution came along three years later when CooperVision migrated to Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager (UCM; formerly Cisco CallManager) and Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE). Shortly thereafter, the company turned to a third party for professional UC call center assessment, planning and management services.
The result: Downtime, stability and architectural issues have all but disappeared. What’s more, CooperVision is now able to take full advantage of the scalability and customization advantages of Cisco’s IP contact center system and not fret over dropped calls.
One of CooperVision’s business strategies is listening carefully to customers and addressing their needs quickly. “We position ourselves as the most flexible and easiest contact lens business to deal with,” says Steve Baxter, CooperVision’s director of global infrastructure.
The company prides itself on its ability to answer 92 percent of calls in 20 seconds or less and complete most customer calls in less than three minutes. “We take about 500,000 to 750,000 phone orders per year,” Baxter says. “We also have call center lines for issue resolution, credit and expert specialty lens consultation. And we use the call center for our internal IT help desk.”
To streamline customer services and address customer needs more rapidly, seven years ago CooperVision moved from a distributed legacy call center and phone system to its first IP contact center. “Unfortunately, the company’s first foray into IP telephony did not meet overall expectations,” says Jill Brizee, formerly director of CooperVision’s call center and now director of sales administration.
“We were losing money because of all the downtime experienced with the phone system,” she adds. “Downtime occurred about three times per week on average and often ranged anywhere from five minutes up to an hour. We hoped customers would call back. However, we never could be certain if they did.”
In 2007, CooperVision migrated to a Cisco contact center solution consisting of Cisco’s UCM IP-based private branch exchange (PBX) for call processing and UCCE for state-of-the-art call center functionality.
Designed for medium-size to large businesses, Cisco’s UCCE offers a host of call center functions over an IP infrastructure. The combination of multichannel automatic call distributor (ACD) functionality plus IP telephony, in a unified solution, allowed CooperVision to rapidly deploy a distributed contact center infrastructure designed to handle customer inquiries 24 hours a day.
“When the Cisco Unified Communications Manager and Unified Contact Center Enterprise were installed, downtime issues were eliminated,” Brizee says. By allowing the company to successfully address thousands of customer transactions each month, the technology was helping to support the organization’s ongoing objectives.
CooperVision saw immediate improvements in contact center performance following implementation of the Cisco solution. However, even with no downtime, call stability was still an occasional issue.
“Occasionally in the middle of a call, we’d get a sudden blip and busy signal,” Brizee notes. CooperVision had hired a managed services provider to monitor the system, but it was not able to track down the cause of the call instability issues.
That’s when CooperVision’s IT department made the decision to consult CDW’s professional services group to help figure out the problem. After assessing the CooperVision installation, it became obvious that the current configuration was not architected as effectively as it could be.
“The system had been configured the quickest way, but not the best way,” Brizee says.
Baxter agrees, stating that standards were inconsistent. “There were mixed results because we didn’t have the best understanding of dial plans plus class and quality of service during the rollout,” he says. “We’ve since learned that everything really needs to be standardized and configured consistently with an ability to scale or you’ll quickly notice things you don’t like.”
Over time, the architectural issues only got worse, particularly with different UCM and UCCE versions in different locations interacting with one another. “With all those versions, it had become very difficult to provide support and track down stability issues,” says Baxter.
The CDW professional services group worked with the CooperVision IT team to re-architect the system and bring everything up to date. “We took three different versions of Unified Communications Manager in three different locations and consolidated them into one cluster based on the latest version at the time,” says Troy Harvey, CDW advanced technology account executive.
“We also upgraded the UCCE and voicemail servers to the latest version with cluster failover and added some gatekeepers to simplify call control,” Harvey says. CDW then briefed CooperVision’s IT staff on best practices with the new architecture as well as how to support it.
“The CDW team really dug into our installation, system by system, and solved the problem issue by issue,” says Brizee. “They streamlined everything and made the whole setup much cleaner and more effective.”
Cleaning up the system not only made calls more stable, but empowered CooperVision to add Cisco’s Unified Meeting Place conferencing system to the setup. Unified Meeting Place, a high-end web- and voice-conferencing solution, works with CooperVision’s existing infrastructure. It’s a cost-effective solution installed on the company’s own servers.
“I had been asked several times to roll out Unified Meeting Place,” Baxter says. “But I had been hesitant to add anything on top of a system and infrastructure that already wasn’t quite right.”
With CDW’s help, the installation went smoothly, and CooperVision staffers, once skeptical of using an in-house conferencing system, started using it regularly. What’s more, the company’s conferencing costs have been slashed, on average, by about $50,000 a month, now that it doesn’t have to pay for an outside conferencing service.
With the positive results from the system re-architecting, CooperVision moved toward transferring ongoing system management from its current managed services provider to CDW Remote Managed Services (RMS).
“We originally outsourced management to a large telecom vendor, but they didn’t yet have the expertise to deliver,” Baxter says. “We visited the CDW network operations center in Madison, Wis., and were very impressed.
“The call center is one of our chief sources of revenue,” he adds. “We had to do whatever we could to make it run well. And we knew we weren’t in a position to hire our own voice engineers.”
CooperVision selected CDW’s Availability Management (Gold) level of service, under which CDW assumes responsibility for ongoing system monitoring, alerts, patch installation and management as well as addressing any problems and repairs that may come up.
“We manage all CooperVision UCCE servers as well as associated call center UCM servers,” says CDW Managed Services Solution Specialist Andy Brolin. “This includes all aspects of the chassis, including physical hardware, the operating system and the entire Cisco application layer.”
CDW monitoring goes well beyond the red light/green light paradigm delivered by many basic systems. It includes monitoring the majority of observable events within the server or device chassis; for example, threshold and custom monitoring around syslog outputs, according to Brolin. “We want to catch technical issues before they become business issues,” he adds.
CDW RMS has also taken over patch management for CooperVision’s Cisco telephony systems. “Cisco’s unified communications patch management is fairly complex,” Brolin adds. “Our staff has been trained to understand what’s coming from Cisco, vet patches to ensure they’re appropriate for CooperVision’s environment and test all patches in our test lab before we apply them to their systems.”
In addition, CDW RMS does all patching within CooperVision’s change management window, with full documentation and a back-out plan. This mature approach assures that new patches don’t interfere with any other elements of the infrastructure.
Finally, CDW RMS has taken over all the engineering support required to maintain the operational health of the system. “No matter how big or small the issue, we’re responsible for resolving it,” Brolin says. Even if a server has to be replaced, CDW will call Cisco to initiate the return, coordinate the replacement and supervise installation of the software.
For CooperVision, CDW’s proactive monitoring and management ensures that the company’s staff is kept up to speed on all issues and activity. “If something happens to a server or Unified Communications Manager, we are contacted and the event or issues are described to us, along with how it was resolved and what the results are,” Brizee adds.
Thanks to an architecture based on best practices and effective ongoing monitoring, CooperVision has been able to take full advantage of the impressive customer service enhancement features offered by Cisco UCCE. These include remote agents, skills-based routing, and top-notch monitoring and reporting features.
“Our previous system offered only ‘canned’ call center reports, with no customization,” Brizee says. “We couldn’t get much live data. We couldn’t get reports on service levels or information on how many calls service agents were taking. We also couldn’t sort call center data by skills group. If something wasn’t in one of the few canned reports, we were just out of luck.”
When CooperVision switched to Cisco’s call center reporting system, Brizee was impressed with its depth and flexibility. “We could get anything we needed,” she says. “There was almost too much information at times. But it was very easy to cut out the columns and fields we didn’t need.”