Handling the calls efficiently and effectively is even more daunting.
By Amy Chmura, Staff Writer
Texas811 Damage Prevention Agents (DPAs) processed a record number of locate requests in 2012. The sheer volume of calls coming into the contact center prompted Texas811 to examine and develop initiatives to improve the ways calls were being managed.
Operational enhancements led to new efficiencies and came about out of necessity as the phones continued to ring this past year, said Chris Stovall, Director of Operations at Texas811.
“There was not one major thing we did, but a bunch of little things that helped operations,” Chris said.
This year, Texas811 partnered with an innovative company, FastCustomer, to attend to larger call volume periods and save customers time. Everyone can relate to calling into a call center and having to listen to a recorded message while balancing the phone on a shoulder and waiting to talk to a live agent. FastCustomer has figured out a way to make computers wait on hold with each other until the humans are ready to talk. Named in the Top Ten of Everything by Time Magazine, FastCustomer offers an application compatible with iPhone and Android. There is also a module on Texas811’s website at www.texas811.org that allows callers to enter their number to receive a call back from the next available DPA.
FastCustomer was implemented in April of 2012, Chris said. Utilization by those calling before they dug was slow at first with only about 500 users per month in July and August. In September, the number of users jumped to 2,600. The number of users of FastCustomer skyrocketed in October to 3,100.
Another service Texas811 implemented this year to handle the large volume of calls coming into the contact center is Express Select.
“This feature is for regular callers,” Chris explained. “A big part of the time a call takes is due to mapping the locate area. With Express Select, the DPA takes the information, but instead of having the person on hold while he or she maps it, another person maps it within a two hour timeframe then processes the locate request and sends the ticket to utilities.”
Another reason for the introduction of new operational systems was to allow for better scheduling of employees. Texas 811 has nearly 130 DPAs, but many were being scheduled around peak call times typically between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“We can now spread out the agents’ schedules and still meet the needs of the callers,” Chris said.
Another method for easily entering tickets is through Texas811’s online electronic locate program called GeoRemote that allows professional excavators to enter their own tickets. Chris indicated that use of the program increased eight percent in 2012. Electronic tickets account for about 32 percent of locate requests overall.
Chris said the staff at Texas811 has been promoting online ticket entry, FastCustomer and Express Select through newsletters and in trade journals. They have also worked to improve training for agents and improve the call times.
Average call times are down by one minute since the beginning of 2012. “Dropping a full minute from each call makes us more efficient,” Chris said. “We also were able to improve calls by looking for redundancy and eliminating unnecessary information.”
The goal for Texas811 and one call centers across the country is to encourage professional excavators, homeowners and anyone who is planning a digging project to contact 811 first. Calling into Texas811 still remains the primary method of locate request, so it makes sense for the folks at Texas811 to continuously improve the quality of service for those making the calls. It is that commitment to customer service that allows them to protect underground utilities, prevent damage and save lives.