When Business Performance Manager Grant Wilson sits down at his desk at Maxx, The Auckland Regional Council's Public Transport Contact Centre, Auckland, New Zealand's free public transportation information service, to manage the team of 50 agents, the first thing he does is launch Internet Explorer on his PC and log onto Irene Workforce Management Software hosted on ISC's servers half way around the world in Richmond, Virginia.
Reaching out to Irene puts him in touch immediately with exactly who on his team is on duty, who's on break, who's on vacation, who's home sick and who is filling in, and offers up a reliably precise view of what the schedule will look like in the future.
Auckland sits in a notch in the North Island formed by the Hauraki Gulf and is the largest city and chief port of New Zealand. The current population in the metropolitan area is more than 1.2 million people, equal to roughly one-third of the population of the entire country, and includes the largest Polynesian community in the world. Auckland is the home port for the New Zealand Navy, and its economy includes major manufacturing, fishing and tourism.
When someone in Auckland wants to know the best way to get by train to Waitakere, or by bus to Karangahape Road or by ferry to Rangitoto Island, they call the MAXX Contact Centre. It's Wilson's job, to make sure their calls get answered in a timely fashion, seven days a week. Factor in holidays, special events, stalled buses, late trains and the variety of interruptions that beset transit on land and sea, and the volume of calls can easily soar beyond 4,000 a day. Wilson says a late bus will often prompt calls from commuters on their cell phones wanting to know when the next bus will get to their stop.
Before Wilson found Irene, it took 30 or 40 hours a week to come up with call forecasts and schedule agent requirements using an Excel spreadsheet that he had inherited from a predecessor and customized over several years. Managing the schedule was extremely labor intensive because of all the last minute adjustments that were required to match the scheduled staff against the call flow pattern from the corresponding day of the previous year. It was accurate, after a lot of cutting and pasting, but it was tremendously time consuming.
Irene changed all that. With Irene's browser-based service, forecasting and scheduling are now automated. Not only is Wilson able to respond much more quickly to short term changes in call volume, but he is also able to provide much more flexibility for his full-time agents. The power of Irene also makes it possible to integrate and take better advantage of part-time employees from the University of New Zealand down the block from MAXX's offices. "Has it made people happier about their roster? Absolutely!" Wilson says.
Not all the calls to Contact Centre are about transportation. Wilson maintains separate calling queues where the agents need to be trained in environmental issues and specific regional parks. In the past, Wilson had to maintain separate teams for each skill set. Now, however, the skills-based functionality of Irene makes it possible for him to leverage different skills within his base of agents who are all on the same team.
Wilson says he hasn't yet explored all the different things that Irene can do for him. Nor has he found any feature he needed that Irene didn't already have.
One of the best features of Irene's hosted service, Wilson says, is that there were no installation hassles, no server problems, or networking challenges. "That's been a real bonus," he says, "There's no IT work at all. All we have to do is log in." The hosted version of Irene requires no upfront investment in additional hardware or software and that means no obsolescence, either.
Irene Hosted is always accessible and instantly scalable. Data from the MAXX Contact Center is uploaded regularly to ISC servers in the U.S. where it is immediately available to Wilson. There is a 16-hour time difference between Auckland and Virginia—when it's 8:00 AM Tuesday morning in Auckland, it's still only 4:00 PM Monday at ISC headquarters in New York—but, Wilson says, support from ISC has been consistently responsive, nonetheless. By freeing Wilson from the laborious tactical issues of forecasting and scheduling, Irene has made it possible for him to spend more of his time on strategic issues such as evaluating and improving training and expanding the scope of his call center's capabilities. "Irene has exceeded all our expectations," Wilson summarizes. "It's powerful, but very easy to use. We got up to speed quickly and, when we needed support, ISC was right there for us. Other applications I've seen were too cumbersome. Irene was just right."