Call Centers Could Face DST Change Problems

Customer satisfaction could take a hit for call centers that overlooked more obscure parts of the system in preparing for the daylight-saving time rule change.

Customer satisfaction could take a hit for call centers that overlooked more obscure parts of the system in preparing for the daylight-saving time rule change.

Although only time will tell how successful most call center operations have been in their efforts to deal with the change, industry experts warn that its possible some elements in complex call center operations may have been overlooked—especially home grown applications.

While the vendors that provide key elements of a call center operation such as automated call distribution systems have provided warnings and patches to their customers, "there other systems either entirely home grown or that have had significant customization that are at risk of being overlooked," said Drew Kraus, research vice president for enterprise communications and applications at Gartner in Boulder, Colo.

There is also a "risk companies will overlook other systems such as [workforce] scheduling or reporting applications that have time and date triggers," he added.

But thats not true of every vendor, according to Stephen Alvin, voice network architect for Cadence Design Systems in San Jose.

"There are a fair amount of companies whove said, youre on your own, kid," said Alvin, who declined to name those vendors.

/zimages/1/28571.gifTo read more about the DST issue, click here.

The call centers most vulnerable to problems due to the DST time change are sophisticated, complex, multi-location call centers that use more "advanced routing mechanisms," said Kurt Mey, who leads business development within Dimension Datas CIS (Customer Interactive Solutions) practice in Edison, N.J.

For example, global call centers that use outsourcing resources need to ensure they have the right resources in place at the right time.

"Many times the decision to route calls from one physical location to another is based on time of day. If you need 285 agents at a location to support the call volume and havent adjusted schedules, you may be short by 100 agents. That could have a huge impact on hold and queue times, busy signals and the like," said Mey.

While Mey believes enterprises with multi-site call centers and those using advanced call routing have been more "aggressive" in dealing with the issue, he believes in general that most call centers "waited till the bitter end and didnt think about how much impact there would be on their systems," he said.

Gartners Kraus believes contact centers are especially vulnerable to problems that arise from the time-change rule because of their complexity and the fact that it takes a number of different, interdependent systems to "form a cohesive contact center," he said.

"There are so many moving parts to it, and there are a fair number of companies that have home grown pieces to it," he added.

The result of integral pieces not being addressed could range from responses taking an hour and 15 minutes instead of the expected 15 minutes to packages not arriving.

Alvin is "fairly confident" that Cadence, which has global call center operations, is ready for the time change.

"The PBXes and most of the call center equipment came up pretty clean. Were worried about e-mail and messaging," said Alvin. Cadence uses Microsofts Exchange for e-mail and Nortel Networks Call Pilot for voice messaging. "Call Pilot appears to be pretty good. For Exchange we have our fingers crossed," he said.

But just in case, Cadence, which has been working intensively on preparing its call center for the change for the past three weeks, will have extra help desk personnel working overnight as the change takes place to insure there are no hiccups.

"Weve got global call centers all over the place. As we hit different time zones, well be checking to see everythings all right.

Although theres no way of knowing now how well the call center industry did collectively in addressing the issue, "on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday when deliveries are supposed to be arriving, well find out if theyre working or not," said Gartners Kraus.

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