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Vertex increase services levels increase by 49% using WITNESS simulation software from the Lanner Group


Background

The ability to improve operational performance with minimal additional expenditure is one of the primary reasons why organisations worldwide rely on Lanner Group's simulation technology. One such company, the business process outsourcer, Vertex, has experienced massive benefits with WITNESS, with one project resulting in service levels increasing by a staggering 49%.

Vertex began using WITNESS in September 2002. According to Steve Helm, Head of Business Modelling, WITNESS provided a good fit with the company's overall business strategy. 

"Vertex is passionate about service and prides itself on its ability to be effective, efficient, yet innovative. In WITNESS we recognised a tool designed to be just that, with the added flexibility that it can be used in all areas of the business."

Results

As a result, it is hardly surprising that Vertex' use of WITNESS to date has not been restricted to one area. Initial projects have included the modelling of five contact centres, the processing of housing benefit claims, modelling of Vertex's fulfilment operations and for central government, analysis of customer conversions to direct benefit payments. Indeed, WITNESS has even been used to model revenue generation for Vertex itself.

However, one project that has been particularly successful, was the modelling of a contact centre for a new utility client. The operation deals with seven different types of calls. Each call is routed firstly to agents working from home, then, if it remains unanswered, to a second site, and finally, to a central contact centre. Although some agents were dual skilled, the majority of agents were only able to deal with one type of call. The operation was facing a number of problems. The service level, measured as the percentage of calls answered within twenty seconds, was below target, whilst the call abandonment rate was considerably higher than required. Given the constraints (including cost) which faced the operation, Vertex had already established that shifts could not be further optimised and improvements were also hampered by the ring-fencing of two of the call types i.e. where calls can only be dealt with by one specific group of agents.

Vertex already recognised that there were numerous solutions to the performance problems, all of which could be explored within WITNESS. Firstly, additional staff could be employed or the existing workforce could be multi-skilled. Alternatively, the company could tap into underused resource in the document handling unit which currently was operating as a ring-fenced stand alone area. Another idea was to blend the two ring-fenced call types with the main contact centre so that they could be handled by a greater number of agents. Finally, the operation could examine the benefit of networking the skill-set - removing the existing hierarchical routing of calls from home-workers through to the main contact centre, thus creating one central contact centre.

To date, Erlang queuing theory had been used along with Excel to plan resource
requirements but Vertex recognised that neither could deal with the complexities involved in exploring these very different potential solutions. Says Steve Helm, 

"we wanted to be able to accurately forecast performance improvements resulting from each small incremental change we make to the operation, and with Excel, this just isn't feasible. Crucially, with WITNESS we can chart performance changes as well as compare scenarios to find the best solution to our needs."


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About

Part of FTSE 100 company, United Utilities Vertex is one of the UK's biggest customer management specialists. The company manages end-to-end customer service on behalf of its clients, from initial acquisition through fulfilment and servicing to customer retention. Its client base is diverse, including numerous retailers, technology companies, local authorities and utilities . 

To date, Vertex has handled over 200 million customer transactions and has collected £6 billion on behalf of its clients!

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