Improving Client Communications and Services with Atos Unify
There are few things that people truly need. Chief among these necessary items are clean water and sanitation. We often take these services for granted, but water is necessary for survival and sewage services are necessary for sanitary living conditions. Today, providing these two services to customers also involves a complicated customer service and equipment repair operation.
Since the late 1800s, leaders in the Romanian city of Brasov have been dedicated to delivering water from the local springs to the residents of the area. Today, Compania de Apa Brasov provides water and sanitation services to about 400,000 residents in and around Brasov.
For the past 12 years, I have served in a communications capacity for the organization, acting as the official spokesperson since 2016. As a communications professional, my primary goal is to share the activities and projects of Compania de Apa Brasov as part of confirming our commitment to providing the best quality service. It has also been my job to find ways to improve communication channels with our customers.
A Facelift for a 100-Year-Old Company
Back in 2007, our leadership committed to a complete brand revitalization and modernization.
That was great, but our issues went well beyond a media refresh. We had problematic processes and technical solutions that required a new approach to operations. Over the years, certain elements of the operation became complacent. We always provided the necessary services, of course, but our customer service and repair response times needed improvement, and our reputation started to suffer.
Part of the issue lied with our customer communication system. Our service technicians were also responsible for all communications with clients. On a daily basis, each technician was either in the field directly serving clients or responding to calls and concerns in the office. Neither task was performed efficiently, and we didn’t make the most of our employees’ skills.
Some of our best technicians struggled to route calls correctly, which made customer service an unpleasant and cumbersome process. This also led to longer wait times for repair jobs because the technicians spent so much time in the office providing customer service. The future waits for no one, and the longer we stalled on making improvements, the harder it would be to update completely. With nearly half a million customers, we had to restructure our customer service processes to something more efficient.
Seeing Is Believing
The solution came when one of our managers saw Atos Unify OpenScape Contact Center in operation at a conference in Germany. OpenScape Contact Center provides a system for handling customer contacts through a variety of channels, including phone, email, and web chat applications. Best of all, these customer contacts are intelligently routed to the best-qualified person to assist the customer.
That manager immediately realized the potential of OpenScape as a customer service model that would provide customers with an improved experience and help staff reduce stress and better manage customer interactions. Knowing the dire need for improvement at Compania de Apa Brasov, the manager recommended that the next project in our modernization effort involve OpenScape.
A Basis for Better Service
Selecting the best technology comes down to three things: First, you need a technology solution that actually answers your problems. Sometimes sales language can make almost anything sound like just what you need. The trick is to find a third-party evaluator that knows the product’s capabilities and understands the needs of your company.
The second concern is the price. With unlimited budgets, any organization could build a world-class operation. Here in the real world, we always have to find a solution within our price range. After all, any money we spent would likely come directly out of our budget for other repairs or upkeep for our water and sewage systems. We needed great technology for the right price.
Third, technology is only as good as the customer service behind the logo. Very few solutions are a perfect fit right out of the box. Even great products often need tweaks here and there to maximize its usefulness, and it can be worthless if a vendor is unwilling or unable to help it work for your organization.
Fortunately, we did not have to go through this selection process on our own; we relied on the expertise of our technology partner Enterprise Business Systems (EBS). As a consultant, EBS plays a critical role in helping us identify specific solutions to fit our needs and determine the changes necessary for our use case. Our partnership with EBS is so powerful because they help us balance the cost and technical concerns and ask the right questions of the right people—in this case, OpenScape.
Trying Out the Right Tools For The Job
Before we saw OpenScape, we knew we needed a better way to communicate with our customers and coordinate our service operations, but we weren’t sure how. Once we saw OpenSpace, the real work began. We told EBS about our desire to explore the solution, and had thorough discussions on how it could fit into our model. Through the efforts of EBS and Atos Unify, we deployed OpenScape and immediately began to see a difference. We could suddenly communicate with our customers via their preferred channel, and have capabilities to share information easily between ourselves and our clients.
Now, clients can communicate water consumption using a smartphone and receive text messages regarding any water supply disturbances. They can be automatically updated again when we know approximately when the issue will be resolved. Information around invoices and payments can also be communicated via text messages. These may seem like small improvements, but each of these additions saved our staff a lot of time. The less time our technicians spend talking about problems with customers, the more time they can spend fixing issues.
On the back end, the call center platform is now directly integrated into our internal CRM application. That means our employees can see every client’s history when they reach out to us. Viewing previous contacts instantly makes routing calls and answering questions much easier. We were able to treat every customer contact with a more personal touch.
As for the call center itself, OpenScape gave us a centralized location for customer contacts, where we could gather all client complaints and concerns. With this information in one place, it became simple to prioritize those issues and route them appropriately. At the time of deployment, we were only the second company in Romania to use the contact center model for customer service.
Seeing Is Believing—Again
We got our first real test of the system in 2018. We had a water potability incident. At the time, we did not have a social media presence and our website was still designed to remain static. We did not have any effective means of facilitating communication proactively, but our customers had very real questions about the drinkability of their water.
Our contact center was our only communication option for the time. We had no choice but to fully rely on that system to assure our customers regarding the water quality and our ongoing repair efforts. Over the course of about three days, we received around 1,000 calls through our contact center and many other messages, and we fielded them quickly and efficiently. Thanks in large part to our operational call center, we survived the crisis with our reputations intact.
I shudder to think about how we would have responded to this crisis using our old system. For many of our customers, it was that crisis that began to shape our public image of being a customer-friendly company. After that incident, we launched our new website and Facebook page to create more ways that our customers can reach us.
Happy Customers, Happy Life
In Atos Unify OpenScape, we gained some powerful tools to modernize our company beyond our wildest dreams. Customer service means everything these days. Making the move to a smart solution opened the lines of communication between our company and our customers, and has made the process smoother than before.
The Brasov community relies on us to supply fresh water and facilitate the removal of sewage. It’s important work, and our customers need fast, effective assistance when required. They trust us, and we trust EBS and Atos Unify.