RSL COM makes a call on growth

RSL COM makes a call on growth

Inorganic growth drove telecommunications provider RSL COM to seek a call centre solution, which it needed in a hurry.

By Alicia Camphuisen

Expanding through acquisition over the past three years into mobile networks, the Australian arm of international fixed wire telecommunications provider RSL COM has had to manage disparate business and customer service systems alongside exponential growth.

When it purchased the GSM customer bases of mobile service providers Link Telecommunications and First Direct Communications in March 1998, RSL COM found it had three sets of clients and business management technologies that needed to be assimilated. The company had to address the situation quickly, as calls to its customer service arm increased from 20,000 to 80,000 in the first month after the acquisitions.

RSL COM wants to deliver through its call centre a unified front with improved services, according to general manager of customer services Lorrie Finlay.

"Growing very rapidly through acquisition and entering the mobile market, we had to deal with the integration of a variety of business processes and corporate cultures, while maintaining focus on our markets," said RSL COM's general manager of customer services, Lorrie Finlay. "We also needed to be able to divide the business, to handle two very different customer profiles."

To continue addressing the needs of RSL COM's 170,000 mobile and fixed wire customers during this change, Ms Finlay said that among RSL COM's first priorities was to overhaul the central call centre in its St Leonards office in Sydney.

"The differentiator in the market needs to be customer service. We also need to provide an environment in which staff want to stay, as the industry's annual turnover of call centre staff is as high as 60 per cent," she said.

RSL COM also needed a solution that was scalable for future acquisitions, and that could incorporate reporting and analysis functionality.


After evaluating its options, RSL COM selected Rockwell Integrated Call Centre System (RICCS), from CRM vendor Rockwell and integrated by Ericsson. According to Ms Finlay, this product provided some of the greatest room for growth, as RICCS' 2400-agent capacity far outnumbers RSL COM's 200 current call centre staff.

"We had to integrate a variety of business processes and corporate cultures, while maintaining focus on our markets."

One of the driving factors behind the company's choice was that the RICCS open platform could be integrated with the billing system.

"Our IT division has merged all of our databases onto one billing platform, from the standalone systems they were on. This database was migrated onto our central server, and our billing system will reside behind the server," said Ms Finlay. The last step of this process was allowing customers to have access to the company via the call centre, so they could query the new billing system.

Although Ms Finlay declined to identify the billing technology, she said that it was Y2K-compliant and would be online by the first quarter of next year. The billing system itself will allow greater customisation, as clients can opt to receive all of their bills on one document, or in any combination.

In the customer service centre, RICCS queues incoming calls and routes them to agents according to their skills. When an agent answers a call, an origin message that is inaudible to the caller identifies the RSL COM company they are part of, and the database required to manage the customer's query. A message also appears at the bottom of the agent's screen to prepare them for the probable content of the call.

RICCS also includes real time reporting that enables analysis of the call centre's activity.

"[This is] the main business benefit we receive. It allows us to monitor call times, agent by agent, group by group, day by day. This allows us to look at ways of improving customer service and assists us in identifying areas in need of training," said Ms Finlay.

"We are also able to more accurately concentrate on training, which improves productivity and decreases the turnover of our staff."

Armed with information on its business operations, Ms Finlay said that RSL COM could begin evolving its customer contact channel.

"At the moment the call centre has a technical focus, but next year we will be implementing a sales emphasis with value-added services. This will also make the job more exciting and varied for customer service operators," she said.

With the call centre now in place, RSL COM plans to invest in more Rockwell-compatible systems, such as workforce management and a predictive dialer. It is also developing an interface for customers to engage in online text chat with call centre agents, and interrogate fixed line bills online.

The company has also created a history of mobile phones, including images and features, for call centre agents and RSL COM's nationally-dispersed satellite sales offices to access via its intranet and refer to in after-sales support. In future, RSL COM is hoping to extend access to this service to its customers.

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