Implementation of a low cost 24×7 call center with a 10 month payback

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Conference:  Metering, Billing/CRM Latin America 2006
Location: Rio de Janeiro
Presenter: James O’Reilly
Abstract: Presented by James O’Reilly at Metering, Billing/CRM Latin America 2006.

Sutton and East Surrey Water plc is a water utility company based in Redhill, UK. We
supply water to 262,000 customers over an area of 733 square miles, including London
Gatwick International Airport in the south east of England.

While we operate within a monopoly environment, Sutton and East Surrey Water have
developed a strong internal culture of excellence, innovation and leadership. We pride
ourselves on constantly being at the cutting edge of development despite our relatively
small size. Sutton and East Surrey Water uses this culture, in particular, to continually
drive customer service levels higher.

With already one of the most efficient call centers in the UK Water Industry, we decided
to introduce an integrated speech-enabled solution from Fluency Voice Technology
with our innovative and proven HiAffinity billing system from DST International. Our goal
was to develop a “Virtual Call Center Environment” to introduce an even higher level
of efficiency while improving customer service and reducing costs.

The project started with the introduction of a fully automated speech recognition credit
card payment facility in March 2005, allowing our customers to pay their bills quickly and
easily 24 hours a day. This has been so successful that we have already expanded the
system to deal with balance enquiries and direct debit1 sign-up. We also have plans to
extend these services to include meter readings, change of payment method and
change of occupier in the future.

The project has delivered several key benefits:

  • Cost savings – Processing a bill payment has been reduced to 40 pence (72
    cents) per completed transaction – a saving of £1.20 ($2.16) per call across a
    client base for this service of nearly 100,000 customer accounts.
  • No capital costs – Apart from the initial set-up and integration, the only other
    costs are transaction costs
  • Efficiency increase – The need to re-allocate resources to cover peak call times
    has been removed
  • Call queues removed – Peak call volume is handled with ease to help ensure
    that regulatory SLA’s around queue length and answer time are improved.
  • Improved access – 24x7x365 automated payment service ensures customers
    can pay at their own convenience.
  • Consistency of call handling – Ensures each caller is greeted correctly and the
    call is processed in a controlled manner.
  • Daily reports – Reports of all transactions are available.
    1 Direct debit is used extensively in the UK for payment of utility bills and allows the provider to automatically debit the customer’s bank account.