Endsleigh an insurance provider specialising in the higher education market. It was set up by the National Union of Students in 1965, and was acquired by Swiss insurance giant Zurich in 2007.
The company used to operate physical branches, but since 2008 has relied entirely on its contact centres to interact with customers.
Even so, the company had not until recently adopted some of the latest contact centre operations management techniques. Two years ago, it decided to change that, and appointed a new chief operating officer and a new head of change management, Phil Baker.
"We were recruited to bring some operational discipline into the company, and make sure our were adding to the value proposition of the company," explains Baker. "It became very evident that some of the core disciplines in operations management weren't as established as they had been at other organisations I'd worked for."
One of those disciplines is workforce management. That, in a nutshell, means matching the supply of call centre staff to fluctuations in demand.
Before Baker arrived, team managers were doing their best to plan capacity with their own work rosters. But without a disciplined, predictive approach to workforce management, Endsleigh was over-provisioning staff in order to meet the occasional spike in demand.
"The approach they had beforehand was that, whenever there were issues meeting demand, then the answer was to recruit more staff," Baker explains. "So the workforce was growing without any discipline."
"And because the right skilled people weren't there to answer demand coming into the business at the right time, you would see calls backing up, that would have an effect on morale," he says.
"Fundamentally, the customer experience wasn't where we wanted it to be."
Happily, before Baker arrived, Endsleigh had undergone a major call centre IT refresh. With the help of telecommunications consultancy Azzurri, it had replaced its call centre systems with a new IP-based platform from Avaya.
The purpose of the IT refresh had been to support multi-channel customer service, in other words, to give it the ability to interact with customers on the phone, over email, via web chat and more in a co-ordinated fashion.
The Azzurri-built platform included some workforce management functionality, Baker explains. By analysing the flow in traffic into the call centre, across all the various channels, the system allows Endsleigh to predict how many staff, and with which skills, it will need in the coming weeks and months.
"The software allows you to look across multiple channels, and multiple skill sets, to come up with an absolute number of full-time employees that you can operate with," Baker explains.
"It has some funky algorithms that allow you to forecast and plan multi-skilled environments," he adds. "Without that capability, you have to be very siloed in your planning."
Baker appointed two business analysts to operate the system – one is a former call centre team manager, the other was plucked from the finance department.
These analysts use the software to evaluate ways that contact centre could be run more efficiently. "All of their time is spent on doing what-if scenario planning and forecasting," he explains.
This in itself has lightened the load for the team managers, who no longer need to plan their own rosters. More importantly, though, the workforce management implementation has saved Endsleigh £1.3 million in a year, Baker says.
"It's given us the ability to redeploy some staff into revenue generating areas," Baker says. "And because we deployed the system before a seasonal spike last year, we've also used natural attrition."
Now Endsleigh plans to extend the workforce management functionality to its claims processing units, by integrating it with the claims handling system. "That's quite a new approach for an insurer," Baker says.