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SMRT Corporation Ltd
SMRT Corporation (SMRT) is the premier multi-modal transport service provider in Singapore. SMRT serves millions of passengers daily by operating a safe, reliable and comprehensive transport network that consists of an extensive Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and light rail system which connects seamlessly with its island-wide bus and taxi operations. SMRT also markets and leases commercial and media spaces within its transport network, and offers engineering consultancy and project managment as well as operations and maintenance services, locally and internationally.
SMRT operates Singapore’s first MRT system, which commenced operations in 1987. Today, SMRT operates a train network which comprises the North-South, East-West and Circle Lines with a total route length of 129.8km across 85 stations. SMRT also operates Singapore's first fully automated Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system - Bukit Panjang LRT. The LRT comprises 14 stations over 7.8km. SMRT has over 8,000 employees.
SMRT espouses a Vision of ‘Moving People, Enhancing Lives’ and a Corporate Mission: ‘To be the people’s choice by delivering a world class transport service and lifestyle experience that is safe, reliable and customer-centric.’
SMRT has a Customer Relations team made up of about 20 staff, managing feedback and enquiries through the hotline and other feedback channels for SMRT Trains, Buses and the corporate headquarters. The team aims to continually take steps to promote a customer-centric environment and to influence the staff towards service excellence.
The PABX system, which provides functions such as automatic call distribution, interactive voice response and skills-based routing, was an important tool for SMRT’s Customer Relations Contact Centre. In 2014, SMRT decided to phase out and replace the system which it had been using. This was due to the fact that as the contact centre team continued to expand, it needed a solution that helped the Customer Relations team maximise resources and reduce dropped calls.
Each month, the SMRT Customer Relations Contact Centre receives several thousand calls, with handling time for each call averaging between 6 and 7 minutes. As the contact centre handles more of the escalated or serious feedback cases, the average handling time is also longer. During peak periods, more agents would be tied up with callers, leading to a longer waiting time and higher frequency of dropped calls.
“When we reviewed the technology upgrade, reducing the number of dropped calls was a chief concern. We needed to find a solution that could provide clarity on the call traffic so that we could take appropriate action whenever necessary,” said Ms Gnin Kim Sang, Senior Manager, Customer Relations Frontline, Passenger Services Department at SMRT.
The decision to deploy a new PABX was also part of SMRT’s Touch Point improvement initiative. SMRT carefully reviewed several options, including leasing versus owning, as well as Cloud versus premise-based PABXs. Finally, a request for proposal was issued before vendors were shortlisted to present their solutions. During the three-month phase, SMRT set up an evaluation committee comprising representatives from the IT department and the business users. The committee studied the proposals before a final summary of the submissions and recommendations for a preferred on-premise solution was evaluated and the eventual decision made.
Ms Gnin said Cisco was chosen in April 2014 as the Unified Communications (UC) solution provider because it was able to demonstrate the necessary technical competence and commitment, was compliant with SMRT’s requirements and had a good track record of deployment and maintenance. Logicalis was selected as the systems integration partner.
Logicalis has experience in deploying the contact centre for SMRT Taxis, a SMRT subsidiary, which Logicalis continues to maintain today. “Logicalis had a history of supporting our business and meeting all our requirements, especially in terms of security. The technical expertise, prompt response and commitment demonstrated by Logicalis were also critical. During the project roll out, the Logicalis team helped us to resolve problems, even working with our third-party providers to ensure a smooth and successful implementation. Thus, we were able to meet our scheduled project deadlines with their support, dedication and efficiency,” said Ms Gnin.
The Cisco Business Edition 6000 (BE6K) integrated solution was implemented on 1 September 2014. The new PABX provided the contact centre team with a centralised architecture which enabled a smooth migration from the previous telco-provided telephony solution. The BE6K, with its expandable and flexible architecture, supported call recording in the contact centre. A wallboard for call-queue function empowers the contact centre agents by keeping them informed of performance levels, messages, news and instant notifications from administrators to respond effectively to any variation in calling patterns.
“The solution was deployed for the whole Customer Relations team, regardless of their roles. The upgrade met our needs to manage the contact centre productively and efficiently. It was easily integrated with our CRM and provides tools to enable our quality assurance programmes as well as record all the calls made with our customers,” said Ms Gnin.
To ensure a seamless transition, the solution was rolled out in stages, starting with a detailed compilation of user requirements, site surveys, test of environmental readiness to the ordering and installation of the equipment, usability testing, system integration and user acceptance training for the agents and administrators.
As further testimony to Logicalis’ sound expertise, unwavering commitment as well as knack for innovation, Ms Gnin cited an incident during the solution deployment, in which the integration with SMRT’s existing CRM system proved to be exceedingly challenging. At one point, this had even threatened to derail the entire project implementation.
“Through teamwork, countless exploratory sessions between the Logicalis team and our staff and Logicalis’ creative use of the system solution, the problem was eventually resolved, and the project was back on track - on schedule and within the budget,” said Ms Gnin.
Following the rollout of the UC solution, Ms Gnin said that there were immediate benefits for the contact centre team. Amongst the various new features, the IVR (Integrated Voice Response) helps to quickly serve callers’ needs as well as automate certain repetitive processes (e.g. announcements, after-office hours call treatment and surveys) and the ACD (Auto-call Distribution) enables the distribution of calls according to customer requirements and the agents’ skillsets. The wallboard tool allows SMRT to conduct real-time monitoring of workloads, ensuring timelier customer responses. Key contact centre metrics such as calls handled, calls abandoned, service levels, calls in queue and handling time can now be measured and monitored by the SMRT contact centre team in real time. There is also a one-stop system to record, store and monitor calls with customers now.
With the new system in place, dropped calls have been reduced drastically. The rate of dropped calls using the old system was previously well above the industry average. With the new solution, that number has fallen to below five per cent, said Ms Gnin, who added that there is also greater transparency, as the contact centre staff are now aware of the number of callers dialing in and the calls which are getting answered. This was not possible before.
“We now have full visibility of the call traffic and our agents’ productivity and are able to pinpoint the best time to deploy more agents. We can measure our agents’ performances and optimise our resources as the reports are detailed,” she said.
“Now, with most calls being answered on the first try, we rarely get complaints from callers about not being able to reach us. Our callers experience greater availability and reliability, and our agents can spend more time engaging the callers. During times of the day when there are lower call traffic volumes, our agents can focus on cases that they need to follow up on. Team leaders can also schedule coaching and cohesion activities during low traffic periods.”
Ms Gnin said SMRT can now respond more quickly and effectively to customers. The new PABX has improved SMRT’s availability and call handling, raised the quality of customer interactions as well as improved the contact centre’s productivity and efficiency.
SMRT has already put in place caller surveys and voicemail feedback for callers to send their feedback and compliments. Ms Gnin added that going forward, the contact centre intends to develop this functionality further by developing automatic and random caller surveys. As immediate retrievals can be made based on caller identification, the SMRT contact centre can go back to the caller (for example, via SMS) to rate the agent’s call handling after a call is received. Callers can then rank the agents’ performance on a scale of 1 to 5 and give additional feedback in voice mails to SMRT. Calls made to compliment the agents can then be marked and kept on record.
“Internally, we aim to foster a culture that appreciates the work of our employees and have been rolling out a number of initiatives to support that. This customer voicemail feedback feature provides us with information that we can use to recognise the contribution and excellent service from our team members and further encourage them to strive harder to deliver impeccable service.” said Ms Gnin.