By Bill Peters
(Dr. Richard Kelley is traveling. His column will return on October 31.)
Outrigger’s Worldwide Contact Center in Denver has become greener than ever. In fact, as a distinct physical location that can be found on a map, it has ceased to exist. All its employees are now doing the Center’s work from their respective homes, tied together and to Outrigger and the rest of the world by purely electronic means.
Back in December 2004, I began investigating all the new and exciting hosted call center software applications that were available. It took me about one and half years to analyze over half a dozen companies that were offering many different ways of connecting with guests using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology. They also had many different ways of integrating the full range of methods for customers to make a reservation, including telephone calls, e-mails, fax, Internet live chat, Internet call-back routing, and wholesale rooming list routing, which would allow wholesale to become paperless.
The major goals we wanted to achieve were:
- To reduce operating costs
- To maintain staffing with company employees and not outsource positions
- To maintain jobs in the United States and not have to “offshore” them (export them to another country)
- To be able to use all the latest ways, listed on page 1, for customers to reach us
- To be able to route incoming inquiries to the appropriate employee, based on their skills
- To have a full suite of management tools that would enable us to run the business electronically
- To have “protocol flexibility” for both inbound and outbound calls
- To be able to easily adopt software enhancements, as they became available
However, always at the top of my list was the ultimate “home shoring” solution — making it possible for our employees to work not from a central location, but from home.
After visiting many prospective technology providers’ customers, one company stood out from the rest, Echopass. It addressed all the issues I was investigating in a very professional and customer-friendly way. Echopass CEO Vin Deschamps flew to Denver to present to us the benefits his company offered. Based on our experience to date, I am glad to say we made the right choice in Echopass. They have delivered on their promises.
Using the on-demand call center software that Echopass hosts in Salt Lake City, we have been able to cut operating costs even beyond expectations. Echopass also enabled us to start the work-from-home experiment. We started six months after we began to implement the Echopass solution with one wholesale employee, Charles Gunsolly (who has since retired). Microsoft created a video about Charles which can be viewed at www.echopass.com/movies/Genesys_Echopass_Outrigger_Story.html.
Over the next several years, we moved more and more employees and business functions to work-from-home status. Each business function was tested to its fullest to ensure that all its applications could be performed in a “virtual,” i.e., decentralized, environment. The result is that we now have 100 percent of our employees working from home — and covering 100 percent of our customer contact functions.
This has created a totally green business environment for our operation. Working from home cuts each employee’s job-related “carbon footprint.” There is no more commuting back and forth to an office. This reduces traffic congestion, lowers the use of gas, and eliminates time spent on the road. It saves each employee the cost of fuel and auto wear and tear, and it enormously cuts employee time away from home. It will also help contain the spread of any contagious virus, such as H1N1 (swine flu), since employees will no longer be exposed to each other’s viruses.
Earlier this month we moved out of our large call center into a much more decentralized work-from-home environment. To accomplish this, we are using many different hosted companies that, with the help of Echopass, allow us to do time and attendance, payroll, eLearning (i.e., training), scheduling, instant messaging, and other necessary functions.
Decentralizing meant we had to find a data center to host some of the remaining servers essential to our business. We also had to find a small executive office. Besides providing an official business address, it gives us a place to hold our weekly management meetings, a training room for new hires, and a place to host employee meetings we hold every two months. It also gives us executive office space for visiting Outrigger executives to meet and take part in webinars.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a tour of these two sites for our Chairman Dr. Richard Kelley and Barbara Campbell, Vice President of Retail Leasing, who was visiting from Hawaii. First we toured the new secure data center in Denver (see “Denver – Honolulu Teamwork”), where our servers will be located. As can be seen from the pictures in Denver “Denver – Honolulu Teamwork,” it is a state-of-the-art facility that has many companies’ servers and hosts many other companies’ systems.
The next stop was the new virtual executive office, located in Aurora, not far from Denver International Airport. Marion Beverly, Contact Center Manager, showed Barbara and Dr. Kelley how we manage the business “virtually.” Marion explained how the Echopass software enables managers to see what is happening with each employee in his or her home office on a second-by-second basis. She then reviewed a few incoming calls.
We then met in the facility’s boardroom with the other managers. Shannon Nolder, Wholesale and Pacific Business Connection (PBC) Accounts Manager, showed Barbara and Dr. Kelley how she manages the wholesale business and maintains and manages the PBC virtually. Martha Delisa, Supervisor of GDS (global distribution systems) and eLearning, demonstrated how she manages the GDS through Pegasus and then presented her latest eLearning module on the newly-renovated Outrigger Reef on the Beach. Kathy Sylvester, Director of Human Resources and eLearning, showed how time and attendance is handled virtually, as well as payroll and benefits.
Both Dr. Kelley and Barbara left knowing how our Worldwide Contact Center continues to develop electronically and how we have become truly green.