Case Study: MASCO Service, From Call Center to Contact Center

By Gary DuPont

MASCO Services Inc. (MSI) has evolved since 1976, when they began providing telecommunications and basic operator services to Boston area hospitals and colleges. The business reached a crossroad in 1991 when the call center had to be relocated to corporate headquarters. The company’s major healthcare customers needed to respond to a changing environment and pressure to become more cost efficient. Those same clients also wanted voice systems services not available with the existing Centrex system. Critical decisions had to be made regarding the selection of new systems to replace major components including the existing Centrex system, a homegrown directory, and radio paging mainframe database.

At that time, MSI was faced with altering the fundamental way of conducting its telecommunications business. The decision was to focus on call center solutions and create an efficient and professional front door to the customers’ organizations.  This was accomplished by shifting from one of the largest shared Centrex systems in the United States to PBX equipment owned by individual institutions. Over the years, MSI has made strategic changes in the “what, who, and how” of service delivery.

With the relocation of the call center to its new facility in January 1993, the three service areas including centralized attendants, paging, and the message center were combined. Integrating the Avaya Definity PBX with a very flexible Local Area Network (LAN) based directory and paging system by Xtend Communications achieved a customer focused, cost efficient solution.

“Our customer service reps (CSRs) are really the front lines of the institutions and clients we serve. In the course of their day, they may be called upon in vital life or death situations to deliver critical service,” said Walter Mont, Contact Center Supervisor. “We recognize how crucial customer service training and product delivery are to performing our function successfully.”

The improved control software in the new call center gave MSI more versatility, better tracking, and general improvement in the paging system due to an equipment upgrade and quicker response time.  Increased standardization with less complexity correlates to improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Historically, the MSI call center has been a place where customers’ calls were processed by CSRs using automatic call distribution (ACD) technology. Recently, the MSI call center has evolved into a hub for many different types of interactions using varied technologies, media, and interfaces. These interactions include Computer Telephone Integration (CTI), Web Integration, speech recognition, fax, email, and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).

MSI recently developed a speech recognition application and desktop web based directory and paging for internal use at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dana-Faber Cancer Institute. A caller can say the name of the person they are trying to call or page then this technology will route them accordingly. Web-based directory and paging by Xtend Communications provides an efficient tool for accessing extension numbers, text messaging, and on-call information. These technologies off-load routine calls from the operator services staff allowing for additional time with external callers who may require more care.

Today, MSI provides a wide array of contact center solutions to some world-renowned medical and academic facilities in the Boston area such as Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Emmanuel College. Additionally the contact center supports other medical, commercial, and consumer accounts for dispatch, message taking, and order taking. This paradigm shift to multi-channel integration is essential. Technology is certainly one reason but today MSI’s customers require more efficient and cost effective means of conducting business. Often, self-service is not an option for revenue generating calls.

The contact center plays a vital role in the business and maintaining reliability is paramount. “MSI has partnered with us over the years to keep the shared system intact, while creating more flexible processes,” comments Sandra Denekamp, Manager, Telecommunications at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Updated systems now make it possible for us to more accurately measure our expenses and we believe we benefit from a cost, training, and efficiency perspective, by participating in a shared system.”

Because a significant portion of MSI’s business is medical, all of its systems are redundant. The company is constantly fine-tuning its disaster preparedness plans. Next year, MSI will upgrade all of its voice and data systems as well as its networks. As a result, the company will have the capacity to deploy more home-based agents.

Last year, MSI contracted with an independent marketing research firm to measure the service of call center attendants at six specific hospitals on 11 different days, and at six times throughout the day. According to their report, the two top-ranked hospitals, both MSI clients, “stood above all others because of their efficiency in handling calls, and their professionalism. The attendants were friendly and upbeat, helpful and confident. They made one feel as though they care and enjoyed their job.”

Gary DuPont is Director of Telecommunications and Customer Care at MASCO (Medical Academic and Scientific Community Organization, Inc).

[From the Fall 2003 issue of AnswerStat magazine]