Magazine Article | March 26, 2009

Reduce Customer Call Response Time With Remote Monitoring

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Remote monitoring has supported this data center virtualization company’s 140% year-over-year growth for the last five years.

Integrated Solutions, April 2009
In business, you want to exploit every competitive advantage you can. These may include characteristics of your company's product or service, customer responsiveness, or customization. As you assess your competition and decide what you are going to compete on, you also must decide if you will develop that competency internally or leverage it from another company. When Egenera faced that decision, it chose to leverage another company's technology and realized a payback in just seven months.

Egenera is an eight-year-old company that virtualizes data centers using its PAN (Process Area Networking) Manager software. It competes against companies like IBM, HP, and Sun Microsystems by enabling customers to run any application on any hardware. The company has seen worldwide adoption of its PAN Manager, especially in the financial services, government, telecommunications, and healthcare industries. Over the past five years, Egenera has experienced 140% year-over-year growth.

Based on Egenera's growth and industry focus, the company knew it had to improve its customers' satisfaction ratings. With its legacy system, Egenera had a customer satisfaction rating of just 3.1 out of 5. The company was using a home-built, unsupported remote monitoring application. This application was an email alerting system that sent out millions of alerts with very little filtering. For each alert, a service technician had to analyze the alert to determine if it was a problem or not. Then it required customer intervention for the Egenera service technician to get into the customer's system to look at the event. "It took us from 50 to 100 minutes just to analyze the problem," explains CJ Rotella, director of services and operations at Egenera. The huge volume of email alerts and the amount of time spent on alerts that were not due to an actual problem led to frustration and turnover on the support team.

Egenera decided it did not want to use its own research and development resources to develop new remote monitoring capabilities. Instead, it chose to use another company's technology to embed in its systems. Egenera developed a four-page specification to evaluate remote monitoring providers. The specification included metrics from Egenera's customer service level agreements (SLAs), such as delivering parts to a customer site within four hours.

After evaluating the providers and their competencies, Egenera chose Axeda. "In addition to the remote monitoring solution, we worked very closely with the Axeda Professional Services team to roll out the service in 100 days," says Rotella. The team developed a plan to complete the installation in 21 days.

The solution is based on Axeda ServiceLink. ServiceLink enables Egenera to schedule software updates and deliver patches; provide customers with reports of equipment inventory, events, and usage; and monitor 450 systems worldwide. The top challenges for the team were developing the initial 32 diagnostic scenarios for the agent and keeping the hosted site up-to-date on patches.

Egenera also chose to use Axeda's API to integrate ServiceLink with its ePeople CRM (customer relationship management) system. This integration allows the CRM to receive and aggregate alerts from ServiceLink into open cases assigned to service and support teams. By linking the two systems, Egenera reduced the millions of email alerts from its previous system and aggregated the alerts into site-specific cases. The service team now addresses fewer than 400 cases per month and is building a complete maintenance history for each customer's system.

As a result of leveraging Axeda's remote monitoring capabilities, Egenera meets all its SLA requirements and improved its customer service levels while maintaining flat staffing levels. The company's customer satisfaction rating improved to 4.75 out of 5 in meeting SLAs. "Now instead of taking 50 to 100 minutes to analyze problems, it takes us an average of 7 minutes," says Rotella.

Egenera's diagnostic accuracy has improved as well. The team updates its agent with characteristics and symptoms based on its customer experience. They can then deploy those new diagnostics to customer sites. Egenera began with 32 diagnostics and has improved that to 79.

Egenera can also detect problems with customer systems before the customer knows there is a problem. This has cut Egenera's resolution cycle time from days to hours. The company now meets its four-hour on-site part replacement delivery metric 99.97% of the time. Moving forward, Egenera continues to update its agent and hosted applications and leverage what it learns to develop additional diagnostics for its customers. "By using the ServiceLink application, we can focus our efforts and resources on developing our PAN Manager software to continue growing and gaining market share," concludes Rotella.