"I love you," - a pleasant little phrase that has made women swoon, men blush, and schoolgirls giggle. Add a .vbs extension, and IT departments all over the world cringe. Truly, the I Love You virus gave a whole new meaning to what many call the L-word.
It's no shocker that as the Internet boomed so did the need for Internet security. $195 million Internet Security Systems (ISS), headquartered in Atlanta, capitalized on this need, growing 500% in the last two years and building a customer base of 6,000 since its inception in 1992. These customers include 34 of the Fortune 50 companies, 21 of the 25 largest U.S. commercial banks, the top ten largest telecommunications companies, and more than 35 government agencies. All have purchased one or more components within ISS' SAFEsuite security management platform. It seemed ISS' business too was booming.
Tracking Customers' Calls Through CRM Application
As with all blasts, however, the thunder will eventually come to a halt and the dust will settle. The Internet boom will reach its peak, plateau, and e-business technology purchases will be mostly upgrades, instead of full-scale initiatives. So, in order for ISS to continue to grow in this aftermath, the company must improve satisfaction, thereby at least retaining its current customer base. ISS recognized this need and looked for ways to measure its performance, specifically in the customer support center.
At the support center, customers call in, and via the touch-tone pad on their phone, they choose which products they want assistance with. That routes them to a support engineer. "Our business model is designed to enable customers to speak to a technical resource immediately," says Shery Anglin, vice president of customer support and services at ISS. The engineers first ask for customer information, so they can pull up the customer account within Onyx, ISS' CRM (customer relationship management) solution. Engineers then ask the customers if they're calling about an ongoing problem, or if they're reporting something new. Based on the answer, the engineer either pulls up the information that was entered when the customer reported the problem, or the engineer creates a new file with a new incident number. All of the information related to that call - regardless of whether the problem was solved immediately on the phone or if it is still pending - is documented in Onyx. "However, our goal is to solve at least 70% of all problems on the phone during the first call," adds Anglin. "And within Onyx, there are features that allow us to track every time we touch that incident number and how long we spend touching it."
Without The Right Tools, It's Useless Data
Simply tracking an incident number wasn't enough. ISS wanted to examine the support center more in depth, such as the average time to close a problem - across products and across versions of products. It wanted to identify the source of the problems. For example, is one product giving the company more trouble than the others; is it the entire product line, or just the newest versions of the product? ISS also wanted to monitor the call rate per employee. For example, has the number of calls increased and how have individual engineers performed during the increase?
ISS was collecting this information all along. "We love Onyx - and all the data it collects," says Anglin. But unfortunately, ISS did not have the tools in place to view summaries of this information. "Really the only tools available to me at that time were two primitive ones. The first method was within our Definity phone system, which has a BCMS (basic call management system) software monitor," admits Anglin. ISS purchased the system from Avaya (formerly Lucent Technologies), and call center managers used it only to monitor and analyze call routing and agent resources. "To manage any of the information within Onyx, however, I had to go through an Onyx tool. This was our second method. But it required a lot of programming."
While using the Onyx tool was possible, this option was tedious for Anglin and was not something that could be used mainstream across the organization. "Let's say a sales representative wants a report for a customer's activities with us," illustrates Anglin. "Or let's say a product manager wants to know how his products are performing. I had to manually research and pull that information, then create reports. And this wasn't something that once I created I could regenerate. I had to re-create these results each time someone wanted them," explains Anglin. "Not to mention there was a huge opportunity for human error - which did indeed occur." Along with reporting, ISS was also looking for forecasting capabilities. "I didn't have an effective way to even forecast my resources," says Anglin. "Because I didn't know, for example, how many problems or phone calls a given engineer could manage in one day."
Customize OLAP Technology, Measure Product/Employee Performance
ISS decided it needed a solution to address these issues. And not long after that, it discovered Hyperion Solutions. Hyperion is a provider of business analysis software, headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA. The company introduced ISS to its Essbase and Analyzer products. Essbase is a back end engine used for processing data. It's an OLAP (online analytical processing) technology, which supports multi-user read/write access and detailed queries. Analyzer is the front end business tool used to view the data in multi-dimensions. It gives Web-based interactive access to many graphical displays. "Hyperion came in and did a pilot using our data. That way we had an idea of what types of summaries we would see before we purchased it," explains Anglin. "And it was a short pilot. It didn't take long to convince us."
According to Anglin, Hyperion's products had a great deal of out-of-the-box functionality. This allowed ISS to take advantage of existing reports that Hyperion had already developed. "Since Hyperion was a solutions provider much like we are, they understood the support business. That was the good news," she adds. "The bad news was that they gave us so much flexibility that we had an opportunity to customize it to meet the needs of our business." Anglin says if the company would have used just the out-of-the-box functionality, it could have been up and running in a matter of days. But ISS chose to customize it to the business, changing many of the Hyperion rules and dimensions that were already in place. "For example," Anglin explains, "we're a worldwide operation so we changed a number of our processes and the way we identified things in our system." ISS broke down the business to identify what volume of support it gave to different parts of the world. It then took that a step further and decided, in order to measure productivity around the world, it needed to map to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
ISS also chose to do some more detailed evaluations of the business. Hyperion had pre-configured a set of rules that would evaluate a product line. These rules were included in the out-of-the-box functionality. However, as mentioned earlier, ISS wanted to measure the business more in depth - all the way to the product and even by the version. ISS did the same in-depth measuring with engineer productivity - both individual and group.
Real-Time Analytics Enable Company-Wide Views Of The Customer
Today, the Hyperion solution is up-and-running at ISS. The support team still uses Onyx to document all customer interactions. But each evening, all of the information gathered that day is taken from Onyx and built into a data mart through Essbase. Essbase builds this data mart and looks at all the variables and dimensions that ISS defined before installation - such as product, version, number of incidents, and time of day. It also measures this on a customer basis as well. From there, Analyzer - the other Hyperion product - pulls this information in real time from Essbase. Within Analyzer, ISS has built 25 reports that it uses on a daily and weekly basis. "We also can customize reports," adds Anglin. "So we're constantly editing and modifying Analyzer." Anglin also noted that the company upgraded its hardware significantly. "We were having performance issues because of the volumes of data that we were running," she says. "It took double digit hours every night to process all of our information within the data mart. With new hardware, we have that down to
an hour now."
In the future, ISS wants to work with Hyperion to expand this solution company-wide. "We do have plans to roll this solution out to the product management, engineering, and sales teams," says Anglin. "Then they will be able to look at the information themselves in real time, rather than the support center forwarding it to them electronically." Anglin hopes this will provide the company with even larger customer and product views, as well as a clear understanding of the business. "The information is there," she says. "And we plan to make full use of it." This too, may be a pleasant little phrase...at which companies should raise a brow and really look at how well they understand their customers and their business. You may cringe at the thought. But as Anglin says, "It's never too late. This knowledge can provide you with significant leverage (quite possibly, the other L-word)."
Questions about this article? E-mail the author at StacyM @corrypub.com.