Regaining the Confidence in Calling an Airline Call Center

Inspiro

Regaining the Confidence in Calling an Airline Call Center

Regaining the Confidence in Calling an Airline Call Center

The client is a a leading full-service carrier in the Philippines that struggled to operate its captive call center effectively.

CHALLENGE: LONG QUEUES AND UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS 

The airline’s call center was using 300 full-time-equivalent employees (FTEs) to handle about 220,000 calls per week, and the airline estimated that it needed twice as many staff to sufficiently handle the call volume. Average wait time before a caller reached an agent was 60 to 90 minutes, and the average answer rate was just 50%. Due to the long wait times and forced disconnects, 40% of calls were repeat calls. 

Complicating the long wait times and poor answer rates, the airline’s captive call center had in place very few, if any, scheduling or quality control measures, and it collected minimal call data. Furthermore, the center’s workforce schedule did not take into account airline promotions, seasonality, labor force strikes, or extreme weather (such as typhoons in Manila that often caused work stoppages). Moreover, the center used a straight ratio of one supervisor to every 50 agents, without consideration for different work shifts or fluctuations in call volume.  

With regard to call routing, the center used 11 calling numbers, which directed calls into large pools that addressed a wide range of concerns. As a result, callers waited in long queues rather than being quickly routed to an appropriate agent who could handle their specific concerns. 

SOLUTION: FEWER FTES AND BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE 

Inspiro opened call centers in Manila and Iloilo in the Philippines, which operated in parallel with the airline’s captive center. With 70% of the agents in Manila and 30% in Iloilo, the two Inspiro sites started with about 290 FTEs, who handled about 220,000 calls per month, while the captive call center continued to handle the remaining calls. The Iloilo location also ensured a functional workforce in case of extreme weather or work stoppages in Manila.  

Managers at Inspiro quickly realized that many of the calls were requests for basic data, such as flight information, departure and arrival times, baggage allowances and contact phone numbers. To handle these requests, Inspiro installed a robust interactive-voice-response (IVR) system, replacing the airline’s antiquated system. The strategy immediately resolved 20,000 calls per month and eliminated 20 FTEs.  

Christian Fajardo, Assistant Vice President of Operations at Inspiro, notes, “The improved IVR system also meant that live agents could focus on booking, ticketing, complaints, and other items that were higher on the value chain for sales and customer service.” 

Improved Workforce Scheduling 

To streamline the inefficient scheduling, Inspiro implemented Blue Pumpkin, a leading workforce optimization solution for the call center industry. Through this solution, Inspiro could collect critical data and determine how many agents were taking calls and at what times. Considering everything from daily breaks and seasonality to heavy promotion periods, which usually occurred Monday through Wednesday, Inspiro was able to schedule the call center workforce with flexibility and precision. The software implementation helped Inspiro staff up or down as necessary and led to a more consistent workforce with less attrition. The solution also minimized the scheduling forecast variance to just 2 to 3%. 

More Splits, Faster Call Routing 

The airline’s lack of appropriate call routing directly impacted call center performance and customer satisfaction. To correctly and efficiently route callers, Inspiro created a system with 13 splits, including ticketing, frequent flyer programs, tour packages, and other categories. Through this new system, an airline customer could call just one number—not one of 11 as in the captive system—and quickly reach an agent who could accurately answer his or her questions. 

Better Quality Control Measures 

Inspiro also transformed the airline’s process for monitoring call center quality. In the outsourced centers, each split had a different manager to track and oversee quality. Forty percent of the quality score is considered customer service elements, such as empathy and professionalism, while 60% is considered call resolution elements, such as proper documentation, accurate answers to inquiries and correct solutions provided. Through these changes and monitoring systems, the Inspiro centers achieved a superior quality score of 94.5%. And the centers instituted the quality control measures on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to ensure ongoing success. 

Additionally, Inspiro replaced the flat management structure with more supervisors and tighter coverage, including one supervisor for every 14 agents, one quality specialist for every 50 agents and one trainer for every 75 FTEs. As a result, quality control improved and management could more effectively train, monitor, and motivate employees. 

WIDESPREAD RESULTS 

Based on the compelling results of Inspiro’s call centers, the airline shuttered its captive center and completely outsourced its call center operations. The outsourced call centers grew from 290 to 480 FTEs per month, which still was significantly less than the 600 FTEs per month that the original captive center estimated. 

In addition to reducing staff, Inspiro improved quality, raising the answer rate from 50% to 95% and virtually eliminating the repeat-call rate, which helped reduce the total volume of monthly calls by about 75%. 

“With our help, the airline turned a cost center and source of frustration into a beacon of customer service,” says Fajardo. “By outsourcing the call center and achieving such outstanding results, the airline also was able to more clearly focus on other parts of its business.” 

CONCLUSION 

Although the airline’s captive call center faced several complex challenges, Inspiro successfully transformed an inefficient, costly operation into a robust, cost-effective center that improved customer service. The results were clear and evident: Answer rates went up while FTEs went down, scheduling improved dramatically, and quality measures ensured continued success. 

This case study is yet another example of Inspiro’s industry leadership. Each of our customer care representatives welcomes the challenge to help and impress customers, aptly leaving a positive experience with a client’s customer service. Knowing that each call starts with “hello” and never ends with a simple “goodbye,” our talented staff has the knowledge and experience to deliver results that can transform a call center operation. 

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