A Testing Environment

Overview

The Problem:

How to determine if a different operating system will work for a Call Centre while not interrupting services?

The Data Analysis Australia Approach:

To use computer simulation models grounded with mathematical and statistical theory to assess various operations models under real-life conditions.

The Result:

Realistic estimates of how the new operating system will work under usual business conditions.

The Problem

Customer Call Centres are a key contact point for many organisations. A constant challenge for Call Centre managers is to manage the large volume of calls using modern computerised telephone technology (CTI) to direct callers through to the right operator, or resolve them in other effective ways. This all has to be achieved within customer service KPIs.

New technology is being developed all the time. For one of our clients, they were faced with the decision of whether or not to implement a new technology that essentially changes the way they manage their calls within unknown impacts. How do they know it will work without just trying it?

The Data Analysis Australia Approach

A safe environment in which to test Call Centre operating scenarios is a virtual one. Given the complexities of call routing systems, Data Analysis Australia recommended and developed a computerised "simulation model" to mimic both the current and proposed operations so that potential gains could be evaluated, an optimal system designed and potential problems identified.

Building and running a Call Centre simulation model involved the following stages:

  • Understand the dynamics of the Call Centre workload. Information was extracted from the computerised call management system's detailed call logs. System level data (providing much more information than standard management report data) was accessed and analysed to derive estimate rates of call arrivals and service times and to understand what the drivers were of changes in call loads and service times.
  • Understand the current operation process in a Call Centre. Events are centred on calls, which are traced and observed as they make their way through the system. The simulation model capably handled many of the complexities of operations, and documented the limitations where features couldn't be replicated (typically human intervention in the system). 
  • Build and test the simulation model. Data Analysis Australia chose to develop the model in Extend, a user-friendly graphical software that allows complex modelling. Predefined and programmable elements can be joined together to reflect workflows. The model was calibrated against historical data for current operating conditions, ensuring that it reacted to system changes in the same direction and magnitude as would be observed in real life.
  • Design and run scenarios of Call Centre operations. Many simulation scenarios can be run very quickly, producing large amounts of measures and outputs. These are all analysed and compared to determine the "best" operating scenario and understand the sensitivity to changes.

The Result

The simulation model gives an idea of what impact a new Call Centre operating regime will have, providing estimates of the resulting effects on customer service and resourcing requirements before rolling them out.

Computer simulation models are a safe testing ground for new operating rules and systems and are an effective business-planning tool. The ability to mimic real life system behaviours before implementing them leads to cost savings in optimising the change and avoiding problems.

December 2006