Both Mark McHugh and Andrew Morrow knew technology could distract from their core business when they set up AMPM Calling in 2001. As former chief executive of Datacraft and one-time general manager of Eftpos New Zealand, they had been there before. The Wellington-based company’s entry into the call centre market came after the realisation they could relieve businesses of the burden of investment in call centre technology and staff training.
Prior to setting up, they kept track of statistics from callcenters.net predicting a 20 to 30 per cent compound growth in call centre business over the next five years. In 2001 the data suggested 8 per cent of contact centres were looking at outsourcing, increasing to 20 per cent in 2002 and 30 per cent by 2003.
While smart systems would be pivotal to their operations, having highly trained personnel was more important. “Our goal was to be a good call centre company, not a technology company. We knew we had to be a good fit with our customers, offer a quality service and add value to everything we did,” says executive director Andrew Morrow. That meant back-end business systems had to be reliable, cost effective and scalable. The first person hired was a technology manager who helped scope out the IT options and use his experience in the pre-sales area to determine customer needs.
AMPM Calling opted to partner with HDS to outsource internet access, a thin client-based desktop infrastructure and remote hosting of applications including Microsoft Office and the all-important interaction fulfilment system (IFS) calling software.
IFS, developed by AMPM Calling, runs on an SQL database with an Access front-end, enabling the company to customise screens and database interactions based on each customer’s need.
Citrix Metaframe – the thin-client software – only needs to record the various keystrokes and screen updates, rather than streaming full software packages down the pipe; thereby keeping communications costs to a minimum. Having HDS and its Albany Data Centre in the loop not only takes the pressure off the company when its larger clients want reassurances about security and disaster recovery, it eases concerns about future technology needs.
And while integrating data and voice through computer telephony integration (CTI) is of interest, AMPM is not quite ready for that shift yet. But it does have a commitment from HDS and TelstraClear stating they will work to this end when the time is right.
AMPM Calling has customers in banking, telecommunications, insurance, property service, government organisations and tourism. “You do need to specialise if you have a tech help desk, but that’s different from customer service and outbound selling. The way we deal with this is building separate teams with specialist skills.”
Typically, AMPM Calling has 50 people on the phones when it is busy and cuts back in quieter times. “We’ve had some outbound telemarketing campaigns, for example, where we’ve needed to grow quickly then pull back when they’re over. HDS simply turns the virtual user off,” says Morrow.
When bidding for business with larger companies, AMPM Calling is able to interface with or work directly from in-house systems. That’s where the data centre environment at HDS has come in handy; enabling it to prove it has the flexibility and security systems equal to any IT department.
It can gather data as part of a specific campaign to feed into a client’s customer relationship management (CRM) database, including new customers to be activated or prospects. “In some situations we provide a full service for specific parts of a company and operate directly on their CRM, acting as an outsourced division of their business.”
Morrow says once a client becomes comfortable with AMPM as an outsourcing partner, the relationship tends to evolve into other areas. “We build up knowledge and expertise around the customer areas we deal in. A lot of our calls are two minutes plus for inbound and outbound calls. We position ourselves as an extension of the organisation – we’re not really in the answer service space.”
Although ANZ Banking Group has its own call centre with 250-plus people, it had contracted AMPM to manage its credit card call centre. “We know all about their products and services and, as part of the ANZ credit card team, we handle inquiries about new cards, provide information and even mail out the application forms.”