From concept to execution in eight weeks: How Coop and Atea made a technological leap forward happen in record time
It was early 2016 and Coop—Denmark’s largest retail business—was in the process of rolling out a new SAP financial system. With this change came added pressure on its customer contact center. They needed a full-fledged solution powered by Skype for Business. And they needed it ready to go within eight weeks.
With Atea as its partner, this became a success story. With the SAP rollout, Atea recognized that Coop was absorbing major changes in its accounting processes, affecting thousands of employees. As an outcome there would be a shortfall of 50 licenses at Coop’s call center solution, which besides the internal IT support is used by company’s customer service department to help serving its 1.6 million members.
Its existing system did not have the capacity for extension. An all-new system was needed before the SAP system went live.
According to Søren Vendler, Coop’s Enterprise Architect, expanding that existing system would be too costly. Seeing an opportunity to instead adopt a Skype for Business package with a Competella client center application, he was unsure whether it could be implemented within the eight-week window.
“As enterprise architect at a company as big as Coop,” he explains, “you have to be careful because changes in infrastructure may affect a lot of people.” He credits IT operations manager Henrik Daugbjerg for convincing him that Atea had the solution he was looking for.
The outcome surpassed his expectations: “I've been in the game for more than 25 years, says Vendler, “and I have never experienced implementing something this complex, this quickly. Despite the tight schedule, we gained a permanent, scalable solution that can potentially be rolled out to the rest of the organization.”
During implementation, the team found that it was best to set up the new call center on top of Coop’s old telecoms system. The new softphone solution required a modern network suitable for conveying speech, something that already existed in Coop's member services department. The move forward was substantial and felt like it happened practically overnight.
A 30-year leap in eight short weeks
“Within two months,” says Vendler, “we made a 30-year leap in technology, which is something we can see and feel. It’s like suddenly finding yourself driving a sports car after you’ve been taking the bus. The installation and moving of phones was previously time-consuming, but the new softphones work immediately, no matter where employees choose to sit.”
Vendler explains how the new system has made organizing work in the support department much more flexible. Employees are not tied to fixed desks, and can even sit at home and answer calls from customers. This is important for each employee, but also means that Coop can easily up- or downscale the support team during peak times.
“In the old call center, employees were dependent on a desk phone and could only work at one physical location. Now the phone is a program that runs on the employee's computer and gives us significant optimization of operations. It is flexible and provides an important business advantage."
Today, Coop’s entire customer service function runs on the new system. The next step will include expanding this service to the company’s other call centers (i.e., finance, IT and HR departments). Eventually this will also be extended to all desk phones at the company’s headquarters.
Says Vendler: “Over the years, we have run more than 100 kilometers of phone wires in the group’s offices and warehouses across the country. When there are 1,500 of you in an office, there’s always someone who is about to move offices. That’s a huge job: equaling half a year’s person hours devoted just to moving phones and rearranging wires. By running telephony via the computer network, we’ve eliminated the need for a separate line, so we won’t need so many wires in future.”
In the long run, the solution could also be implemented in Coop’s stores around the country. The stores have 3,000 regular landline subscribers nationwide, and these can potentially be pared down, having an impact on bottom-line figures. So for Vendler, the implementation and benefits of softphones at Coop have only just begun.
COOP’S IT SOLUTION IN BRIEF
· Skype for Business with the Competella client center application.
· AudioCode gateway gives Skype for Business access to and from the telephone network (PSTN), as well as transparent integration with the existing telecoms platform (PBX).
· It took two months from Coop’s first meeting with Atea to final implementation. Installation and testing of the solution took five weeks.