Britsh Gas parent Centrica has outsourced its call centre communications network and converted it to Internet Protocol (IP), in a move that will save thousands of pounds in administration costs.
Managed network supplier Cable & Wireless will look after Centrica's voice, data, and video communications over both wire and wireless networks. .
Atul Hindocha, Centrica's transformation director, said the 10-month programme had three goals: to standardise on IP for networking, to refresh the firm's call centre technology, and to simplify the networking technologies.
"The cost saving was significant as a percentage of the IT budget, but it wasn't the only reason to do the project," Hindocha said. "In fact the new system future-proofs some of the older equipment."
The networks service 16,500 agents in 112 UK sites, of which 60 have more than 100 staff, who take more than 10 million calls a day. There are 14 dedicated call centres, two of which run 24x7. These deal with calls for urgent activities such as gas leaks and repairs to boilers.
The call centres serve residential, B2B and energy services customers. The time-sensitive nature of the work meant that Centrica could not afford any interruptions to the business. The entire cut-over was finished on time in five days, without downtime, Hindocha said.
The contact centres have various manufacturers' iPBXs running Avaya's Communication Manager 5, the latest version of its contact centre software
The new system allows calls to be patched through to field agents via mobile phones and laptops as well as desktop PCs.
Centrica is testing an ISDN-based desk to desk video conferencing application with the aim to improve communications by adding the visual element, Hindocha said.
Customers may soon be able to use Skype to place videocalls to the call centres, he said.