Utility firm seeks to cut call centre costs and boost productivity with IP telephony trial

Utility company Npower has begun a trial of Internet Protocol telephony with more than 400 staff at its Gateshead contact centre....

Utility company Npower has begun a trial of Internet Protocol telephony with more than 400 staff at its Gateshead contact centre. It expects the move to lead to reduced communication costs and increased productivity.

Npower's trial reflects increasing interest in IP telephony, which allows companies to converge voice and data networks, easing network management and cutting costs.

Analyst firm IDC said large companies were eager to use IP convergence technology as they face challenges in managing the cost and complexity of their IT and telecoms environments.

Npower, which has nearly seven million gas, electricity, telecoms and financial services customer accounts, is implementing the IP technology as part of a five-year multimillion-pound deal it signed with network infrastructure provider Avaya.

IP telephony, which will be used to route calls across Npower's corporate network, will be rolled out to other parts of the business when the benefits can clearly be measured, said John Crabbe, customer contact development manager at Npower.

"We believe we will save money on the purchase of hardware and software and on maintenance costs," he said.

"We will measure benefits on a month-by-month basis and, when they can be proved, we will migrate the technology to other parts of the business."

In the future, IP telephony may be used to create multimedia contact centres that can handle customer enquiries whether they are made via phone, e-mail, fax or the web, Crabbe said.

The Avaya deal, which was signed two years ago, resulted in Npower standardising on contact centre technology from the networks firm across five sites, creating a single "virtual" call centre.

The technology has allowed Npower to improve customer service, as it delivers quicker response times.

IP telephony has also reduced downtime, which is a key consideration for a utility company, Crabbe said.

"We have got high-quality kit and a sound maintenance agreement, which virtually guarantees there will be no hardware outages," he said.

"This is particularly important in the current environment, given the recent events in the US and over here. When the power goes down it is not down to us but we are the customer's first port of call."

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