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Ringing Out Savings

Barclays improves call center efficiency and turns cost centers into assets.

To improve service and increase revenue, Barclays Bank (London; $1.6 trillion in assets) set out to improve call center performance. "An inordinate amount of information was locked within our technology systems, but we didn't have an effective way to extract or interpret it," says Wyn Lloyd-Jones, head of management information for the bank. "To make sense of it all, we needed a software product that could cope."

Historically, Barclays' call center performance reports were generated using homegrown spreadsheets and databases. Data was collected and entered manually, a time-consuming process that invariably meant that outdated, and often inaccurate, information trickled down to call center agents.

Then, start-up AIM Technology (San Francisco) approached Barclays with a browser-based performance management application, AIMPerformance. According to the vendor, the product gathers information from disparate systems and provides near real-time analysis and reporting based on user-defined key performance indicators (KPIs).

According to Lloyd-Jones, there were no other call-center-specific solutions like it available at the time, so Barclays initiated a 20-workstation proof-of-concept with AIMPerformance in 1999. "We discovered five different people could have five different definitions for a single metric," relates Lloyd-Jones. "So we ... thrashed out definitions for each KPI."

After the pilot ended in 2000, Barclays signed on for enterprisewide deployment of the solution at the end of 2002. Implementation proceeded consecutively through four divisions -- Frontline (corporate), Outbound, Barclaycard and Woolwich Building Society -- and was completed in September 2006.

For each deployment, an internal team worked to align divisional KPIs. The team also conducted employee training using a cascading system. Mostly, however, training happened on the job, thanks to the product's intuitive interface, according to Lloyd-Jones.

Concurrently, AIM Technology's professional services team integrated the software with Barclays' information systems. This meant assimilating as many as 75 different feeds from 20-odd data sources, including Barclays' IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) mainframe; and Oracle (Redwood Shores, Calif.), Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) SQL and IBM DB2 databases; as well as CRM applications, financial packages and e-mail applications. The bank added a single Dell (Round Rock, Texas) server with four 2GHz Xeon processors to support the software but plans to add others around the primary unit for higher availability and resilience, Lloyd-Jones notes.

Does What It Promises

Today, 13 Barclays call centers and 8,000 agents use AIMPerformance. Average call-handling time has dropped 5 seconds, saving more than $400,000 a year, and agent "walk away" -- the time agents are unavailable to take or make calls -- is down 2.5 percent, saving $425,000 annually, Lloyd-Jones reports.

Barclays also notes improved customer satisfaction, better understanding of performance across all channels and more-accurate measurement of sales and marketing initiatives. With actionable feedback from the system and attainable KPI goals, agent satisfaction and retention also are improved, adds Lloyd-Jones. "Everyone knows where they are in relation to their targets and incentives, every day," he says.

Still, "We'd like more executive-level reporting," Lloyd-Jones says, adding, "The next version [AIM v6.1, which Barclays currently is testing] promises that."

Overall, Barclays is pleased with the deployment. "The product has paid for itself many times over," Lloyd-Jones says.

Performance Management

** Institution: Barclays Bank (London)

** Assets: $1.6 trillion

** Business Challenge: Automate contact center performance management.

** Solution: AIM Technology's (San Francisco) AIMPerformance performance optimization application.

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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