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Trade :AXA Assistance Case Study - In English

A telephony system for the emergency service at AXA Assistance

Challenge
In 2005 AXA Assistance embarked on a far-reaching project to overhaul its telephony system. The primary strategic objective was to offer all international customers, regardless of location, a high-performance level of service combined with fast reaction and responsiveness.

Solution
AXA Assistance decided to enhance IP telephony by implementing a Global VoIP virtual network that can be accessed by all its subsidiaries. Based on Communication Manager, the Avaya solution opens the way for the development of an infrastructure serving the business goals of AXA Assistance: its call centres are better equipped to respond to and organise operations for its customers.

Results
• The Global VoIP network groups application resources now on a central site that controls the different subsidiaries. All AXA Assistance agencies can access the same services, in particular Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and business data for use by the tele-agents.
• Deployment in the European subsidiaries, grouped in regional centres, is fast and easy.
• The Avaya solution has proved to be technically superior for the IP network feature range, security and performance.
• Inbound call routing is programmed with a fine level of granularity for enhanced customer routing.
• Business processes are more effective and productive.
• The real-time statistics are then exported to decision-oriented tools.
• The project has shown good profitability: 40% decrease in investment and maintenance costs during the first year.
• The infrastructure capacity (early 2008) handles a monthly average of nearly 300,000 calls in optimal CRM  conditions.

Results

The importance of the assistance business

AXA Assistance, one of the world leaders in assistance, develops its activities with companies and individuals through an international network of agencies and subsidiaries located in over 30 countries. It provides vehicle roadside technical and legal assistance (automobiles, motorcycles and heavy goods vehicles), emergency services (health and pharmaceutical assistance, medical repatriation, medical evacuations, crisis management) and home support services (home care). To provide these services to its customers, the AXA Assistance services must be accessible seven days a week, 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world and be able to provide a personal solution to each customer in the shortest time possible. Assistance at all times – the mark of the company – depends on the control and coordination of a large network of partners and logistical services. The overall effectiveness of this is underpinned for the most part by the communication system and also the telephone system and its call centres which must provide peak performance and ensure reliable responsiveness from all departments. The AXA Assistance telephone system has evolved considerably over the last few years to keep pace with these demands, initially at the corporate head office in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, and then, gradually, in all the European subsidiaries.

Back then, this network provided the framework enabling the launch of IP telephony at AXA Assistance. “Initially we had to develop a WAN that could support VoIP” adds Mr. Reynaud. This resulted in the transformation of the backbone network connecting some twenty subsidiaries

around the world into an “any-to-any” type MPLS IP-VPN, providing all the guarantees needed as regards bandwidth and quality of service.

In 2004, AXA Assistance had to renew the PABX (an  Avaya G3R), a key piece of hardware that was fast running out of steam. Following an invitation to tender, several solutions from different manufacturers were tested and assessed. At the end of this procedure, the Avaya Communication Manager solution was selected, beating competitive offers from Alcatel and Cisco. “It proved itself to be more complete in terms of functionality, more secure and also performed better in the IP tests”, explains Mr. Reynaud.

The IP intelligence was able to be deployed while maintaining the TDM infrastructure in the Avaya environment. “This meant we could take advantage of IP  telephony without compromising our previous investments in digital stations and handsets.” This new infrastructure was the beginning of the IP telephony strategy at AXA Assistance, with phased installation of voice and data convergence on a single network. All the other IP network equipped sites were easily integrated in this infrastructure and this was also the case when the specialist heavy goods vehicle assistance subsidiary moved offices to Châtillon, France.

Towards shared and virtualised telephony: the Global VoIP project

After 2005, AXA Assistance continued evolving its telephone system on the French Issy-les-Moulineaux site and tested the call centre platform. Convinced by  the results in terms of security and performance, AXA  Assistance decided to embark on a new phase of its  telephone system for all the subsidiaries.

Mr. Reynaud explains: “We wanted the entire group to take maximum advantage of what the technology could offer as regards our business imperatives. The network provided a firm base on which we would be able to build a powerful high performance system.”

AXA Assistance undertook an in-depth study which resulted in a proposal for a new project called Global VoIP. Its main objective was to be able to meet the needs of the various European entities, geographically distributed to form several separate regions. This involved optimising the IP network infrastructure by sharing, from a central site, those resources that could be used by the connected subsidiaries. “The central idea was to virtualise our infrastructure completely by extending the globality of the resources to the entire network. The  feature-rich service offered to our customers must be the same everywhere. Whether customers call a large call centre or a small subsidiary, their call is answered by an agent who will respond using the same tools with the same quality of service”, adds Mr. Reynaud.

The Global VoIP project has become the design matrix for telephony at AXA Assistance. The services are deployed over the virtualised network and become available to all the agencies within a geographical area. The supervision and administration can be carried out on the central site which acts as a hub. “By sharing the resources on the Global VoIP network, our business data becomes operational in any location. Avaya Communication Manager has proved to be ideally suited for this strategic function”, notes Mr. Reynaud.

The interest of the Global VoIP network has also been strengthened insofar as the choice of location for the data centres is no longer dependent on geographical constraints. “We can now locate and transfer our data centres as we want. The telephony aspect is virtualised, which means that it uses far fewer resources. This means we have considerable freedom as regards the future evolution of the structure of our telephone system.”

Customer relationships: easier and personalised

For AXA Assistance, the Global VoIP project implies concentrating a maximum of resources to service customer contacts. The call reception function is a driving factor in the system and everything is designed so that, at the telephone greeting level, the business processes are performed as efficiently as possible. The aim is to route the caller as quickly as possible to the most appropriate department or service. AXA Assistance did not feel it necessary to have a voice server with a detailed menu tree structure in order to route callers. An inbound call is answered by the Avaya Interactive Response (AIR) server with a basic call prompting a menu from which the caller is routed to a tele-agent. The routing itself is programmed at the Communication Manager ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) level.

“We  can configure the ACD according to the expertise and skills of our advisors and the system will route the call to the available person most apt to deal with the contract type identified during call prompting, or even from call initiation depending on the number that was dialled”, explains Mr. Reynaud. Several numbers are assigned to specific platforms and a number of identification possibilities can be programmed, providing deep granularity. “From the outset of the project, granularity was considered an essential criterion in the choice of solution and, in this respect, Avaya met these needs best” adds Mr. Reynaud. In comparison, the Cisco solution provided no equivalent possibilities in terms of granularity and configuration at the call centre ACD level while the Alcatel solution was limited in this respect and would have required associating additional products, “which in terms of costs and development was not really what we wanted”, adds Mr. Reynaud.

Call routing is supervised in real-time according to the volume of calls. Call statistics are managed by the Contact Management System (CMS) tool with “High Availability” functions. This means that with system redundancy, in the event of VPN failure, service continuity also applies at the call statistics level. The  statistics are then processed and analysed using Business Object decision-oriented tools.

Integrated in the solution is the Avaya Audix messaging application. Voicemail can be accessed in the messaging tool and Avaya has also integrated Witness, a third party call recording solution. This is installed on the central site (and not in each country) providing a backup of all communications relative to the region in question. This function is essential since, for legal reasons in cases of liability, AXA Assistance must be able to retrieve and produce the full history and content of all telephone calls. This function is also used for agent training.

AXA Assistance is also continuing to develop Computer Telephony Integration applications on the Avaya Interaction Center server and, at the start of 2008, several hundred stations (in France and Spain) were already equipped. This deployment is part of Phase Two of the Global VoIP project and, pending its generalisation, customer fact sheets are retrieved manually after the caller has been identified or a code or policy number entered. “All our telephone agents will soon benefit from an automatic display integrated directly in our CRM tool. This is a critical project and we want to go as far as possible in personalising our relationships with the customer”, says Mr. Reynaud. With this in mind, AXA Assistance is exploring how to enhance these customer relationship functions, including the possibility of taking calls in chat mode on a PC or integrating video-conferencing. There are also other projects being considered with Avaya to develop and improve services, such as GPS and the possibility for AXA Assistance agents to control vehicle roadside assistance or to help  prevent malfunctions and also the installation of alert devices.

Easy to deploy in the European subsidiaries

For AXA Assistance, one of the most welcome advantages of the Global VoIP project is that it is easy to deploy. “The operational extension of our services is, by definition, an integral part of the Global VoIP concept. There is no technical obstacle to their deployment for  telephony use by our subsidiary groups” stresses Mr.   Reynaud. This functional deployment on the Global VoIP infrastructure should be completed during 2008 for all the European countries which are grouped together in several “Regions”. An Avaya Media Server (intelligence centre) is installed in the central site of each region and the dependent countries connected via gateways. Routing is handled centrally and each country will soon be able to use the Avaya AIC server to access customer data directly.

The first region to go live was France which, from the central site at Châtillon (replacing the Issy-les-Moulineaux site following the summer 2007 move), controls not only the four sites in France, but also those in Belgium, Switzerland, Morocco and Poland (connected from an administrative point of view), while Algeria, at present administered separately, will be connected shortly. Called  the “Central” region, it represents almost 3,000  agent positions.

The North region is also equipped and includes Great Britain (Media Server) and Ireland (gateway). In Spain, the Avaya solution has replaced Nortel, Ericsson and Alcatel hardware and CTI is being deployed early 2008. The other regions equipped with IP telephony will follow and there are plans to connect and equip Italy, Greece, Germany and the Czech Republic in the near future. Thereafter, AXA Assistance plans to connect agencies in other countries (in particular those in North America and Latin America) that, prior to 2008, were independent with their own PABXs.

Results that meet expectations

Early 2008, the Global VoIP project is nearing completion for the “Central” region. At present the Châtillon site receives on average some 280,000 inbound calls each month. “We are very satisfied with the Avaya solutions. Most of our operational objectives concerning the running of our customer service have been met” notes Mr. Reynaud. The infrastructure is fully redundant and secure and if the central site is down, then a second site is capable of managing all the entities connected to the central site. And the availability rate is greater than 99.99% which is in line with expectations.

In each geographic area AXA Assistance can now offer all its subsidiaries a range of enhanced and added-value services to improve their operational efficiency and help increase their productivity. The system also provides for greater availability as regards customers with the possibility of inter-site overflow that is totally transparent for the callers. “The flexibility compared to traditional telephony is also a tremendous advantage”, says Mr.   Reynaud.

From the financial point of view, the project has proved to be cost effective. An initial analysis at the end of 2007 measured cost progression at the hardware investment and administrative and maintenance costs levels. “We reduced our investments by 40% while completely upgrading the installed base”, says Mr. Reynaud. Through sharing and easier deployment and with a complete change of technology, AXA Assistance has significantly reduced its infrastructure costs. This was one of its initial aims.

Results that meet expectations

Early 2008, the Global VoIP project is nearing completion for the “Central” region. At present the Châtillon site receives on average some 280,000 inbound calls each month. “We are very satisfied with the Avaya solutions. Most of our operational objectives concerning the running of our customer service have been met” notes Mr. Reynaud. The infrastructure is fully redundant and secure and if the central site is down, then a second site is capable of managing all the entities connected to the central site. And the availability rate is greater than 99.99% which is in line with expectations.

In each geographic area AXA Assistance can now offer all its subsidiaries a range of enhanced and added-value services to improve their operational efficiency and help increase their productivity. The system also provides for greater availability as regards customers with the possibility of inter-site overflow that is totally transparent for the callers. “The flexibility compared to traditional telephony is also a tremendous advantage”, says Mr.   Reynaud.

From the financial point of view, the project has proved to be cost effective. An initial analysis at the end of 2007 measured cost progression at the hardware investment and administrative and maintenance costs levels. “We reduced our investments by 40% while completely upgrading the installed base”, says Mr. Reynaud. Through sharing and easier deployment and with a complete change of technology, AXA Assistance has significantly reduced its infrastructure costs. This was one of its initial aims.

All statements in this Case Study were made by Mr. Reynaud, EMEA Contact Centres Manager at AXA Assistance.