Cooperative Response Center walks through upgrade

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

AUSTIN, Minn.--Cooperative Response Center's director of contact centers and central station Jeanne Hentges knew her operators "had to walk before they could run," when it came to a Bold Technologies Manitou upgrade.
The system was a different package with a lot more details and reports than the system to which the staff of 12 operators was accustomed.
Learning the Windows-based platform was something of a forced evolution for the dispatchers. The Theos operating system that the central was using had become unsupported and limited the kind of services that could be accomplished.
"A Windows-based product captures and houses a lot more information for every account," Hentges said, "providing us the ability to give more service to our subscribers."
Hentges and her team started with standard training to become comfortable with the beginning level of the system.
Six months into the new software platform, Cooperative Response Center had the alarm monitoring automation company Bold Technologies come to the central to hold a week-long training program.
The program "was more of an advanced training, now that we can walk and are actually jogging, we are ready to get going a little faster and do more," with the software, she added.
In January, the central incorporated an upgrade called Terminal Services, which enables dealers to have access into the system to run reports and review account information.
"Dealers like to see different levels of detail, a lot of them like to get a report at the end of the day that shows low battery alarms that might come in or activity reports," said Hentges.
The central account base is split into 12,000 medical accounts and 7,000 security and environmental accounts. The security accounts are primarily commercial; environmental applications include such things as chicken and hog farms where high and low temperatures need to be monitored.
Another add-on service includes Auto Client, which allows the central to identify certain alarms that can be handled without a live operator, like a low-battery alarm, where an automated e-mail alert to the dealer is sufficient and improves efficiency.
The central is part of an electric cooperative in the upper Midwest. The company also has a contact call center in Tennessee, which houses line-crew dispatching call center services.
With its many layers, the automation system takes time to learn. "There are a lot of areas in the system that you just have to know how to use. I look at it as somebody that can make an Excel spreadsheet and then learn an access program."
Although, Hentges admits the upgrade has extended the time to handle the alarms because there are many different places that information is stored, compared to the limited screens of its previous DOS system. "I think though we are doing better service, but like anything it's a challenge for staff to become accustomed to it. I think for some of the dealers, change is hard."