Air New Zealand Takes Flight with IBM-developed Call Centre


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Auckl - 12 Apr 2000: -- Air New Zealand, supported by an IBM-developed call centre, has introduced a computer telephony integration system to enhance its 0800 customer telephone booking system.

Launched in September 1999, the new system allows for:

- Advance caller identification
- Reduction of the airline's call handling time
- Enhanced customer service by offering travellers a personal way of booking flights.

Today the system processes an average of 5500 predominantly business calls each day for flights around New Zealand and internationally, as well as calls from New Zealanders booking travel on Ansett Australia services.

Air New Zealand chose IBM to deliver the computer telephony integration system (CTI) after a highly competitive bidding process in 1998. In early 1999 a team of dedicated IBM business solution specialists began working with the airline's computer professionals to integrate the new system with the airline's existing legacy operational systems.

"Going to tender we had a set vision of exactly what we needed to bring business value to the company and our customers," says Norm Thompson, Air New Zealand Regional Director for NZ, Australia and Pacific Islands. "IBM kept within the scope of that vision and turned it into reality through excellent communication skills and outstanding commitment to the project."

A total solution based around Air New Zealand's existing systems

IBM Customer Relationship Management Practice Principal, Nick Redshaw says: "IBM delivers complete solutions to solve business issues. This includes technology, services and expertise. We pulled together a total solution based around the airline's existing systems, and used IBM's DirectTalk, CallPath and MQSeries applications to deliver an effective result for our customer."

How it works

The IBM computer telephony integration system seamlessly connects prospective passengers with one of 70 booking agents. Its sophisticated database accessing techniques bring up each passenger's personal details and flight history on an agent's terminal. This means new levels of personal service and results in a booking interaction that takes an average of less than three minutes to complete.

This is achieved using IBM CTI software that enhances the airline's Nortel SL-1 Symposium telephone system, that uses skills based routing to distribute incoming customer calls to a booking agent, by associating customer data with each call. The software also ensures that a customer's records are constantly updated and that the airline keeps track of all customer events. As well as speeding up the process of booking flights, the CTI system eliminates the need for repetitive requests for customer information and allows booking agents to resolve customer needs quickly.

IBM's DirectTalk and CallPath software process customer information

When the telephone system receives a call made on one of several 0800 toll free numbers, it is answered by IBM's DirectTalk IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system, programmed to respond to customers using the keypad on their telephones. While new accounts are immediately forwarded to the next available booking agent, regular Air New Zealand passengers key-in their individual loyalty card membership number including any of these: Koru Club, TravelCard and Air Points.

Intercepting the membership number, IBM's CallPath software instantly initiates a string of events that retrieves the customer's information from the airline's POC (Point of Contact) database. This Unix database contains every passenger's contact information, likes, dislikes, and personal travel preferences, along with details of their flight history. The customer's personal travel records from the POC database are called up onto a booking agent's screen, together with identifiers called PNR's (Passenger Name Records) that link to airline travel information stored in the airline's CARINA flight information system, hosted on anIBM S390 at IBM's Newton data centre.

MQSeries middleware notifies databases

As an agent answers each call and views the customer's POC record, the PNR information passes from CallPath to IBM MQSeries middleware, which notifies any appropriate database that the individual customer's travel records may be required at any moment and prepares the information for almost instant 'screen - pop' presentation.

Air New Zealand booking agents are located at the airline's downtown Auckland call centre. They view a computer screen that is split into four individual windows, or quadrants. While one quadrant contains the customer's personal information, the others display the available computer options as well as summaries of any associated flight and financial data. As agents build each customer's new flight request, they manipulate the on-screen display to show a variety of different operational information in the four quadrants.

When an agent 'wraps up' and saves a completed booking, IBM MQSeries is also responsible for updating the POC database with the customer and flight booking information modified by the transaction.

"The new system lets each booking agent serve each customer as an individual, rather than a faceless flier," says Mr Thompson. "We can now fine-tune our services to make sure that as an airline we provide exactly what every passenger really wants, not what we think they should have. And that's the bottom line."

IBM's Global Travel and Transportation industry solutions group provides a broad range of products, services and integrated solutions to all segments of travel and transportation, including airlines, travel-related services (hotels, car rental, gaming, travel agents, tour operators and cruise lines), rail and freight logistics. For more information visit http://www.ibm.com/solutions/travel.

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