GID Ltd - Call Centre for Scottish Hydro
In the rugged lands and islands of northwestern Scotland, power outages from storms and flooding are a fact of life, especially in winter. Today, when any of 600,000+ customers call to alert their local utility company, HydroElectric plc, the Call Center representative can quickly access a composite computer screen showing all the information pertinent to the customer. Thus the representative can promptly check the customer's location, the repair appointment scheduling for that area, power outage records, billing, facilities maintenance planned for the area, etc.
Unbeknownst to the customer, this information is lodged in multiple unconnected computer systems ranging from mainframes to minicomputers to workstations and PCs. Until HydroElectric worked with GID, a software engineering consultancy based in Reading, U.K., to develop a solution, it was impossible to consolidate all of the information onto unified screens. In fact, HydroElectric's personnel would have needed several terminals on their desks and locating all of the customer data in the existing systems was a slow, cumbersome process.
Compounding the problem was the fact that the local language, Gaelic, has no consistent spelling or pronunciation. For example, a name like "Allt na Darach" might appear as three words or as a single word with variable spellings. GID devised an indexing system capable of handling these problems in order to speed identification and access to the right customer records.
GID used X-Designer to generate the graphical user interface for HydroElectric's Customer Call Center. According to Paul Ranson, user interface engineer, GID, there were several requirements that X-Designer met:
- flexibility in providing a consistent user interface across workstations as well as PCs.
- the ability to easily add screens and update applications -- maintenance of the GUI is handled by HydroElectric's staff.
- easy porting from the existing UNIX (Motif) implementation to its new client-server system involving workstations and Windows-based PCs.
"With X-Designer it's easy for the HydroElectric's staff to use the software and customize it with very little training. Furthermore, we've been able to map the existing Motif features onto Windows in a matter of minutes," notes Ranson. "When we evaluated other cross-platform tools, they were compatible with multiple platforms, but less than wonderful on any one of them."
The new application, with its efficient consolidated interfaces, helps HydroElectric's Call Center to meet its objective of bringing at least 80 percent of incoming inquiries to completion within a single phone call.
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