Operate nationally but deliver locally. That is the fine balance that Republic Services, one of the largest waste and recycling companies in the United States, strives to achieve daily. Mergers and acquisitions fuel the industry’s evolution, but local brand integrity is emphasized. The challenge becomes how to deliver that localized customer experience while achieving the centralization required for management efficiency and cost reduction.
“Garbage is seen as a local business,” says Doug Saunders, Director, Infrastructure and Unified Communications at Republic Services. “Our company operates nationally, delivering services to more than 13 million customers throughout 40 states and Puerto Rico via a network of local divisions. We’ve made strategic technology investments that help us achieve the balance between customer service and operations so that we can service locally in a consistent way and manage effectively internally.”
Five years ago, Republic Services had a decentralized management model for telephony. Each local company bought its own telephony platform. Quality varied from location to location, which created significant management challenges. Saunders wanted to stabilize the infrastructure with the goal of improving the customer experience overall.
- Saunders chose Voice Over IP (VoIP) and several solutions from Cisco for telephony, messaging, and enterprise contact center.
- The solutions enable centralized management of infrastructure, messaging, and the customer facing application.
- Plans are also underway to implement multi-channel contact management (email, chat, and social) in the first quarter of 2013.
“Cisco is the backbone of our customer service strategy,” notes Saunders. “As the consumerization of IT progresses, we will be able to adapt to multi-channel service operationally while maintaining our commitment to localized service. Our reputation for delivering customer experience consistency in the call center is growing. And that improvement is a direct result of our technology investment.”
Presence for operations
Collaboration is another solution capability that is advancing Republic Services’ ability to balance customer service and operations. Currently, the company is piloting the Cisco® Jabber™ collaboration tool with approximately 1,000 users. The presence capabilities are resolving many communication challenges and driving increased efficiency.
For example, Saunders has 25 engineers spread out across the country. With presence capabilities, Saunders and his team can reach those resources without having to tackle the ticket/resolution process. The increases in productivity have been significant.
“My email volume has lessened to approximately 150 per day as a result of instant messaging. We use video for meetings and work sessions and can share desktops to display support scenarios and project plans right from Cisco WebEx®. We piloted these capabilities first with IT and documented several valuable use cases, which spurred a corporate-wide pilot planned for the next two years,” says Saunders.
Self-funding through virtualization
Like most IT departments today, Republic Services’ budget has remained relatively flat while the demands of the business continue to intensify. Virtualization has facilitated the self-funding of various IT projects that contribute to greater nimbleness and efficiency, transforming IT’s role from simply operations and maintenance to strategic enablement.
Currently, Republic Services has 75 percent of its infrastructure and 60-to-65 percent of its applications virtualized. According to Saunders, that translates to approximately $4.5 million in cost avoidance for physical hardware required to manage the infrastructure. Virtualization has also simplified the process of adding IT resources, improving application reliability and efficiency.
As part of its virtualization initiatives, Republic Services extended its Cisco investment to include the Intel® Xeon® processor-based Cisco Unified Computing System™ (Cisco UCS®). Confidence in Cisco’s dependability and support led to the decision to standardize its data center on Cisco UCS®. Saunders highlights the business criticality of that choice as the company moves to extend self-service portal capabilities beyond only national accounts to its entire customer base.
“Our partnership with Cisco is a key driver of our strategic goals—competitive advantage, brand recognition, and market superiority,” says Saunders. “With the IT investments that we’ve made in VoIP, collaboration, and virtualization, we’re localizing service while centralizing management, balancing service with operations, and advancing IT’s strategic focus through self-funding. For us, technology is having a clear business impact in our ability to drive ultimate sales effectiveness.”