Lattelekom finds new ways to expand

  • 2004-11-01
  • By Michelle McGagh
RIGA - For an ex-state monopoly, telecommunication provider Lattelekom has done surprisingly well, rebranding, re-shuffling and bounding ahead in Latvia's telecommunication race.

After major improvements in its customer services department through the implementation of call centers, Lattelekom is now helping other companies to streamline and improve their own customer service processes.

"We realize that companies need to do everything to create customer satisfaction. Therefore, using the knowledge we have acquired, we are proposing to help other firms improve their performance by setting up call centers," says Aigars Ceruss, the head of Lattelekom's corporate services division.

But the procedure does not end there.

"There has to be a change in operations, of course, but also a change in the customer service process and the IT applications used, such as customer databases, as well as order - and claims - processing systems," stresses Ceruss.

Identifying customer service problems within the company is the first step in tackling them, he says. It is up to Lattelekom's consultants to analyze the company's efforts in providing a high level of customer service. The consultants are then able to recommend a procedure that will most benefit the company and its customers, while taking into account the resources that are available to the firm.

A call center relies on the implementation of three basic elements; an infrastructure of premises, equipment and a telecommunication network. In addition, trained operators and appropriate IT applications are needed.

After assessing the company's resources, Lattelekom can then help in the application procedure. If, however, the company is lacking in these basic elements, Lattelekom is also able to source or lease them. Taking these things into consideration, it can then be decided at what level the telecommunication provider should be involved.

Yet the establishment of a call center remains the first solution for those willing to retain practical customer service work.

"Our role in this case is to give them advice and to help them implement their system," says Ceruss. "However, if a company does not need our assistance in the provision of location and operator, then we can lease them the systems they need."

In both cases Lattelekom can train the company's operators to provide a high level of customer service.

The final package that Lattelekom can provide is a "full contact center outsourcing solution," says Ceruss, "in which we fully overtake implementation of the company's customer services within Lattelekom's call centers."

Among companies approaching Lattelekom, this has been the most popular package.

"In Latvia at this time we have over 10 companies using our operating services in this way," Ceruss adds.

Lattelekom has good reason to adopt an authoritative role in customer services, having spent the last eight years improving its own customer service relationship. The company's 30 walk-in customer centers, which provided a low level of customer satisfaction at a high price to the company, were efficiently replaced by a single call center.

Lattelekom has rearranged and redefined this new process several times in the last five years.

"A change in the internal process means the customer first must talk to someone who is able to identify his problem and use appropriate IT systems to see the customer's history, enabling him to be directed to the correct person," says Ceruss.

Customer history research has also benefited the marketing department, allowing them to narrow their target market as well as operate telemarketing campaigns for other companies, such as Microsoft.

Already waist-deep in work on its fifth call center in Ventspils, expansion is the key word in Lattelekom's future. And this is just the beginning.

"We are not just a Latvian company, our call center services are used by a Swedish company, and all the Latvian operators communicate in Swedish. We have had lots of interest from abroad and plan to develop our services in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe," says Ceruss. "I think we are special in that ex-telecommunication monopoly companies don't usually grow into a consulting business. We have managed to break the stereotype."