Introduction to Databases
What is a database? A database is a collection of data structured and organized in a disciplined fashion so that it is possible to access information of interest as quickly as possible. (Newton, 193)
In residential sales at TDS Metrocom, the database that is used almost exclusively is Microsoft Access. We use access to track incoming e-mails, keep track of individual and team performance statistics, inbound call volume, and we use Access to provision a customers order for Internet service to coincide with the provisioning of their phone service.
In using Access to track all incoming e-mail from customers to us we have two databases, in the first database I enter the date the e-mail came in, the hour the e-mail(s) came in from a drop down menu and enter the number of e-mail(s) that came in during that hour. This database is used every three months to track e-mail volume by day of week and by hour. With this data, I am able to see e-mail volume by hour. What this allows me to do is monitor system problems with either our website and/or our corporate firewall. As an example, I was seeing dead time in the company e-mail box, meaning that during a certain time of day we received no e-mail, as TDS receives e-mail at every hour of the day I knew something was wrong. The IT department said that no e-mail was being sent to us. With the data that I had stored in this database, I was able to convince the IT department to look into the matter. It was discovered that a firewall was malfunctioning and kicking external e-mails out at random times. The second Access database I use is to track trends in the type of e-mail we receive. The e-mails are broken down into twenty categories. These categories include; whether an e-mail was forwarded to a different department or what type of question or comment the e-mail contained. This allows us to see what type of training is needed in the department, or if we need to improve a departmental process.
The individual performance statistics, team statistics and inbound call volume statistics use two different databases. However, one database is useless without the other. Individual and team statistic are truly one in the same. The data is just interpreted somewhat differently. In individual statistics, the raw data is fed into the database from the telequent call center reporting software. This software tracks the following, scheduled hours, number of calls taken by the RSA (Residential Sales Advisor), talk time, idle time (time waiting for a call), wrap time (time after a call has completed but before the RSA is available to take another call) and adherence to schedule. For statistics the same data is used but for an entire sales team. This data allows us to see if an RSA or team of RSAs is effectively using their time during the day. When you add inbound call volume to the mix you see how intertwined the two databases are. If you see a high call volume at noon, and notice that half the team went to lunch at noon when only a quarter of the team was scheduled for lunch, you know that there is an adherence to schedule problem. You then go to individual statistics and see who went to lunch when they were not supposed to go to lunch.
There was a great deal of debate on the Data Services team that I am a member of on how to sign people up for dial-up Internet service while they are waiting for their telephone service t be provisioned. Suggestions ranged from, have the customer call us back when their phone service is turned to bill them for the service even though they do not have phone the phone service they need in order to access the Internet. What we finally came up with after several beers after work, the best ideas seem to happen outside of work, was to set up a database that would store the customers name, address, due date for service, login name, password and credit card number. This database would give us a reminder on the customers due date that we needed to activate their internet service. We are also setting this database up to be used as a tickler file in the future. If some expresses interest in our Internet service but does not purchase the service, we will send them a letter 3-6 months later with a special offer if they sign up for service with us.
What improvements could be made in these databases? The first improvement I would like to make would be on the database I use most often. That is the database for tracking e-mail. I would like to see the two databases become one. That way we would have more reliable data for tracking purposes. Instead of tracking day and time every 3 months, it is being tracked constantly. Providing us with better e-mail history data.
The second change I would like to see is on individual performance reporting. Currently there is no room for error on the part of the RSA. If they go to lunch and forget to close the call, they will show that they are in wrap for an hour. This adversely affects the RSAs statistics and once it is in the database, it cannot be changed.
With our Internet provisioning database the change I would like to see, is to see it go away. It would be much easier if we were allowed to change the provisioning date in our provisioning software. There would be fewer mistakes and it would provide a much higher level of customer service.
In conclusion, I can say that using a database has made my life much easier. I no longer have to set up monthly spreadsheets to track e-mails I just use the same database over and over. I can graph my reports in several different ways with just the click of a button. It makes everything look more professional and is much easier to read the data that is being presented.
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