Olmsted Center for Sight

100-2,499 Employees
Customer Engagement

Today’s customer relationships are ongoing conversations that unfold across time and channels. Phone, video, email, chat, social: It’s all one integrated omnichannel now. Done right, seamless execution pays off in increased revenue and higher lifetime value of customers. Our customer engagement solutions make it possible. 

Team Engagement

Team engagement is the magic that happens when everyone in your workforce is connected effortlessly to the mission, to each other and to customers. When it works you feel it in your culture and on your balance sheet—and your customers feel it most. Barriers disappear. Productivity rises. Our team engagement solutions get you there.

"Olmsted’s Avaya solution allows trainees to achieve a high level of proficiency in these complex skills.”

– Imtiaz Khan, Workplace Support and Statler Career Center Trainer

Benefits

Improved Customer Service
Increased Productivity

Avaya Contact Center Expands Career Opportunities for Blind and Visually Impaired Agents at Olmsted Center for Sight

For over a hundred years, Olmsted Center for Sight has been a pioneer in quality service for people who are blind or visually impaired. Olmsted’s Statler Career Center is a leader in career training for disabled individuals from across the US and around the world, especially in the areas of customer service and hospitality.

According to Imtiaz Khan, Workplace Support and Statler Career Center Trainer, employment for the blind and visually impaired in North America was, until recently, largely in jobs such as sewing, assembly, packaging, and manufacturing. However, as many of those jobs moved to other parts of the world, new opportunities needed to be found.

“Customer service contact centers were identified as the next industry for the blind and visually impaired to find employment in the competitive marketplace,” Kahn states. “We recognized that to get those jobs, future agents would need specialized skills, involving very targeted and specific training.”

Contact Center Training Moves to Hands-On Experience

Olmsted’s Statler Career Center was quick to act on the opportunity to add contact center training to their curriculum of career training for the blind and visually impaired. However, at first they were restricted to teaching telephone customer service in concept because they did not have the telecommunications capabilities to actually put it into practice. As Renee DiFlavio, Senior Vice President, recalls, “We could present customer service as a theory, but we had no way for a totally blind person to interact with a live system. It soon became clear that we needed to provide our students with real hands-on experience.”

“Our board president is with the largest HMO in western New York, which has Avaya systems and is very happy with them. Based upon his experience, he said it would be a good decision to go with Avaya.”

– Renee DiFlavio, Senior Vice President, Olmsted Center for Sight

After researching various contact center systems on the market, the Olmsted staff selected Avaya as their top choice. A key moment in the decision process came when an existing Avaya customer recommended Avaya highly. “Our board president is with the largest HMO in western New York, which has Avaya systems and is very happy with them,” DiFlavio says. “He told us, based upon his experience, that it would be a good decision to go with Avaya.”

The Olmsted Center for Sight installed a full-featured Avaya contact center solution, provided by Avaya without charge, that includes specialized applications to enable access and interaction by the blind and visually impaired. Training on the system provides agents the skills they need to function effectively in a contact center. Just like a sighted agent, students learn to use phones and navigate computer applications during a call. However, for blind agents, more complex listening and tactile skills are also required.

“For a blind agent, there’s one earpiece that’s feeding in the audio from the caller. The other earpiece is feeding a voice from the screen-reading software,” Mr. Khan explains. “So, right there, they are balancing some things that I think most of us would have an extremely hard time with. Now, add into that something called a refreshable Braille display. It’s a little bar at the base of a keyboard with pins that pop up to display whatever’s highlighted on the screen, in Braille. Combining these three elements is essential for any blind or visually impaired agent to succeed in a contact center. Olmsted’s Avaya solution, integrated with accessibility applications, allows trainees to achieve a high level of proficiency in these complex skills.”

As the Statler Career Center began graduating students with sophisticated contact center training, the management team developed plans to provide employment for some of the graduates (especially those with multiple disabilities who could not easily relocate) by taking on contracts for customer service. The first contracts were with local eye doctor groups.

For example, Olmsted agents call patients of western New York’s Bulger Eye Clinic to remind them of appointments. Bulger’s Linda Wiecek comments, “Our staff members were sometimes so busy that reminder calls would get pushed to the back burner. Now, with Olmsted’s contact center service, the reminders always get done, and we don’t have to use staff time and effort to do it.” In this way, forgotten appointments became a thing of the past for the Bulger Eye Clinic.

When Bulger transitioned to a new office management system, Olmsted agents transferred schedule data while they were confirming the appointments. “Olmsted got through that detailed work with flying colors,” Wiecek says. “It was a huge help to us.”

Another early and ongoing client for the Olmsted contact center is Eberl Iron Works, Inc. Agents conduct awareness campaigns, making outbound calls to potential Eberl customers to tell them about Eberl’s recently launched product line for commercial construction.

“The agents took to the sales script like ducks to water,” says John Eberl, CEO of Eberl Iron Works, Inc. “We listened to call recordings and fine-tuned the scripts for different regions.” Agents began to educate prospects, and gather names and e-mail addresses, ultimately achieving a 25 percent positive response rate ranging from catalog requests to follow-up sales calls. “The agents have been very successful at reaching decision makers, and they brought 10 opportunities to us in just the first couple of months,” Eberl states.

Challenges

  • Identify new opportunities for training and placement
  • Training for the rapidly growing contact center industry required robust technical capabilities for hands-on learning

Value

  • Comprehensive training of more than 500 blind and visually impaired agents using Avaya contact center technologies
  • Increase in external job placement rate for Olmsted Center for Sight graduates from 70 to 82 percent
  • Establishment of a commercial contact center at Olmsted provides employment opportunities for some of Statler Career Center’s graduates      
  • The Olmsted model set the standard for other blind and visually impaired contact centers

“Growing Into” the Avaya Capabilities

Khan notes that the Avaya contact center capabilities at Olmsted Center for Sight are extremely robust, comparable to those at many large commercial enterprises. “We started small and we are continually ‘growing into’ the Avaya system that we have,” Khan says. “We have been very motivated to pursue that growth because we know that there is so much we can ultimately do with our Avaya system. It is the key enabler for educating our students and expanding the contact center as a viable business that provides advanced training and employment for some of the graduates.”

According to Khan, the leading-edge technologies offered by Avaya help provide Olmsted’s sales team with a strong sense of security that any and all capabilities a potential client might require can easily be added to their current Avaya solution. Khan states, “We feel very confident talking with potential clients about multichannel capabilities and other current contact center needs because we know that for any contract that warrants these, we can fairly quickly train agents and make the services available.”

The Olmsted contact center now has approximately 20 live contracts serving commercial healthcare and industrial manufacturing companies, as well as public health and human services organizations such as crisis lines and healthy parenting. One of Olmsted’s notable achievements is becoming the 2-1-1 service provider for western New York. The 2-1-1- service is an information and referral service for health and human services. Olmsted stood out among several agencies because of their robust Avaya capabilities and won the bid.

“First of all, we were able to offer significant cost savings by moving the 2-1-1 service from a cloud-based system, which cost thousands of dollars in monthly fees and operational expenses, to the Avaya system, which did not involve those costs,” Khan says. “Secondly, even though some of the other agencies had been involved with contact centers longer than we have, we had a good track record and a great contact center system that makes us very competitive in the marketplace. A particularly important feature is the vast reporting capabilities built into our Avaya system, which enable us to provide a wealth of data that is especially important in public-funded projects. ”

Khan adds, “All in all, I would say that our Olmsted contact center won the important western New York 2-1-1 service provider contract for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the Avaya system that we had in place, ready to handle all that the contract entailed. Also, from the human services perspective, there’s something very impressive about the fact that when people are calling for employment assistance or food or housing, there’s a blind person on the other end of the line, helping them out with that, pulling up the information from the database.”

The western New York 2-1-1 service originally involved combining the existing sighted contact center and Olmsted’s blind contact center. Ultimately, however, the Olmsted contact center was able to assume the entire operation of the 2-1-1 service. Only minor tweaks to the existing applications at the Olmsted contact center were required to adapt to the 2-1-1 data base.

 

Remote Service and Collaboration Modes

According to Khan, the Olmsted Center for Sight has gone through a significant maturation process in its understanding and utilization of contact center technologies. As a result, they have been able to take on remote projects, and they have assumed a consultative and leadership role among agencies throughout the US that are undertaking similar projects.

One groundbreaking project involved moving some of the Avaya equipment to a Texas company that engaged Olmsted to train their blind and visually impaired agents on-site. The project was so successful that Olmsted now offers this type of on-site training in its standard list of services.

Olmsted staff members are in close touch with other agencies that serve blind and visually impaired individuals. They participate in bi-weekly conference calls of the Teleservices Working Group, which is an organization of 30 agencies serving the blind throughout the US. Several agencies for the blind have visited Olmsted and, based on the contact center’s success, opted to create similar installations around the country. According to Khan, a future goal shared by the loose coalition of agencies for the blind is to be able to take on very large contracts involving hundreds of agents as a collaborative effort among the agencies. “We’ve been moving toward this goal by making sure that agents are being trained and by talking with various government organizations that might want to utilize the services of several blind contact centers working together. Much of the impetus for this comes from the knowledge and technical sophistication we have been able to acquire with our Avaya contact center solution.”

Agent Skill and Dedication

Olmsted’s blind and visually impaired students and agents embrace their work with enthusiasm and a can-do attitude. These qualities, along with a well-equipped training environment and dedicated trainers, have resulted in an outstanding graduate placement rate that has increased significantly in recent years. DiFlavio says, “Our graduate placement rate is up from 70 percent to over 82 percent. We feel that is outstanding in view of the fact that the national average unemployment for blind people is over 70 percent.”

Khan points out that many of the students who are not placed quickly in a job have additional disabilities that make relocation and hiring more challenging. “We are pleased that we can often provide either extended training or permanent employment for agents who are not hired soon after the training, because it’s usually not a matter of skill, but rather a question of making accommodation for multiple disabilities,” he says. The Olmsted contact center now employs 30 people.

Khan believes that being fully exposed to every aspect of contact center operation is key to the success of students graduating from training at Olmsted. “With our Avaya contact center solution, we are able to put our students into a real-world environment where they are making calls, receiving calls, and even being exposed to their metrics, such as average pull times, call times, after-call work times, and all the different facets that they’ll encounter at any other contact center. When they finish the training, they are ready to go into employment and to excel in their work.”

Systems, Applications, and Services

  • Avaya Communication Manager
  • Avaya S8510 Server
  • Avaya G650 Media Gateways
  • Avaya Modular Messaging
  • Avaya Call Management System
  • (Avaya CMS)
  • Avaya Application Enablement Services
  • Avaya Call Center Elite
  • Avaya IP Agent
  • Avaya Integrated Management
  • Avaya Universal Access Phone Status (UAPS)
  • Avaya 4621, 4610, 9630, 9640 Series IP Telephones
  • Supra Elite headsets
  • Open Text Fax and Document Distribution Group (formerly Captaris®) RightFax Edition
  • NICE® call recording
  • Job Access With Speech (JAWS®) text to speech
  • ZoomText screen magnification from Ai Squared
  • Nuance Dragon® NaturallySpeaking®
  • Avaya provided project management, software, technician, and training services

About Olmsted Center For Sight

Olmsted Center for Sight (OCS) is a not-for-profit agency whose mission is to help people who are blind, visually impaired, or physically disabled achieve their highest level of personal and professional independence. The agency offers a comprehensive array of services for infants through adults. Program categories include low vision clinical evaluations, community and school-based vision rehabilitation services, training in the use of computer and other assistive technology, career education center for employment training and job placement, and affordable housing. 

For more information, visit www.olmstedcenter.org.

CUSTOMER PROFILE
  • Headquarters:

  • United States

  • # Employees:

  • 135

Olmsted Center for Sight (OCS) is a not-for-profit agency whose mission is to help people who are blind, visually impaired, or physically disabled achieve their highest level of personal and professional independence. The agency offers a comprehensive array of services for infants through adults. Program categories include low vision clinical evaluations, community and school-based vision rehabilitation services, training in the use of computer and other assistive technology, career education center for employment training and job placement, and affordable housing.

What our Customers are saying
“With our Avaya contact center solution, we are able to put our students into a real-world environment where they are making calls, receiving calls, and being exposed to their metrics."

Read more testimonials >
  • Imtiaz Khan

  • Statler Career Center

AVAYA SOLUTIONS DELIVERED