MRS BPO Transitions to 90% Remote Work in 21 Days Using Amazon WorkSpaces
Headquartered in New Jersey, MRS BPO (MRS) is an accounts receivable management firm with a client base that includes a variety of Fortune 50 companies in the financial services, telecommunications, cable, automotive, municipal, and utilities sectors. In March 2020, the New Jersey state government’s order to shelter in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated remote work for the company’s 700 call center employees. But in the debt collection industry, work-from-home scenarios were virtually unheard of because of security compliance concerns.
“Our clients are hypervigilant about data security, and we have to operate within the varied guidelines of 50 US states,” explains Chris Repholz, chief customer officer and chief growth officer at MRS. “Work-from-home customer care agents have existed for decades, but the collection industry was always excluded because of strict regulations and regulatory license guidelines.”
To enable remote work during the pandemic without sacrificing security, MRS turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS), migrating from its traditional, on-premises call center infrastructure to Amazon WorkSpaces, a managed, secure desktop-as-a-service solution. In less than 3 weeks, the majority of the company’s staff—located in facilities in New Jersey, Ohio, and Alabama—were working from home, which increased their productivity and provided MRS with a sustainable, cost-optimized solution. What was meant to be a quick fix for an unprecedented problem spurred a paradigm shift in the collection industry.
“We grabbed new business in an unprecedented pandemic because AWS had a ready-made solution and we were quick to implement it.” — Chris Repholz, chief customer officer and chief growth officer, MRS BPO
Chief Customer Officer & Chief Growth Officer
Finding a Secure, Cost-Effective Solution in Amazon WorkSpaces
Since 1991, MRS has provided contact management solutions, specializing in the recovery of past-due accounts. The sensitive information with which it deals—such as bank accounts and debit and credit card account numbers—has to be stored according to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. In 2016, the company strategized to eliminate its security compliance concerns by advancing its technology—making it an outlier in the tech-evasive collection industry. Part of that strategy involved using AWS for storage and archival purposes. Then, about 3 years later, MRS was looking for a solution that would enable it to securely and compliantly outsource collections to an organization in India. It had previously used a virtual private network that was blocky and cumbersome. In January 2020, MRS began testing Amazon WorkSpaces to create a virtual desktop infrastructure that enabled the company to connect through a secure tunnel and maintain control, without data ever leaving the United States.
Since MRS was already familiar with Amazon WorkSpaces by the time the COVID-19 pandemic reached New Jersey and Ohio, the company was ready to move forward quickly. MRS had initially considered building its own on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure backend, but the costs were prohibitive. Alternatively, Amazon WorkSpaces offers the option to pay monthly or hourly for each virtual WorkSpace. It also meets stringent security regulations. Deployed within a virtual private cloud on AWS, Amazon WorkSpaces provides users with access to persistent, encrypted storage volumes in the cloud, and no user data is stored on local devices. Eric Biederman, director of information technology at MRS, used the solution to create a prototype in days, and MRS teams rigorously tested it. “We couldn’t poke holes in it or find a way that it would not be acceptable to our clients,” says Biederman. “Our in-house systems, processes, and policies naturally extended into the Amazon WorkSpaces environment.”
Growing and Improving Business for MRS and Its Customers
Because remote work was taboo in the highly regulated collection industry, MRS expected its clients to have security concerns and was cautiously optimistic that half of them would agree to the transition. Yet the majority—of both its first-party clients, for whom MRS agents collect using the clients’ customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and its third-party clients, for whom MRS collects using its own CRM system—made the migration. In just 5 days, MRS connected Amazon WorkSpaces to nine clients’ systems. One large first-party client, an auto finance company with a variety of tech solutions that made it particularly complex to migrate, onboarded in 1.5 days, compared to the 2 months it would have taken on premises. Over 13 days, MRS migrated its third-party business, which represents about 400 call center employees, and its first-party business, comprising 250 employees. It took another 7–8 days to empty its physical call centers and get 90 percent of staff working from home.
Since MRS was able to keep its existing software on Amazon WorkSpaces, call center staff were able to access the same desktop they had in the office. “It was the same machine that we used on premises, just in a different environment,” says Biederman, explaining that the company still runs a basic Windows operating system, its in-house audio-visual tool and CRM tool, and Integrated Office Accounting software. “It’s everything that I’d install in the office on an agent’s PC. I just automatically push these applications out to Amazon WorkSpaces,” continues Biederman. Since starting to work from home, the information technology team has markedly increased its productivity. And the client services team has been able to accomplish the same amount of work with fewer staff members. Additionally, the company’s first-party business experienced a lower turnover rate among call center agents, based on the ability to work remotely and deal with the changes to its support systems caused by the pandemic.
Amazon WorkSpaces also enabled MRS to continue offering a reliable, quality customer experience. “We had clients see little to no drop-off in deliverables and turnaround during this process,” recalls Repholz. Several large clients even went all in with MRS when their other vendors failed to adapt quickly. “We grabbed new business in an unprecedented pandemic because AWS had a ready-made solution and we were quick to implement it,” says Repholz. MRS added several million dollars in new business as a result of a swift, technology-focused solution.
MRS also achieved simplicity and scalability using Amazon WorkSpaces. For instance, when some MRS developers needed faster computing capabilities, Biederman upgraded their Amazon WorkSpaces bundle to provide more powerful computing, a process that took under 10 minutes and just five to six clicks of a mouse—whereas in office, that would have required purchasing new hardware, scheduling downtime, and moving equipment. Optimization tools, like automatic shutoff, also help MRS control costs by adjusting to usage patterns. Biederman predicts that Amazon WorkSpaces will lead to cost savings in hardware down the road. “If all of the workload is being done in Amazon WorkSpaces, I don’t need to purchase and maintain higher-end desktop systems. I can go with the more cost-effective, lower-powered option.” MRS did purchase new hardware for employees in order to satisfy customers’ security concerns, but since Amazon WorkSpaces securely operates even on personal devices, Biederman imagines the company will use this option in the future.
Leading a Paradigm Shift in the Collection Industry on AWS
MRS is an active member of the collection industry group Consumer Relations Consortium, which has access to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other federal- and state-level regulators, and Repholz reports that regulators are giving in to the concept of remote work. “The old way of thinking that everyone has to be in the office under the eye of a manager has changed,” he says.
MRS will never be 100 percent on premises again, according to Repholz. Some clients, such as credit card companies and large bank lenders, will likely return to physical call centers, but others have embraced remote work. “I can’t overemphasize that the collection industry has been extremely backward in terms of adopting new technology,” says Repholz. “We’re an outlier in this space and lauded for it. AWS fits in with our view, and the company moves at the speed that we can.”
About MRS BPO
MRS BPO is a full-service accounts receivable management firm serving many Fortune 50 companies. It provides first- and third-party collection with superior business controls and a deeply ingrained culture of customer service.
Benefits of AWS
- Transitioned to 90% remote work in 21 days
- Upgraded employees’ Amazon WorkSpaces in less than 10 minutes
- Connected Amazon WorkSpaces to nine clients’ systems in 5 days
- Onboarded a large first-party client in 1.5 days compared to 2 months on premises
- Achieved data security to meet stringent state and federal regulations
- Saw a majority of clients implement the solution rather than its expectation of 50%
- Added several million dollars in new business
- Increased staff productivity and lowered the turnover rate for call center staff
AWS Services Used
Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed, secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution. You can use Amazon WorkSpaces to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in just a few minutes and quickly scale to provide thousands of desktops to workers across the globe. With Amazon WorkSpaces, your users get a fast, responsive desktop of their choice that they can access anywhere, anytime, from any supported device.
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