In today's fast-paced environment, for an
organization to reach its customers effectively is not only a basic
requirement but also a major challenge. This aspect comes at a time
when customers are demanding than ever, and are completely aware of
the level of service that they well-deserve for the business that they
do with you.
The way successful organizations are surviving the
competitive environment is by ensuring that a contact with their
customer is as effective as possible. The worlds biggest market
research firms advocate the need for an above-expectations customer
experience when dealing with your organization. The alternate they
propose is to not make contact at all, or to do so when it is
With the rapid advances in telecommunications
technology coupled by the high growth rate of telecoms in our country,
people are now finding it more and more convenient to call up an
organization. The customer has learnt that organizations are obliged
to provide service to them without them having to go directly to them.
Thus organizations have started looking towards alternate mediums to
providing customer service to their valued clients.
The other media available today range from the
telephone to the Internet. The customer also realizes that an
organization that has nine contact numbers, five people to deal with
and to know who to call when, is an organization that is probably not
worth their money. Thus the concept of call centers has emerged and
with great popularity is becoming a buzzword until recently heard in
corporate sectors, is now being used commonly in the private and
public sector too.
Very simply, a call center may be defined as a
place that has a dense inflow and outflow of telephone calls. It may
be categorized as a place for customer services where a customer may
call up to place order, get more information about the product or even
complain about it. In other words, it is a convenient meeting channel
for a business and its customers/partners. The traditional image of a
call center maybe a place where you find hundreds or in some cases
even thousands of individuals with telephones sending, receiving or
In today's environment, each business has realized
that not only do they need to invest in expensive and attractive
customer service centers, but equally important to invest in a
state-of-the-art call center. In most cases, organizations have been
known to cut costs for many such expensive service centers by creating
sophisticated call centers. This is a truly win-win situation, since
the organization save on much operational cost and at the same time
delights its customers. Ideally organizations should put people,
technology and processes to ensure the call center provide an equal if
not greater level of service, as opposed to a customer service center.
The dawning of the Internet era brings with it the
need for organizations to extend their reach through newer channels
such as e-mail, web and chat. Businesses are looking to leverage the
already existing Call Center setup, and integrate it with Internet
media. This is the natural evolutionary path; since it would best
leverage the existing investment.
INTEGRATING THE BEST-OF-BREED
The high volume call handling capability of a call
center differentiates it from other inter-business communication
mechanisms. A typical call center is set up as a room with a many
agents, workstations that include telephone sets (or headsets)
connected to a large telecom switch and one or more supervisor
stations. Such a call center may be isolated or connected to other
call centers in a multi-site setup.
This is made possible by the technologies available
today in the marketplace. We can discuss those in more detail to
understand how they contribute to the effectiveness of call centers in
today's world. However, before selecting the right products you have
to develop a strategy for an effective design. The recommended
approach to follow is to build a call center based on a modular design
that can offer best-of-breed functionality, as well as a robust design
to leverage the initial investment.
The alternate approach of setting up a call center
is using a single server platform, and running proprietary
applications on it. The advocates of this approach develop their own
applications on this platform acting as a black box and containing all
functionality in a single component. For a mission-critical setup such
as a Call Center, such reliance would create a single point of
failure. While this approach offers an attractive initial investment,
organizations must realize how scalability and additional
functionality enhancement shall suffer in the future. The other
downside of this is that if an organization later decides to go
towards a modular approach and integrate standard telco-grade
platforms in the existing environment, it becomes a greater challenge.
The modular call center approach grants power to
choose world-class products and integrate them over industry standards
to create a scalable and robust call center. The various components of
the call center are described in greater detail as follows.
AUTOMATIC CALL DISTRIBUTION (ACD)
The Automatic Call Distribution feature is part of
a complex switching system that is built upon PABX systems. The ACD is
a sophisticated system that caters for all the telephony needs of a
Call Center. It is capable of interfacing with the PSTN and
distributing calls to a number of agents. ACD environment are
generally assigned to a split or skill, which is a group of agents
handling the same type of calls. Basic ACD features can be assigned by
split or skill to meet the different needs of diverse agent groups. A
telephone number can be linked to an ACD split/skill by associating a
published number, often an 800 number.
COMPUTER TELEPHONY INTEGRATION (CTI)
CTI defined as "the functional integration of
business application software with telephone based communications".
With CTI systems, firms get increased productivity and efficiency,
increased return on technology investments, improved business
performance through better customer service and enhanced remote
communications. The CTI software application automates the intelligent
distribution of interactions throughout the enterprise.
As an interaction arrives at the contact center,
the CTI uses dynamic enterprise information such as agent availability
and queue statistics, customer preferences and service levels
collected from enterprise databases, agent-profile data, and defined
strategies to determine the best agent for an interaction. With this
solution, companies can seamlessly integrate and manage voice and
other interactions such as e-mail, chat, VoIP, Web collaboration, and
wireless, to create a centralized, Internet-ready contact center.
The CTI funnels all incoming interactions from
various media channels into a single universal queue. Managers can
easily define strategies with point-and- click actions that automate
interaction routing from the universal queue to the most appropriate
agent based on factors such as the type of inquiry, the value of the
customer, and the media channel.
Using this solution solves the business manager's
objectives by improving customer service and lowering operating costs.
For the technical manager, the CTI solution provides an environment
that is quickly deployed, easily managed, and extremely flexible.
Implementing CTI solution is an open, highly scalable and available
solution that meets today's — and tomorrow's — customer contact center
INTERACTIVE VOICE RESPONSE (IVR)
Another interesting feature of most call centers is
Interactive Voice Response This feature offers the caller several
options (through prerecorded messages/instructions) without a human
agent actually being present there. For example, on calling a Call
Center, we hear a prerecorded message that gives us options like
"Press 1 for Account Balance Info" or "Press 2 to recharge your card"
etc. This is an effective way to save costs for the firm, as they
don't need to have agents to answer calls relating to typical
inquiries such as balance information etc. In addition, for Call
Centers that are not run 24x7 this can provide for an automated
function for the caller to get information easily.
CALL CENTER RECORDER
The Call Recorder facilitates the Call Centers
operations. The recorder can record the conversations that are taking
place within the call centers. It allows the supervisors to keep a
close track of the inbound and outbound call conversations indexed
with call parameters and stored in a database for future retrieval.
With CTI integration, additional fields can be stored against the call
that can allow a wide range of call querying, and can be used by
supervisors to monitor agent performance or even keep proof of
transactions performed on the phone.
The evolution of the Internet as a customer contact
channel has profound implications on the way business can be
conducted. The ability to handle these new customer interactions is
tied to the understanding of the business benefits of multiple
customer communication channels. Most companies have developed
management strategies where Internet communications are handled
separately from their traditional contact center interactions, leading
to customer frustration, fragmented customer information and a lack of
The Internet Solution should be based on an
integrated approach to customer relations' management. Building
Internet capabilities into the existing contact center reduces
duplication, brings world-class customer contact technology and
consistency to each transaction regardless of the communication
channel. Customers are able to interact in the way that makes the most
sense to them while receiving a consistent, unified level of service
from a company. Companies can offer support for a variety of
Internet-based customer communication channels and reap the benefits
of a single customer view and consistent management of all interaction
In addition to the above components, there are
various other options such as Outbound Predictive dialers, Workforce
Management, Multi-site integration, Multi-tenant integration and
virtual call centers. The benefits of a sound modular design are very
evident and ultimately give the flexibility to organizations for them
to adapt their call center strategy against their customer demands.
Ultimately, the true key to success when implementing a call center
lies in your focus on the customer.