The definition of effective communication is establishing an effective two-way channel for the exchange of information

PS Consultant, Teradata, a division of NCR

July 12 - 18, 2004

Ever since the Internet invaded our daily lives, it was predicted that the concept of working hours would no longer exist. This rang even truer for businesses, where customers have to be served around the clock. The concept of call centers therefore became industry standard where customers could not only contact the service centers with their queries, but these service centers could also reach out to them, with relevant information.

However, merely making contact was not the main purpose of this new initiative. The definition of effective communication is establishing an effective two-way channel for the exchange of information. The objective here was to make this contact more interactive and effective for both the customer and the organization. Instead of waiting for the customers to approach you, the concept was based on reaching out to them first when you think they need you. This was where the difference between call centers and contact centers became obvious.

Through a contact center, instead of just listening to a complaint, you register it, pass it to the concerned person, make sure it is followed upon and when the resolution is ready, you deliver it back to the customer. This can be done through a medium of their choice, which can be email, Internet chat, SMS, fax, snail mail or a phone call.

The concept of call centers came to Pakistan a long time ago, however contact centers have been a recent development. NCR introduced the concept of contact centers by setting up the first of its kind in Ufone. The popularity and success of the Ufone contact center only meant that more were to follow. NCR has gone on to setup contact centers for Union Bank, NADRA, and PIA. A contact center for Askari Commercial Bank is in the final stages of deployment, and NADRA is currently the only network contact center of its kind in Pakistan.

A contact center is another face of the organization for the customer. It is therefore, essential to ensure in the homogeneity of these facades so the organization does not seem to be suffering from multiple personalities. It is imperative that the customer feels comfortable that he is dealing with the same organization throughout, only a more helpful one. NCR contact centers have made this possible by studies conducted prior to a setup. By analyzing how a particular organization moves in other areas of customer interaction, NCR has made sure that the implemented contact center is another wheel moving in the same direction with the rest of the organization adding new momentum towards a long lasting relationship with many satisfied customers.

A basic breakdown of a contact center splits it in two elements the technology and the people. No contact center can run, let alone be successful if either one of these elements is lacking in any way. Ensuring smooth cooperation and harmony in the dynamics of these two key factors is the task of the organization. NCR has mastered this delicate task by providing thousands of customers with friends in the shape of contact center agents, working in perfect unison with seamlessly integrated technology.

NCR has utilized state of the art technology at its deployed contact centers to ensure maximum customer satisfaction and delight. By installing voice setups using industry leading ACDs (Automatic Call Distribution), it has made sure that the communication between customer and service representatives takes place at the best voice quality.

Keeping in mind human limitations, efforts have been put in to deploy a well thought out IVR (Integrated Voice Response) so that most of the queries can be answered at the IVR. This means that when a call does get through to an agent, they greet the customer as if it is the first call they are receiving that day.

CTI (Computer Telephony Integration), which acts as the heart of the contact center and is the telephony equivalent of greeting a customer with a smile, has been developed in collaboration with one of world's leading CTI companies. The customer representative officer therefore knows the customer even before he or she picks up the phone.

NCR has developed a Complaint Management System that not only records each and every detail for any complaint/query coming at a contact center but also makes sure that this complaint reaches the entire concerned hierarchy within the organization. This virtually eliminates the time it takes the complaint from registration by the customer to being delivered to the concerned person. Checks and balances are in place to make sure that the resolution to a complaint is also being delivered back to the customer.

Many other technologies have been implemented not only to enhance the functionality (Internet integration, Outbound calling, Multi site integration etc), but also to analyze and further improve the operations of a contact center (Live and historical reporting, Wall Board's live statistics, Customer to Representative voice recording etc). This has been done keeping in mind the future scalability of one or all sites working under a particular contact center.

Smooth and efficient roll outs of one contact center after the other have lead to contact center facility management contracts for NCR. The first one for PIA was such a success that Askari Commercial Bank decided to award NCR with its second facility management contract. There is reason to believe that with NCR's prior experience and an ever growing passion for excellence, this latest project will be an even bigger success story, bringing in more customers for NCR.

It is known in the world of business that retaining a customer is harder than getting a new one. It is therefore essential you are there for your customers when they need you or rest assured that someone else will be. This is where you must decide whether you want your customers to feel as if they just called you, or that they made contact.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jahanzeb Azim works for NCR as a PS consultant. He has a degree in MIS from Iowa State University. An expert in call center implementations, he is currently engaged in setting up the Contact Center for Askari Commercial Bank Limited.