No call center can hope to manage its calls and set up processes without
having appropriate tools in place. These tools are absolutely critical to the
smooth functioning of call centers. Call management tools help the call center
manager to define the routing of calls, analyze their pattern, and monitor their
progression till the calls are closed. In outbound calls, call management helps
the call center manager to identify the best time to call customers, based on
historical data and intelligent analysis.
In essence, call management comprises intelligent tools that help in
predictive dialing, routing of calls, and providing detailed call patterns that
can be utilized for performance enhancement.
There are three aspects to a call management tool. The first aspect involves
customer interface tools, wherein there is intelligent routing of calls. This
routing takes place at the ACD level in the case of inbound calls and the dialer
level in the case of outbound calls. The second aspect involves tracking the
progress of calls. This takes place at the IVR level and the re-routing of calls
based on skill sets and availability of idle agents. Finally the integration of
front-end tools with the backend, which takes places at the CTI level, so that
agents are able to draw information and use it intelligently for enhancing
The workforce management tool sits somewhere in between the ACD and CTI, in
order to use the workforce optimally.
The tools capture information that managers need to examine operational
efficiency besides giving managers real-time summary reports on a call center's
operation. Call center managers can analyze calling patterns based on phone
numbers or calling source like hotels, cellular phones, or pay phones; explore
special call treatments (including malicious calls, service-observed calls, and
audio problems), and call abandon patterns. In short, it provides
cradle-to-grave reporting of calls with both local storage and external
Optimizing the deployment of such tools depend largely on how well the
customization is done. Call routing, queuing, agent talk time, and hold time are
all dependent on business logic.
For instance, it always makes better sense to route a routine inquiry call to
an IVR system while a call that has been made to place an order can be directed
to an agent. Calls made to register complaints can be queued on a priority line
with very short holding time (assumption being that the customer is agitated).
Since the ultimate aim of any call center is to serve customers, it is
important to configure the thresholds to minimize delays and divert calls to
alternate queues. This would ensure that no caller has to wait for too long.
Similarly it is important to define the time agents can take to solve
customers' problems, after which there should be automatic escalation of calls
to a supervisor or a specialist.
Since all these are also tools that help in the enhancement of agents'
performance, it is important to set metrics for agent performance.
By having performance information readily available, agents can themselves
see how they are performing. While setting up metrics, it is important to focus
on what to measure rather than how to measure. This takes the focus away from
holding agents accountable for statistics, such as average handle time and
number of calls answered per hour, to focus on the quality of transactions. The
focus shifts to agents' knowledge levels, how they interact with members, and
how well they navigate the existing systems.
However, such shifts in focus would need to be accompanied by a strategic
shift internally wherein the agents' failure would need to be addressed from
the management perspective-addressing questions like whether the agents
require more training, more assistance, or whether a particular tool is slowing
down agent performance.
Although TDM still rules the roost, the migration towards IP is inevitable
and it shall happen sooner than later. Therefore, it is important to remember
that all ACDs have a smooth migration path to IP systems.
Another often understated issue is the association of CTI with plain voice.
While CTI by itself may be voice, its deployment in a call center environment
can only be effective when it can be properly integrated its data network, i.e.
the IVR has to be able to talk properly with the database at the back-end.
Integrating the CTI with the back-end is a key challenge in successfully
designing a call center architecture. Choosing the right integrator is as much
the key as selecting the right portfolio of products.
Second with the increasing popularity of speech recognition systems, it is
important to ensure that IVRs have that feature when selecting one. Speech based
IVR are easier to use and are therefore increasingly more preferred than
Finally it is important to restrict the number of punches as much as possible
when the customer is on the IVR. Punching endless number and waiting to hearing
a human voice can be the most frustrating experience. This has been responsible
in bringing a bad name to IVR as a productivity tool with many alleging that it
has been overused and coming in the way of customer satisfaction.
The IVR should configure a threshold number of punches as well be able to
recognize the urgency of a customer query based on the number of punches or
dial-ins. At the same time it is important to ensure that IVR is intelligent
enough to recognize the required input with minimal customer prompts otherwise
it frustrates the customer.
While deploying call management tools it is important to ensure that the
product is compatible with existing infrastructure and to size the server
correctly in order to get the optimum performance from applications.
It is a good idea to run through the a list of FAQs when deciding to buy any
call management tool. Some FAQs are listed below.
- How will the solution lower cost of ownership,
supportability, and administrative burden associated with technology
infrastructure and applications?
- How will the solution allow to minimize hold time,
resulting in a lower cost per call?
- How can the business overhead be reduced by
consolidating contact centers?
- What would be the recommended hardware configuration
for running the applications?
- Ask for a description of the call control methodology
used by the system that analyzes, routes, and queues calls based on each of the
-Â Can skillsets be networked
across multiple call center locations?
-Â Does the solution provide call control based on the following
-Inbound and outbound call levels
-Â Ask for a description of the
capabilities for the system to reprioritize a contact (that has already been
queued) and modify its routing (e.g., re-queue the contact to an alternate
-Â Ask for a description of the call routing
The leading players are Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, Alcatel, Concerto, Siemens and
Ericsson. Cisco is clearly the leader in IP-based contact center solutions while
others are playing catch-up. Almost every vendor worth his name has an
IP-offering and is gearing up for aggressive action.
There is hardly any player with offering the complete suite
of call management tools. Concerto offers ACD (Rockwell) and dailer (Ensemble
Pro) although it does not have pre-routing tool. Some of Concerto's SI
partners in India include GTL, 3D, Network Solutions, Wipro, Bay TalkiTech,
Avaya Global Connect has ACD, CTI and dialer with their
acquisition of Mosaic. It is the exclusive integrator and does not have
partnership with other SIs.
Cisco offers the ACD on its IPCC platform and pre-routing
tool (GeoTel) and its integrators include Datacraft (Advanced Technology
Partner), and Network Solutions.
Alcatel offers a pre and post routing tool (Genesys), ACD and
dialer. GTL and ABSI are the two integrators of Alcatel.
Nortel offers CTI, ACD, pre-routing and post-routing and IVR.
It does not have a dailer. Nortel's partners include GTL, 3D, Wipro, Ramco and
Siemens offers ACD and CTI and the integration is done by
SISL. Ericsson offers ACD and it is represented in India by HCL Infosystems.
Servion and Parsec are smaller players, popular in the sub-100 seat space.
Where Fiber Wins over Copper...
Where Fiber Wins over Copper...
|Customer interaction today has become multi-channel and a customer can reach an organization through various touch points-phone, fax, email, Web.
|Customers, as a rule, contact organizations only for 3 reasons - to seek information, to conduct a transaction or to lodge a complaint.
|Depending on the type of interaction, a set of business rules, workflows and process definitions come into play to satisfy that requirement.
|These rules and processes are integrated to a data layer for information retrieval, updates or notification.
In a multimedia environment, the customer touch points to an
organization are many. It is important that the customer is served not just
appropriately but in a manner that will make it memorable. For this it is
important that the backend of the varios systems are integrated seamlessly and
talk to each other in order to provide the desired experience. Many vendors
offer specific program to enhance the customer experience memorably. One such
program is offered by Servion under the title customer optimization model.
Ask yourself is your customer a person or just another
Customer interaction today has become multi-channel and a
customer can reach an organization through various touch points: phone, fax,
email, or the Web.
We can begin by asking ourselves this simple question: how
would we like to be treated if we were customers? This gives us a nice
perspective. Every time a customer gets in touch with an organization, it has a
unique opportunity to bond with the customer and deliver a great experience.
Delivering great customer experience through customer interaction management
technology and processes lies at the heart of the organization's CRM practice.
In fact, over 70 percent of customers in a recent survey stated that they rated
the experience they had when they called the organization, as the key
determinant of brand perception.
The customer experiences the organization either through the
usage of the product/service, or word of mouth, or just a phone call. According
to a recent article in a popular speech technology magazine, 92 percent of
customers base their opinion of an organization on their contact center
experience. customer contact management is the key to brand building and has to
be leveraged to deliver complete value to the enterprise.