Call Centre Style Watch Guide
The importance of Call centre Technology in building an effective call centre depends on many things, including the purpose of the call centre, its size, the supported channels (calls, emails, chats, faxes, etc.) and the location(s) of the call centre. A call centre can be complex and technically sophisticated or a relatively simple operation, depending on the needs of the organization. There’s a plethora of sophisticated call centre technology, systems, applications and tools available to operate a call centre. The challenge is to select the right technology, implement it properly, and then optimize performance on a day-to-day basis. Below are some of the must-have technology options for today’s call centres:
1. Automatic call distributors and/or Diallers
All call centres need a system to process calls and other interaction types like email and chat, as necessary. Automatic call distributors (ACDs) and/or Diallers are core call centre systems; all other applications are intended to complement and improve the performance of these two underlying systems. Inbound call centres use an ACD to manage the flow of incoming calls and to route them to the most appropriate agent. Meanwhile, outbound call centres require a dialler to place and complete calls.
2. A CRM application/call centre servicing application
The second most important technology in call centres. Agents use the servicing application to respond to customers with an understanding of their relationship and value to the enterprise. Call centre agents also use the servicing application to document customer issues or requests and steps that were taken to address those issues. This creates a record of interactions that can be accessed the next time the customer reaches out for help.
3. Campaign management system
Outbound call centre organizations require a campaign management system (CMS) to let the Dialler know whom to contact, or to produce a list of phone numbers or email contacts. A more sophisticated CMS will allow agents to record how each customer has responded to a given campaign.
4. Call recording systems
All sales contact centres and many customer service environments – inbound or outbound – require recording systems to capture all interactions so that they can be replayed if there is a question about an interaction. Some organizations just capture calls; others capture both the call and related screens used to service the customer. The most sophisticated recording systems capture all interaction types, not just calls.
5. Interactive voice response systems/speech recognition systems
Self-service tools that automate the handling of incoming customer calls. Advanced interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems use speech recognition technology to allow customers to interact with the IVR by speaking instead of pushing buttons on their phones. IVR/speech recognition systems can help companies keep their costs down and often automate the handling of 40 to 85 per cent of all incoming customer inquiries in industries, such as retail banking, credit card, brokerage, insurance, health care and utilities. Some enterprises also claim that IVR/speech recognition improves service quality, since an automated system can be available when live agents are not on duty. An increasing number of outbound call centres – particularly those doing collections and sales — are using IVR systems to increase their effectiveness and productivity.
6. Workforce management software
Used to forecast the volume of calls (or other interaction types, like emails and chat sessions). Workforce management (WFM) software can help call centre managers schedule the optimal number of agents to meet projected needs, taking into account agent breaks, training classes, planned vacations and unplanned sickness. WFM software can automate the process of determining the number of agents that must be hired to ensure that customer transactions are handled at a specified service level. WFM is considered essential for inbound call centres with 100 or more agents or smaller centres that are complex, operating multiple sites and/or handling a variety of interaction types. Recently, outbound call centres have also started to use WFM.
7. Quality management applications
Used to measure how well call centre agents adhere to internal policies and procedures. These applications are increasingly considered mission-critical for inbound call centres, as they give management insight into call centre performance. Quality management (QM) applications are starting to be used in outbound call centres and will eventually become as valuable in those environments as they are in inbound centres.
8. Computer telephony integration (CTI)
Connects the ACD to the servicing or CMS application. At the most basic level, it delivers a “screen pop,” bringing up the customer’s account on the agent desktop when it delivers a call. This saves the agent from wasting time looking up customer information and it saves the customer the aggravation of having to provide redundant identification or account numbers. CTI is a major productivity tool for many call centres.
9 – 10. While they are not actually call centre systems, it’s essential to mention the two primary mechanisms used to transport call centre interactions, Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) and Internet Protocol (IP). TDM is the traditional way of moving calls, and IP has recently replaced TDM as the primary mechanism for transporting call centre transactions. IP has two primary advantages; it is agnostic about what it moves (calls, emails, chats, faxes) and it can be carried over the less costly, standard telecom data network rather than the old-fashioned voice network designed for analogue signals communications.
The systems described above are considered essential and are found in the vast majority of call centres with more than 250 agents. However, there are many other call centre solutions – some old and some relatively new – that also add great value to enterprises and their customers. They may not be essential, but they often have a rapid and quantifiable return on investment (ROI), which means they should be seriously considered by call centre managers. These applications include the following:
• Call centre agent coaching
• Call centre agent scripting
• Call centre performance management software
• Customer surveying software
• Email response management software
• Knowledge management tools (only for certain types of environments)
• Speech analytics software • Web self-service software
Call centres are complex operating environments that depend on a wide variety of sophisticated technology to process transactions. While call centre technology is essential, it’s really the agents who leave a lasting impression on customers and they are the key to retaining clients and enhancing relationships.
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