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Service: Now Just a Call Away
is all you ever wanted to know about call centers from the
technology involved to the latest trends
is no disputing the statement that call center technology
has had a tremendous impact on the conduct of business in
the world today. Call centers for selling goods and services,
as well as call centers for providing customer care, is going
to become a familiar part of the business life of virtually
might even say that the call center heralded the first wave
of electronic commercealbeit a labor-intensive one. Call
centers also pioneered the development of self-service via the
telephone, using Interactive Voice Response technology. Now
the Internet has emerged in a new wave of electronic commerce,
one built on computer-based self-service. The web is rightly
perceived as providing a richer and more friendly environment
for self-service transactions than the touch tone telephone.
there is an increasing recognition that self-service alone is
not enoughthat the good old-fashioned personal customer
service remains an important factor in the success of any business.
If Internet-based business is going to provide such service
on any scale, it is clear that something like today's call center
is an important part of the solution. But what is the technology
to support this requirement?
Centers - An Overview
call center is an area where several Customer Service Representative
(CSR) agents are located to man a bank of telephones and computer
terminals. These agents are specially trained on telephone etiquette,
the type of customer queries that may arise and on how to respond
to these queries in a quick and efficient manner.
call center can also be equipped with an Automatic Call Handling
System like an Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) so that
all routine, repetitive queries can be answered by the system
without the customer having to speak to a CSR agent. This approach
ensures that the CSR agents are not required to answer standard
queries and hence they are free to take care of difficult customers
or issues that require specific individual attention.
of Call Centers
advantage of establishing a call center with Computer Telephony
Integration (CTI) is that there is a co-ordinated transfer of
customer information and the telephone call to a CSR. CTI is
the most exciting development in the field of
and communications. This technology marries the flexibility
and ubiquitous nature of the telephone with the power of the
computer to open up a whole new vista in voice and data communications.
this means, in simple terms is that the IVR system would understand
that a particular customer has
a live agent assistance and hence would transfer the call to
a free CSR agent as also initiate a "Screen Pop" of
customer information on to the CSR agent's terminal. This ensures
that even before the call lands at the agent's telephone, the
information screen pops on the terminal. This feature ensures
that the agent knows whose call is going to come in next even
before the phone rings. This agent can then answer the call
in a personalized manner and complete the communication. It
is an accepted fact that with automated call handling a higher
number of calls is handled as also the efficiency and productivity
Cost Dynamic Picture
order to truly understand what motivates the decisions that
call centers make, you first need to get a hang of the cost
structure of a call center.
is found from the Call Center report that 65 percent of a typical
call center's expense is attributed to the agents or employees
who work in the center. Almost 30 percent of the expenses is
for transmission, while only five per cent is spent on equipment.
Call center managers need to leverage the equipment and the
technology to bring down expenses for labor and transmission.
for Improved Customer Service
companies are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves
from competition and customer service is a primary means to
accomplish this. In order to win "Customers for Life,"
companies are investing more on employees and technology. Where
this begins and where success is measured is right in the call
agents are the most expensive resources within a call center,
managers are always concerned with measuring agent effectiveness
and productivity. These managers must be able to balance the
quality of handling customers during the call with the cost/call,
based on an agent's productivity and associated network expense.
And not unlike our own value equation, employee or "agent"
satisfaction, increased by training and empowerment tools, is
the key to providing customer and ultimately shareholder value.
Expectations based on technology
Voice Response technology has become widely accepted by consumers,
resulting in competition among call centers. Increasingly, callers
expect agents to posses the ability to quickly access information.
Or if callers are prompted to input their account or order numbers,
they expect the agent to have the information with the arrival
of the call.
the agent answers an incoming call armed with full account knowledge,
the caller doesn't have to waste time or get frustrated giving
a history or repeating addresses or account numbers. Callers
are treated as individuals and valued as customers. Each call
center manager is challenged to provide proactive customer service,
allowing the company to more effectively target market segments
and create market segmentation of one.
into Strategic Plan
every company may vary in its sophistication and its use of
call center-type activities, one thing remains the same: all
are including call centers in their businesses' strategic
sustain customer satisfaction, companies must provide callers
with the most knowledgeable agent who can respond to their requests.
Expertise or level of support (e.g., response time) is on the
rise, exemplified by computers or software companies that offer
"fee-based" support and these determine skill-based
companies, especially multinationals, need to make sure that
the customers can use the same toll free number to reach the
best qualified person at any location. Call centers also extend
the hours of operation by distributing these calls to the location
best equipped to handle them, either based on staffing or knowledge.
new buzzword, this term describes a trend in increasing agent
productivityanswering, waiting calls during the busy period
and making outgoing sales, telemarketing, or collection calls
during slower periods.
of a Call Center EPABX
all of us are aware the call from any PSTN line need to be terminated
on to an EPABX so that the preliminary treatment of the call
can be handled by the EPABX such as routing, transferring etc.
When deciding upon a voice-based call center, the decision regarding
a very good EPABX is very crucial.
Telephony Integration (CTI)
is an enabling technology that allows communication between
ACDs, host computers containing the customer information or
order entry applications, Integrated Voice Response Systems
(IVRs), and agent desktop devices. The whole idea behind CTI
is to integrate these various elements for an efficient and
effective call center, and to make it an easier place to do
business. The more an agent knows about a caller, the more responsive
he can be.
CTI makes it possible to retrieve information about a caller
or the purpose of the call, and to forward that information
automatically to the appropriate agent. Agents use this information
to provide much more personalized service to the caller one
of the key business imperatives for the 1990s. CTI also helps
no longer have to take the necessary timetypically 15-25
secondsto ask for a customer identifier (like an account
code), enter it to the terminal, and then wait for the system
to respond with the appropriate profile. Instead, the "system"
gathers the customer identifier either by a service called Automatic
Number Identification (ANI) that delivers the caller's number
to the call center with the customer responses to the IVR prompts,
or by the switch itself, and then proactively pops the customer
information onto the agent's desktop as the call arrives at
the agent's phone.
IVR and multimedia messaging technologies are used to augment
and complement ACD and call center functions. Callers can use
the IVR system to access important information whenever it's
convenient, much like how the automated teller machines let
a bank's customer perform transactions against their accounts
24 hours a day, seven days a week. IVR systems also qualify
the caller's needs and identify by presenting a menu of choices.
This information can then be captured and passed at the same
time the caller is transferred to the agent. The result? More
personalized service and streamlined operations for more productive
call centers. Most importantly, IVR offloads most day-to-day
repetitive manual tasks, leaving agents available for more complex
in a call center allows:
Major components which goes into the call
Callers to access information after the call center is closed
for the day.
Callers to choose how to conduct business, either using
the IVR or by talking with an agent.
Callers to have an option to exit from a long wait queue,
allowing them to conduct business on the IVR or leave a
message so that an agent can call back later, during a slow
Agents to transfer callers at the end of a transaction to
perform routine, perhaps private account inquiries, or to
conduct post-call customer satisfaction surveys.
Relationship Management Software
force Management Software
mail Interaction Management Software
with the following:
types of call centers
centers can be of different types based on delivery channels
Customer/ product databases
Channels based classification
delivery channels refer to the kind of channels through which
the customer can interact with the call centers, namely:
All of the above or combinations of the above
based call centers
feature of the call centers depends on the components, which
has gone into call centers. This basically talks about implementation
of the following;
Work force management solutions
Work flow management solutions
Computer Telephony Integration
Email Interaction Management software
call centers are classified also on the basis of the location
of the target customer. In a captive call center there are chances
like the organization running a decentralized call center where
in the call center is mostly located in the same location of
the customer. Bust in the case of the centralized call centers
the call center will be located in a central location and it
will serve the customers irrespective of the location of the
customer ( i.e, the customer need not be in the same location
of the call center).
the case of Outsourced call center, the call center in most
cases is situated in a central location and can cater to:
Rathod can be reached at email@example.com
the clients in the same location (same city)
the client in some other cities
the clients in the same location and other cities
the clients in an another country.
Information Courtesy: K.Chandru , Servion Global Solution Ltd.
T.J. Mohan Kumar , Convergent Communications.