Call Center Essentials

Updated: April 30, 2009

There's a lot of technology on the shelves that's touted as indispensable to running a highly efficient and profitable call center . While most of these products have many benefits, some are becoming obsolete in the face of the ever-changing call-center mission. "My perspective is that customers expect a multichannel approach to their questions, not specifically just one method such as a voice call," said David Lloyd, CTO at IntelliResponse. "A call center is therefore expanding into a multidisciplined environment."

Even so, some of the basic features remain the same. Sal Osio, principal at TEM Professionals LLC offers the following as the five technology "must-haves" for every call center:

  1. The correct inbound configuration in the carrier's cloud.
  2. ANI (automatic number idenficiation) delivery to PBX ACD.
  3. Well thought-out call vectoring with pilots.
  4. CTI applications such as profile routing and content delivery to customer and call-center reps.
  5. A good call-center reporting package and supporting voice-mail system.

There are creative ways to handle some of these basics without breaking the bank, but be careful; that which is pitched as a cost-savings measure can be extremely costly. "In some cases you can push the majority of your call-center needs to the carrier. However, the pricing is difficult to manage and the dependencies difficult to overcome when internal SLA (Service Level Agreement) metrics are upheld," said Osio.

Technology for the Next Level

Making your call center capable of operating as a multidisciplined environment requires a different set of must-haves. Robert Alexander, who works in application software sales and consulting at Avaya Inc., said the following five elements must be in place to ensure success:

Agent Reporting with Analytics: A call center without the ability to understand what their agents are doing and how customers are being treated is near worthless.

Defined Business Processes and Best Practices : This sounds like a given, but most call-center operations need a "tune up" at the very least.

ACD Technologies Considering Business Rules and Service Level: Additionally, this would include universal queuing to handle inbound and outbound calls, email, and live Web chat.

Agent Graphical Desktop: This feature integrates CRM applications into desktop, support screen pop and data directed routing.

Self-Service: Commonly known as IVR (Interactive Voice Response) , this now utilizes Web-services platforms with VXML (Voice Extensible Markup Language) technology, provides speech-enabled interaction and has the ability to add telephony functions to Web-based applications

Don't Forget Your People

Focus on technology is important, but it can also result in tunnel vision that excludes attention to more fundamental elements. Rick Beets, managing consultant at Ribeco Group in Spain, said you must also address the basics in social development among your staff as diligently as you address the technology end. Here are his five "must-haves" for every call center rep:

Knowledge: Direct experience and education is preferable to remote access to knowledge.
Good manners: Treating customers as what they are — the paymasters.
Service attitude: A rep's attitude should be fully oriented on the customer's return business.
Motivation: Reps should be driven by customer satisfaction.
Patience: Understanding for the customer's situation is required.

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