Small Business Contact Center Functionality

By Stan Baldwin
Updated: February 22, 2011

Contact Centers come in three basic flavors, inbound, outbound and blended. Inbound contact centers typically respond to requests for information or action from customers or potential customers. Outbound contact centers are usually soliciting new business for the company. And blended contact centers have both of these functions integrated to provide an optimal result for the organization.

In addition to keeping track of incoming calls, placing them in proper queues and tracking performance statistics, such as call volume, average time to answer and dropped calls, contact center software can distribute calls based upon the skill set required to address the question, issue or topic raised by each caller. By rapidly connecting each customer with the right resource within the company, all inquiries can be addressed promptly and accurately. Most organizations have noticed satisfied customers tend to buy more products and sometimes encourage their friends and family to also become customers of the company.

An outbound contact center has historically been referred to as a “call center”, a facility (possibly a virtual one) in which a large group of people make telephone calls offering some product or service for sale. An important productivity feature of call center software is the automatic dialing function.

Auto Dialers

These autodialers acquired some smarts and have become “predictive” dialers by applying algorithms to predict the availability of agents in relationship to the numbers of calls expected to be answered at any given moment and overall call volume. They dial numbers from a list or area code or some other specific criteria until a human voice answers, then transfer the connection to a human agent for follow-through. In this manner thousands of phone calls can be placed by computer and the relatively few that are answered by a human being are immediately connected to an agent. The software handles the fundamental and the agents have little down-time, even though a contact rate of 2% of dialed calls is typical.

One of the latest features of contact centers is the ability to integrate communications arriving by telephone, e-mail, fax, and text messaging. In this manner, a client or customer can approach the company from their PC, their office or cell telephone, or from their PDA, and always receive the same quality of comprehensive service.

Blended Contact Center

Companies which integrate an outbound and inbound contact center have what is termed a blended center and may enjoy an additional level of flexibility. If incoming calls rise to a level the company has predetermined may negatively impact service, the overflow can be directed to agents working in the outgoing portion of the contact center. Many companies have a policy which places meeting the needs of existing customers as a higher priority than working to acquire more customers. The capability to reassign agents within a blended contact center increases their capacity to make this policy reality.

As with many other software applications contact center services can now be delivered across the web or from the cloud. Using a hosted contact center service can bring greater customer support and sales capabilities to even a small business, at a price they can afford, while minimizing the demands on their IT staff.

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