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.

Featured Research
  • Contact Center Implementation Best Practices

    Are you looking to add a contact center for your business but not quite sure of how to go about implementing one? You aren't alone, in fact, getting a modern contact center up and running efficiently and effectively is much more difficult than it was even five to ten years ago. more

  • 15 Ways to Optimize Your Contact Center

    We live in a time where customer experience is seen as an important competitive differentiator. Given this, wouldn't you like to make sure that your contact center is fully optimized to meet your business needs? Deciding to upgrade and optimize your contact center is a big step, and one that shouldn't be done without due diligence and plenty of research. more

  • Benchmarking Your Contact Center

    Are you aware of how your contact center stacks up in comparison to your competitors? In an era where customer service is viewed as a key competitive differentiator, it is absolutely essential for you to utilize benchmarking in order to ensure that your contact center is helping and not hindering your bottom line. more

  • Contact Centers vs. Call Center

    Believe it or not, contact centers and call centers are not the same thing. Both of them serve the same purpose in ensuring that your business provides the best possible customer service, however, there are distinct differences between the two. more

  • The Social Side of Service

    Did you know that 83% of Twitter users who tweeted a complaint said they loved receiving a response from the brand? In order to provide the best possible service to your customers, you MUST provide service on the channels that they are utilizing. Social customer service might seem scary and undefined, but can be much more effective and less expensive than traditional channels. more