|Issue:||Latin America I 1999|
|Topic:||Towards CTI-Based Call Centres|
|Author:||Jose Alberto de Matos|
|Title:||Philips Business Communications|
Call Centres are rapidly becoming a primary customer contact point for many companies and senior management is beginning to understand the central role that today’s call centres can, play. CTI-based Call Centres can allow companies to change the way in which their businesses operate and provide new customer services and solutions. Here, Mr. de Matos presents some of the success factors for a CTI implementation; and suggests that companies need to act fast to catch up with their competitors.
Call Centres are rapidly becoming a primary customer contact point for many companies and senior management is beginning to understand the central role that today’s call centres can play. New tools, such as Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) enabled applications, allow companies to change the way in which their businesses operate, and provide new customer services and solutions. Historically, the call centre was a telephony operation which connected a customer to an agent and performed transactions based on databases triggered by the caller’s telephone number, or account data entered through a telephone keypad. Customers now communicate by email, fax, and Web pages and the telephone. Some companies have renamed their operations to ‘customer care’ or ‘customer support’ centres and now view them as strategic marketing tools. Home shopping and home banking are simple and common examples of services made possible through today’s advanced call centres. It is already possible to implement a complete business based only on a call centre operation, as in the case of Virtual Bank applications. New technologies and services put at the customer’s disposal, have increased his or her expectations. Organisations are now integrating their call centres so that they can deliver strategic initiatives based on the larger issues such as customer value, market penetration, and personalised service. Structure of Modern Day Call Centre Today, a call centre can participate in the company business process beginning with the pre-sales right through to after-sales services, independent of the business segment it is in. Business-to-business companies used to cater for only a limited number of customers but are now faced with a situation where they must adapt call centre solutions that can facilitate a larger customer base. Using state-of-the-art technologies applied to switches, networking and CTI, it is possible to implement distributed or virtual call centres. In order to provide after-sales services, the agent can now be of a virtual nature. The call centre has a facility that can cope with features such as ‘skill based routing’ (allows identification of the correct person in the organisation to answer this call). After analysing the information provided by the caller through the telephone keypad (or in the near future through voice recognition techniques) the call centre can search for the best respondent available to answer the call at the time. All these services can be integrated in a network, allowing the connection between different sites. At destination, the wireless PBX can ensure a successful connection. The virtual agent can be a normal member of technical staff, and not necessarily someone dedicated to help desk activities on a full time basis. Benefits of CTI For many companies, telephone calls have replaced face-to-face communications as the primary link with customers. With this strategic shift in customer service and sales support, businesses have a critical ‘moment of value’ to provide rapid, accurate responses and to take advantage of cross- or up-selling opportunities. In order to make the most out of each customer interaction, the call centres have evolved from being fragmented back-office operations into sophisticated revenue-generating facilities that integrate broad areas of capability, like voice and data communications, computerised telephony functions and co-ordinated IT applications. Some benefits of the CTI approach are: · increase in productivity; · cost savings; . · centralised tracking and control; · unification of distributed expertise; · opportunities within the area of proactive selling based on real-time information; · improved quality of service; and, · increased customer satisfaction. Success Factors Many companies, particularly those that depend heavily on call centres for revenues or customer service, are keen to make use of the CTI. However, it is not something that can happen overnight. The implementation of the system can be a long-winded process. CTI gives new meaning to the term ‘feasibility study’. During planning, companies frequently find that substantial changes and advances must be made before CTI can be introduced. These changes can range from process changes to technological replacements as well as shifts in long-established department cultures.ഀ The modern concept of a Call Centre is based on the premises that all organisations must have focus to the outside, to the market and to their customers. Also, all organisations must be prepared and willing to get involved in issues relating to customer care. In order to successfully integrate CTI it is necessary to pay attention to the certain success factors (see below). The caller must be qualified as early, quickly, and automatically as possible. CTI provides automatic qualification, which is integrated with other modes of qualification. Automatic qualification is. often based on ANI (the number from which the call has originated) and DNIS (the number being called). The ability to qualify the caller not only enables large enterprises to react more quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively, it also allows them to bring back the same kind of personal touch that resulting from face to face consultation. The automatic qualification occurs while the customer is still hearing the phone ring. In some cases, an interaction between the customer and an IVR machine is needed. CTI must provide comprehensive call-related information, displayed on the agent’s screen. In the call centre industry, this is known as ‘screen pop up’. One of CTI’s key features is its ability to provide the agent with as complete a picture as possible about the caller and the call, including: · the history of the call before it got to the current agent; · the relevant information that has been obtained about the caller; · if an initial call was dropped, and the caller has called back, the recovered information associated with that previous call, etc. Top quality CTI solution uses the information it obtains on each caller to route calls to an appropriate agent, as well as to trigger an appropriate application on the agent’s desktop. Suppose a customer is calling to report a lost credit card. By the time the call gets to the agent, the software has started the ‘Lost or Stolen Credit Card’ program on the agent’s computer. It can also pre-fill those entries of the accompanying form with information that had been obtained directly from the caller or from the company’s data-bases. Conclusion For companies who are looking at implementing their first call centres, they need to act fast because most likely their competitors would have already done so. Success Factors Educate oneself on the subject through books, seminars and conferences. It is also possible to obtain case studies demonstrating the success rate of CTI. Examine corporate and departmental business needs. These may range from providing customers with world-class customer service to empowering employees. Successful implementation, use, and acceptance of any technology must be linked to business needs. Create a vision for CTI within the organisation. Identify longer-term objectives for ways in which CTI applications can transform current business opportunities and the effect they will have upon the company. Determine whether the organisation has the resources to include a project team (telecom, IT, call centre management, etc.). Early involvement and commitment by all groups involved in the implementation is important. Consider the technology, quality and performance of components (PBX, Contact Software, Database, etc). A CTI based call centre project is potentially an expensive long term investment as far as the operation of it is concerned. Consider what kind of an impact emerging business requirements will have on a company’s current and planned telecom and network infrastructures.