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What’s the first image that comes to mind when you think of a call center?
It’s likely a room full of switchboard operator types, handling an inane amount of calls, and working at incredulous speeds. The fact is modern computer technology has some call centers looking more casual than that.
Cloud PBX (private branch exchange) systems and CTI (computer telephony integration) have moved the modern-day call center from a cavernous room with hundreds of operators to, in some cases, a person’s living room. This revolution is possible through the use of computers as a telephone and the internet as a delivery source.
There is a great deal changing in the call (or contact) center industry, so let’s take a look at all of the new bells and whistles that you’ll find in the modern-day call center.
Exploring the Key Features of a Call Center
Automatic/Predictive Dialer: The predictive dialer “predicts” when a company representative will finish their current phone call and will “automatically” dial the next number in a queue. This cuts down-time by as much as 17 minutes per hour, which, by end of the day, amounts to a whole lot of additional people that can be helped from your call center.
CRM Integration: The ability to tie your call center to your CRM (customer relationship management) is transforming the call center and its ability to help customers. It’s like a manila folder on the operator’s desktop about all of your customers. The result is a far-richer customer experience.
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) and Skills-Based Routing: The distribution of incoming calls to the proper representative is imperative to the successful operation of your call center. This can be done by first-available, by skill of the representative, or by other methods.
In the past, a caller would tell an operator which department they wanted. This resulted in a lot of mistakes; invariably, you got the wrong person and had to be transferred to another department. The use of an IVR (interactive voice recognition) now ensures that calls are directed to the proper person with far greater accuracy.
Customized Call Queues: This is the segmenting of callers by importance, urgency, language, and any number of other criteria. In fact, each queue can have a customized message too.
Dedicated Phone Numbers: Your return customers don’t need to jump through all the hoops that first time callers do. In many cases, they know who they need. In this sense, a dedicated phone number helps them by connecting them directly to a specific representative. You can also use dedicated numbers as VIP lines, and as shortcuts to reaching a particular department.
Real-Time Metrics: The development of analytics presented in real-time is one of the best improvements to come to call centers. It’s helpful to call center managers, call center representatives, and the customers. It provides instantaneous data with the ultimate goal of enriching the customer experience.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): This is the marriage of telephone and computer; among other things, it powers real-time analytics, post-call analytics, and remote call centers. This means call center representatives and managers can work from remote locations, such as their living room.
Multi-Level Interactive Voice Response (IVR): We’ve discussed how voice recognition technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Its ability to understand the spoken word improves almost daily. The primary function of it is to filter incoming calls in order to route the call to an appropriate representative, but it also acts as an information distributor and computerized assistant to the caller. IVRs that access customer data are particularly helpful to callers; for example, smart systems remember other transactions that you’ve conducted by phone and offer you a shortcut to perform them again, without waiting on hold for a representative to help you. There is plenty more to say about IVRs, but suffice to say that IVRs are changing the customer service business.
Detailed Analytics: The big question to be answered in the modern day call center is, “Where are these call coming from?” It’s imperative that you know which marketing campaign drove the call. The power of call analytics is that it tells you the phone number that was used to dial in, (which is assigned to a specific campaign), where the call is coming from, the results of the call, and more. In other words, analytics paints a picture of the call and caller which you can then use to optimize your marketing campaigns. In addition, it should be mentioned that historical reports are also relied upon by call center managers to see which hours of the day bring bursts or lulls in call activity, which days of the week, and which times of the year see additional activity.
Call Parking/Barging/Whisper: The beauty of call parking is that you can place a call on hold and pick it up on a different extension, whereas call barging and whispering are features a call center manager might use with an ongoing call. It’s like a television news producer whispering in the ear of the news anchor; in the call center a manager may hear a customer comment and will “barge” in on the call (only the representative can hear them) and “whisper” something to the rep in order to help them with the call.
Call Back Options: So, picture this. You’re on hold and you hear a message that asks, “Would you like to receive a call back from the next available agent?” That’s right, no more waiting on hold for the next available agent. It’s a huge win in the advancement of call center technology!
Call Recording: Yes, calls are recorded for quality assurance purposes, but calls are also recorded for legal/compliance purposes. In this sense, call recording allows you to record calls and save them for possible use in the future.
The modern day call center is a far cry from the call centers of the 1950s. The integration of computer technology with new, smarter phones, is unleashing a torrent of new features and possibilities.