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Avaya Lists 10 Communications Trends for 2010

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Excerpt From: http://www.xchangemag.com/articles/avaya-lists-10-communications-trends-for-2010,p2.html

In the past decade, a sea change has taken place in how voice and data communications are structured, delivered and used by businesses. Here are the top 10 areas Avaya Inc. executives expect to see action in 2010:

1. Regulatory mandated proactive communications. In an era of increasing regulation, proactive communications applications will automatically initiate contact with customers and guide interactions, in compliance with regulatory requirements. Under the Homeowner Modification Program in 2009, for example, Congress mandates that mortgage companies increase their proactive communications with borrowers.

2. Communications monitoring of employees across devices. Businesses, while still respecting privacy standards, will increasingly track phone calls, instant messages and e-mails of their employees to better predict work needs and behaviors. The communications industry will provide much more consistency across multimodal interfaces, whether through iPhones, standard telephones or the Web.

3. Social media and contact centers. Customers will initiate more company interactions via social media tools like Facebook. Basically any consumer with a laptop, desktop or Web phone will have richer multimedia experiences with contact center reps. Conversely, more businesses will embrace mining of the social network, capturing new opportunities to provide service, address issues and promote sales.

Read Full Article: http://www.xchangemag.com/articles/avaya-lists-10-communications-trends-for-2010.html

Customer Service Planning Tips for Your Holiday Season

Will Internet Savvy Web 2.0’ers Lead to the Demise of the Traditional Call Center Model?

April 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Recently, I have read that Twitter of all things is apparently the cause of significant call center layoffs. It was stated that more people than ever are taking advantage of corporate Twitter sites to ask customer service questions, which means less traditional phone call inquiries (you can read the article here ).

And what is this I am hearing about ‘super users’? -people that enjoy products so much that they surf the web and online corporate communities, jumping at the chance to help their fellow users by answering customer service questions. From a recent tmcnet.com article:

Since last summer, Verizon has transferred much of the responsibility in certain divisions that require high levels of customer service to volunteers – people who have a passion for the wireless, Internet and TV technologies that Verizon peddles, and who like to feel useful. Sound strange? It is. But it’s also true. They’re called “super-users,” and they work through online forums that are gradually developing into self-sustaining databases where customers can go to answer all their questions.

Does this all mean that the end of the traditional customer service call center is near?

I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great self-service companies out there like Bazaarvoice and Lithium, and they have a place in this ecosystem, but I think people are forgetting to examine the other side of the spectrum and companies like Zappos.com – the reigning King of the customer service experience.

How does one explain Zappos.com’s success in this new self-help world? For gosh sakes they don’t even set limits for how long their agents can talk to callers, and I believe the longest service call they ever had was over 5 hours…..

My current thought is that there is a middle ground, and that appropriate and tempered call deflection is the key to success.

What I mean by this is:

Companies should take advantage of these new technologies, incorporating items like robust self-help sections to their websites, and they should also use communication channels like Twitter, live chat and email (which are usually more cost effective than voice support to deploy because of concurrency). But as is the case with Zappos, there is no replacement for the service that can be achieved through voice support. The experience is unparalleled, and for more complicated support issues it is the only viable channel that can be used to adequately understand and address a customers needs.

Although a lot of startups are finding the initial cost savings of self-service tools appealing, as these companies mature, if they hope to develop a long term and re-occurring customer base they are going to have to invest in multi-channel customer service which is anchored by traditional phone support. Simply put, customer’s expectations are higher than ever, and consumers expect a multitude of contact options so they can interact with a company in the way they feel most comfortable.

To conclude, I think self-service is here to stay, and I think it works amazingly well for simple customer services issues. In these challenging economic times, the technologies discussed will also help businesses to reduce their overall customer service expenditures. With that being said, call deflection can only be taken so far. For companies that care about their brand and their overall customer experience, there will always be a need and a role for the kind and caring customer service representative who is available to speak with consumers by phone.

Tim Peters

Maynard Webb’s (Former COO of eBay, CEO LiveOps) next big thing: homeshoring

March 28, 2009 1 comment

EXCERPT:

In addition to managing its 20,000 independent contractors, LiveOps also is selling its technology platform to companies like Salesforce.com and Vforce that want to manage their own home-based employees. And Webb has plans to expand beyond call centers — he believes any kind of remote work can be done using this model, including software development and medical transcription.

Though LiveOps is private and doesn’t disclose revenues, Webb said annual revenues have jumped from $60 million when he joined to well over $100 million. While companies like Google and IBM are trimming staff and cutting expenses, Webb is so far ahead of his annual plan, he said he’s “trying to decide what to do with the extra money.”

LINK TO STORY: http://www.mercurynews.com/breakingnews/ci_12014401?nclick_check=1

Chrysler Brings Call Center Back to U.S.

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

AUBURN HILLS (WXYZ) – Chrysler is moving its customer assistance call center from India back to the United States.

Chrysler officials say customers with questions or complaints about their vehicles will now talk to someone in Rochester Hills, Michigan or Salt Lake City, Utah.
Link: http://www.wxyz.com/news/local/story/Chrysler-Brings-Call-Center-Back-to-U-S/KezwSIcTN0SqLVTQd63JPg.cspx

ICT Group Hires Staff at Canadian Contact Center Following Service Realignment Plans

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Excerpt:

Teleservices firm ICT Group is hiring for inbound customer service agents at its St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada contact center. Radio station VOCM reports that the facility has and continues to grow rapidly since its opening in 2002.

Wikipedia Definition for Call Centers

March 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Call centre

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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An Indian call centre

A call centre or call center[1] is a centralised office used for the purpose of receiving and transmitting a large volume of requests by telephone. A call centre is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outgoing calls for telemarketing, clientele, product services, and debt collection are also made. In addition to a call centre, collective handling of letters, faxes, live chat, and e-mails at one location is known as a contact centre.

A call centre is often operated through an extensive open workspace for call centre agents, with work stations that include a computer for each agent, a telephone set/headset connected to a telecom switch, and one or more supervisor stations. It can be independently operated or networked with additional centres, often linked to a corporate computer network, including mainframes, microcomputers and LANs. Increasingly, the voice and data pathways into the centre are linked through a set of new technologies called computer telephony integration (CTI).

Most major businesses use call centres to interact with their customers. Examples include utility companies, mail order catalogue retailers, and customer support for computer hardware and software. Some businesses even service internal functions through call centres. Examples of this include help desks, retail financial support, and sales support.

Contents

[hide]

Call centre technology

A very large collections call centre in Lakeland, Florida.

Call centre technology is subject to improvements and innovations. Some of these technologies include speech recognition and speech synthesis software to allow computers to handle first level of customer support, text mining and natural language processing to allow better customer handling, agent training by automatic mining of best practices from past interactions, and many other technologies to improve agent productivity and customer satisfaction.[2] Automatic lead selection or lead stearing is also intended to improve efficiencies[3], both for inbound and outbound campaigns, whereby inbound calls are intended to quickly land with the appropriate agent to handle the task, whilst minimising wait times and long lists of irrelevant options for people calling in, as well as for outbound calls, where lead selection allows management to designate what type of leads go to which agent based on factors including skill, socio-economic factors and past performance and percentage likelihood of closing a sale per lead. The concept of the Universal Queue standardises the processing of communications across multiple technologies such as fax, phone, and email.

Patents

Call centre floor during shift.

There are a large number of patents covering various aspects of call centre operation, automation, and technology. One of the early inventors in this field, Ronald A. Katz, personally holds over 50 patents covering inventions related to toll free numbers, automated attendant, automated call distribution, voice response unit, computer telephone integration and speech recognition.[4].

Call centre dynamics

Typical report on the performance of an outbound call centre agent.

Types of calls are often divided into outbound and inbound. Inbound calls are calls that are made by the consumer to obtain information, report a malfunction, or ask for help. These calls are substantially different from outbound calls, where agents place calls to potential customers mostly with intentions of selling or service to the individual. (See telemarketing). It is possible to combine inbound and outbound campaigns[5].

Call centre staff are often organised into a multi-tier support system for a more efficient handling of calls. The first tier in such a model consists of operators, who direct inquiries to the appropriate department and provide general directory information. If a caller requires more assistance, the call is forwarded to the second tier, where most issues can be resolved. In some cases, there may be three or more tiers of support staff. If a caller requires more assistance, the caller is forwarded to the third tier of support; typically the third tier of support is formed by product engineers/developers or highly skilled technical support staff of the product.

Call centres have their critics, some of which argue that the work atmosphere in such an environment is de-humanising.[6] Others point to the low rates of pay and restrictive working practices of some employers.[7][8] There has been much controversy over such things as restricting the amount of time that an employee can spend in the toilet.[9] Furthermore, call centres have been the subject of complaints by callers who find the staff often do not have enough skill or authority to resolve problems,[10] while the dehumanised workers very often exhibit an attitude of apathy to even the most abusive customer.[11]

Owing to the highly technological nature of the operations in such offices, the close monitoring of staff activities is easy and widespread.[12] This can be argued to be beneficial,[13] to enable the company to better plan the workload and time of its employees. Some people have argued that such close monitoring breaches human rights to privacy.[14]

Varieties of call centres

Some variations of call centre models are listed below:

  • Contact centre – Supports interaction with customers over a variety of media, including but not necessarily limited to telephony, e-mail and internet chat.
  • Inbound call centre – Exclusively or predominately handles inbound calls (calls initiated by the customer).
  • Outbound call centre – One in which call centre agents make outbound calls to customers or sales leads.
  • Blended call centre – Combining automatic call distribution for incoming calls with predictive dialling for outbound calls, it makes more efficient use of agent time as each type of agent (inbound or outbound) can handle the overflow of the other.

Criticism and performance of call centres

Criticisms of call centres generally follow a number of common themes, from both callers and call centre staff. From callers, common criticisms include:

  • Operators working from a script
  • Non-expert operators (call screening)
  • Incompetent or untrained operators incapable of processing customers’ requests effectively
  • Overseas location, with language and accent problems
  • Automated queuing systems—this sometimes results in excessively long hold times
  • Complaints that departments of companies do not engage in communication with one another
  • Deceit over location of call centre (such as allocating overseas workers false English names)
  • Requiring the caller to repeat the same information multiple times

Common criticisms from staff include:

  • Close scrutiny by management (e.g. frequent random call monitoring)
  • Low compensation (pay and bonuses)
  • Restrictive working practices (some operators are required to follow a pre-written script)
  • High stress: a common problem associated with front-end jobs where employees deal directly with customers
  • Repetitive job task
  • Poor working conditions (e.g. poor facilities, poor maintenance and cleaning, cramped working conditions, management interference, lack of privacy and noisy)
  • Impaired vision and hearing problems
  • Rude and abusive customers

The net-net of these concerns is that call centres as a business process exhibit stratospheric levels of variability. The experience a customer gets and the results a company achieves on a given call are almost totally dependent on the quality of the agent answering that call.[15] Call centres are beginning to address this by using agent-assisted voice solutions to standardise the process all agents use.[16] Anton and Phelps have provided a detailed HOWTO to conduct the performance evaluation of the business,[17] whereas others are using various scientific technologies to do the jobs.[18][19][20] However more popular alternatives are using personality and skill based approaches.[21][22] The various challenges encountered by call operators are discussed by several authors.[23][24][25][26][27]

Unionisation of call centres

Unions in North America have made some effort to gain members from this sector,[28] including the Communications Workers of America[29] and the United Steelworkers. In Australia, the Call Centre Workers Union represents unionised workers; their activities form part of the Australian labor movement.[30] In Europe, Uni Global Union of Switzerland is involved in assisting unionisation in this realm.[31]

Standardisation

Currently, there are no universally bracketable international standards, other than ISO 9000 series, available for the industry to follow up. However, there are some guidelines and standing operating procedures available on the internet.[32][33]

Mathematical theory

Queuing theory is a branch of mathematics in which models of queuing systems have been developed. A call centre can be seen as a queuing network.[34][35][36] The models can be applied to answer queueing questions for call centres.

Call centre operations have been supported by mathematical models beyond queueing, with operations research, which considers a wide range of optimisation problems.

See also

References

  1. ^ see spelling differences
  2. ^ L Venkata Subramaniam (2008-02-01). “Call Centers of the Future” (PDF). i.t. magazine. 48-51. http://lvs004.googlepages.com/callcenters.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 
  3. ^ “US Patent 7035699 – Qualified and targeted lead selection and delivery system”. Patent Storm. 2006-04-25. http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/7035699/description.html. Retrieved on 2008-05-29. 
  4. ^ Bednarek et al., “Katz Patent Reexamination: A Change in Momentum Favoring RAKTL Targets”, ShawPittman, June 9, 2004
  5. ^ Freeman, Laura M; Whitfield, Hilary C. “Setting up for integrated inbound/outbound telemarketing”. BNET. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3700/is_199611/ai_n8743570. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  6. ^ “Working conditions and health in Swedish call centres”. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. 2005-04-28. http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/ewco/2005/04/SE0504NU02.htm. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  7. ^ “Hourly Rate Survey Report for Industry: Call Center”. PayScale. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Industry=Call_Center/Hourly_Rate. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  8. ^ “Advice regarding call centre working practices” (PDF). Health and Safety Executive. http://www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacs/94-2.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  9. ^ “Hazards 81 extended briefing: Toilet breaks: Give us a break!”. Hazards. http://www.hazards.org/toiletbreaks/index.htm. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  10. ^ Shaw, Russell (2006-01-30). “Tone-deaf to customer complaints, Dell opens yet another call center in India”. ZDNet. http://blogs.zdnet.com/ip-telephony/?p=873. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  11. ^ Ahmed, Zubair (2006-02-22). “Abuse rattles Indian call centre staff”. BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4738804.stm. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  12. ^ “Call Centre Monitoring”. Management. callcentrehelper.com. http://www.callcentrehelper.com/call_centre_monitoring.htm. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  13. ^ “The Call Center Answer Team reaches out to the industry for to crack a tough nut”. Q&A: How Many Calls Should I Monitor. callcentermagazine.com. 2003-07-30. http://www.callcentermagazine.com/shared/article/showArticle.jhtml?articleId=12803684. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  14. ^ “Who’s on the Line? Women in Call Centres Project” (PDF). Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health. Health Canada. http://www.acewh.dal.ca/eng/reports/moving6.pdf. Retrieved on 2008-06-05. 
  15. ^ Fleming, J., Coffman, C., Harter, J. (2005) Manage Your Human Sigma, Harvard Business Review
  16. ^ Patel, S. (2008) How to win a no-sin situation. In Queue. http://www.nationalcallcenters.org/pubs/In_Queue/vol3no12.html#How_to_Win_a_No-Win_Situation
  17. ^ Anton, Jon; Dru Phelps. “How to conduct a call center performance audit: A to Z” (PDF). http://searchcrm.techtarget.com/searchCRM/downloads/HowToConducChapter2and9.pdf. Retrieved on 1 July. 
  18. ^ Paprzycki, Marcin et al. (2004). Data Mining Approach for Analyzing Call Center Performance. doi:10.1007/b97304. ISBN 9783540220077. 
  19. ^ “Evaluation of the Performance of customer service representatives in a call center using DEA/Network Model/Fussy Sets”. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/theses/available/etd-04132003-184221/. Retrieved on 1 July. 
  20. ^ Srinivasan, Raj et al. (2004). “Performance analysis of a call center with interactive voice response units”. TOP (Springer Berlin) 12 (1): 91–110. doi:10.1007/BF02578926. 
  21. ^ Skyrme, Pamela et al.. “Using personality to predict outbound call center job performance” (PDF). http://applyhrm.asp.radford.edu/Volume%2010/MS%2010_2_%20Abraham.pdf. Retrieved on 1 July. 
  22. ^ Stolletz, Raik; Stefan Helber (2004). “Performance analysis of an inbound call center with skills-based routing”. OR Spectrum 26 (3): 331–352. doi:10.1007/s00291-004-0161-y. 
  23. ^ Witt, L. A. et al. (2004). “When Conscientiousness Isn’t Enough: Emotional Exhaustion and Performance Among Call Center Customer Service Representatives”. Journal of Management 30 (1): 149–160. doi:10.1016/j.jm.2003.01.007. 
  24. ^ Aguir, Salah et al. (2004). “The impact of retrials on call center performance”. OR Spectrum 26 (3): 353–376. doi:10.1007/s00291-004-0165-7. 
  25. ^ Murthy, Nagesh N. et al. (2008). “The Impact of Simulation Training on Call Center Agent Performance: A Field-Based Investigation”. Mnagement Science 54 (2): 384–399. doi:10.1287/mnsc.1070.0818. 
  26. ^ Armony, Mor; Itay Gurvich. “When promotions meet operations: cross-selling and its effect on call-center performance” (PDF). http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/facseminars/pdfs/2006_12-08_Armony1.pdf. Retrieved on 1 July. 
  27. ^ Goldberg, L.S.; A.A. Grandey. “Display rules versus display autonomy: emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and task performance in a call center simulation”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17638495. Retrieved on 1 July. 
  28. ^ Paths to Union Renewal. Broadview Press. 2006. ISBN 1-55193-058-7. 
  29. ^ “AT&T Mobility Workers Organize in Oklahoma City”. Uni Global Union. http://www.uniglobalunion.org/UniTelecom.nsf/0/ADF36252C7AE907DC12574C900293C7A?OpenDocument. Retrieved on 2008-09-27. 
  30. ^ “Call Centre Union Busters Get Wake-Up Call”. Workers Online. http://workers.labor.net.au/90/news22_call.html. Retrieved on 2008-07-08. 
  31. ^ “Uni Global Union’s call centre organizing campaigns”. Uni Global Union. http://www.uniglobalunion.org/uniindep.nsf/callcentres?openpage. Retrieved on 2008-07-08. 
  32. ^ Rochester Institute of Technology. “Internal Call Center Standing Operating Procedures”. http://finweb.rit.edu/buscont/docs/callcenterSOP.pdf. Retrieved on 3 July. [dead link]
  33. ^ Thinking problem management. “Documentation – the techie curse”. http://thinkingproblemmanagement.blogspot.com/2007/10/documentation-techie-curse.html. Retrieved on 3 July. 
  34. ^ Call Center Mathematics | A scientific method for understanding and improving contact centers by Ger Koole
  35. ^ [http://fic.wharton.upenn.edu/fic/papers/03/p0312.htmlStatistical Analysis of a Telephone Call Center: A Queueing-Science Perspective” Lawrence Brown, Noah Gans, Avishai Mandelbaum, Anat Sakov, Haipeng Shen, Sergey Zeltyn and Linda Zhao, November 2002 ]
  36. ^ Queueing Models of Call Centers: An Introduction Ger Koole

[edit] Further reading

  • Kennedy I., Call centres, School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand, 2003.
  • Masi D.M.B., Fischer M.J., Harris C.M., Numerical Analysis of Routing Rules for Call centres, Telecommunications Review, 1998. http://www.noblis.org/Publications/TR98_8.doc
  • HSE Web site at www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacs/94-2.htm for guidelines about call centre working * practices.
  • Fluss, Donna, “The Real-Time Contact centre”, 2005 AMACOM
  • Wegge, J., van Dick, R., Fisher, G., Wecking, C., & Moltzen, K. (2006, January). Work motivation, organisational identification, and well-being in call centre work. Work & Stress, 20(1), 60-83.