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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

Why You Need to Use Call Centers to Lower Business Costs

June 13, 2009 2 comments

Having someone in your office answering the phone or making sales calls for you is inefficient and can end up costing you sales and money. If you are looking for a way to increase sales and lower business costs, you need to use call centers. These contact centers can offer order taking as well as lead generation for a fraction of what you pay someone who sits in your office.

Today, more than ever, it is important for any business to lower their costs. Whether your business depends on lead generation or offers customer service such as technical support, you can make call centers work for you.

Sales calls are only one way to make use of this outsourcing service. If you provide customer service for your clients such as technical support for your products or services, you cannot afford to rely on a staff working nine to five in your office to handle incoming calls. You need a center that will not only offer full customer support, but will also act as an answering service. This way, you will never miss another call and your customers will not be frustrated when they are unable to get in touch with your company. People today expect to have service support around the clock, but this is not feasible with an on site staff.

In addition to offering around the clock service and support, you can also use contact centers as way to take orders as well as offer email support for your business. Many of these centers also offer live chat options for those who would prefer to get answers right away by using their computer.

Every time you shut off your business phone, you run the risk of losing business. People will not want to talk to an answering machine and wait for a return message. In the world of today, people expect to receive answers as well as place orders for products and services around the clock. When you use outsource lead generation and customer service to call centers, you not only save money when it comes to costs, but you also end up giving customers the full time support and service that they have come to expect from other providers.

Take a look at contact centers and see what they can do to help your business increase sales, customer satisfaction and generate leads for your business and at the same time save you money.

Utilizing a Call Center to Increase Your Business Revenues

Grow Your Business

Call Centers are an innovative approach to sales without the pressure of overhead costs for a storefront. By incorporating a call center into your existing business, you can increase your sales and order size. You can also decrease your overhead cost by running an operations crew from 9 – 5 while having a call center open twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week. There are several different ways to utilize a call center in your business. Many of them include an answering service, live chat, and email support. It is most certainly the most cost effective approach to increasing your business while lowering your overhead costs.

Using a outsourcing center as an answering service after office hours is an excellent way to assure that you do not miss one single important phone call or message. An answering service is most important for service based businesses such as plumbers, contractors, electricians. These types of call centers are already in use by many offices that include medical professionals. These are primarily used for emergency situations but can be tailored to meet any need you as the professional might require.

Another essential use for outsourcing is order taking. Your business can be increased by at least 20 – 30 % just by utilizing a call center for all your order taking and customer service needs. A call center is open twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week therefore allowing your customers to place their orders at any time they choose. They can order from the privacy of their own home at their convenience.

Technical and email support is also a productive use for call centers and outsourcing. You can provide support at any time of the day for anyone who has any issue with your product or company. Email support and live chat can be provided without the use of phones and the labor costs associated with this endeavor can be kept relatively low while still providing the ultimate in customer service to your clients.

Sales can be increased by providing a call center number for customers to leave their contact info for lead generation. Many people are irritated by telemarketing calls but if they call YOU and request that a representative call them during a specific time period, the chances of a good sale have just increased by 60%.

Increase your sales today by implementing a call center into your business without the additional setup cost of labour, equipment and overhead costs associated with expanding your own office.

How to Increase Your Sales and Profit by Utilizing Call Centers

increase_sales

Call Centers are an innovative approach to sales without the pressure of overhead costs for a storefront. By incorporating a call center into your existing business, you can increase your sales and order size. You can also decrease your overhead cost by running a miniscule operations crew from 9 – 5 while having a call center open twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week. There are several different ways to utilize a call center in your business. Many of them include an answering service, live chat, and email support, order taking, and lead generation. It is most certainly the most cost effective approach to increasing your business while lowering your overhead costs.

Increase your sales today by implementing a call center into your business without the additional setup cost of labor, equipment and overhead costs of a building or storefront.

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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

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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.