The Connections in Practice | The Web & Call Centers

A book is not the perfect place to talk about such a dynamic and fast-changing subject as the relationship between call centers and the Internet. In any case, one way to see the impact of the changes is through the flurry of products that have come out recently, and the changing relationships between companies as they cross from one product category to another.
Add a note hereFor example, a Web-browser-based publishing tool makes collecting and sharing customer data within the call center, and throughout the enterprise, as easy as accessing a webpage. Envision Telephony’s SoundByte Enterprise Web Desktop lets centers publish customer contact information in a browser page format or “Web desktop.”
Add a note hereThe new format simplifies the transfer of customer information from the call center to the enterprise. Departments outside of the call center can use Web Desktop to get customized access to data necessary to make more strategic, timely business decisions. The kinds of data at work here are primarily digital call recordings and call center performance reports.
Add a note hereExecutive management, marketing and product development, for instance, can track customer response to promotions, monitor service quality and query customers through this system. Web Desktop is part of Envision’s SoundByte Enterprise call center suite, an automated call monitoring system that collects and publishes information about customer contact with a company’s agents.
Add a note hereCore elements of Web Desktop include call evaluations and graphical comparisons of individual versus group performance. Supervisors can also add training tools, demonstrate productivity reports, publish department specific issues, and highlight morale topics. For example, supervisors can feature “agent of the month”, incentive programs, and other events.
Add a note hereVocalTec’s Surf&Call Center lets online shoppers make toll free calls directly from a website into any telephone or formal call center. A Pro version goes on to let online shoppers speak over the Internet to call center agents as well as jointly surf webpages and fill out online forms in a secure environment.
Add a note hereSurf&Call Center uses the same standards-based IP telephony network infrastructure that carriers can use to target a variety of audiences with services such as phone-to-phone, fax-to-fax, PC-to-phone, and Internet Phone Call Waiting.
Add a note hereThe SDK also allows system integrators to customize webpages and agent desktops to support Surf&Call Center’s voice and joint data collaboration capabilities.
Add a note hereAs previously stated, the market for Web-enabled call center solutions is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 110% through 2004, according to Frost & Sullivan stats. Interestingly, this product is aimed squarely at the carrier market and the call centers those carriers spawn.
Add a note herePrimus’s WebPack is a set of tools for creating knowledge bases and publishing them on the Internet, complete with natural language search capabilities. The gimmick is that you’re supposed to be able to complete said knowledge base within a single workweek.
Add a note hereThe advantage to putting the knowledge out in front of the call center is simple: customers will use it to try to solve their own problems before coming to an agent for help. This cuts down on call volume.
Add a note here(Though I suspect that the duration of the remaining calls would be somewhat higher, because those calls are likely to be the thorny ones that can’t be worked out using an automated system.)
Add a note hereOne early user of the WebPack system reported that for 65% of its customers, the self-service option directly solved their problem.
Add a note hereAnother Internet front-end product takes a somewhat different approach. FaceTime’s Message Exchange service tries to meld all the newer modes of Internet communication — instant messaging, for example — into a logical package that can be parsed by a call center.
Add a note hereConsumers engaged in online shopping at a FaceTime-enabled website instantly receive live and/or email-based sales and customer service assistance by connecting to the company’s call center. The FME service suite routes, queues, and reports on inbound email and instant messaging interactions, helping sites prioritize customer requests and manage service levels.
Add a note hereMost interesting is Instant Messaging Management, enabling ecommerce sites to manage real-time, live text-based communication between a CSR and a customer. FaceTime accepts, routes, and queues these requests to the appropriate CSR, and provides supervisory functions and management reporting. (A lot of the actual interaction can be automated.)
Add a note hereThe other main component, Email Management, manages inbound or forms-based requests from consumers.
Add a note hereThe FaceTime Message Exchange features a real-time monitor that shows supervisor and managers current queue and agent status. It can also monitor customer specified service level targets and alert the supervisor when these targets have been exceeded.
Add a note hereFaceTime is an application service provider (ASP) for Internet customer service. In other words, FaceTime is an online service, not a product. That’s good, because it means you can be deployed in days, scale up or down and avoid implementation hassles with the IT department.