1.5 How to use this book

1.5 How to use this book

This book contains practical information on setting up and running a call center based on the 10-point development process just described, including guidelines for hiring and retaining staff along with a series of case studies that demonstrate how successful call centers operate. It will be a useful reference and guide to information systems personnel, customer service supervisors and CSRs, call center managers, sales and marketing personnel, as well as members of senior management in any organization who wish to understand the significance of a well-organized, well-managed call center operation.

Summary of topics covered

Chapter 2 provides background and a detailed analysis of the technologies required for an effective call center operation, how to evaluate and select the right technologies, and how to implement them. Chapter 3 offers guidelines for the organization and management of a typical call center, based on the experience of established, successful call center operations. Chapter 4 provides an analysis of the equally important human factors, including staff selection and training, that are so important in meeting call center operating and service-level objectives.

Chapter 5 is an important chapter for learning and understanding how successful call center operations have been implemented using a range of vendor resources and management techniques. In this chapter, a number of case studies are presented in a format that will enable the reader to assess the environment in which each call center was established, the challenges encountered by the development team, and how these challenges were successfully overcome to arrive at a successful, productive call center operation.

In Chapter 6, the significance of the call center in enhancing an organization's corporate CRM (customer relationship management) strategy is described in detail with examples of how the call center can become a major "hub" in this strategy.

Appendix A contains a selection of call center vendor resources, with brief descriptions of products and services as well as contact information. Appendix B is an extensive and comprehensive glossary of call center and CRM terms and definitions. Appendix C provides the reader with a selection of references used in the preparation of this book, as well as a bibliography of other texts relating to call centers and CRM.

Chapter 2: Call Center Technology

Overview

Chapter 1 described the essential components of a call center and the importance of technology, particularly the integration of several technologies, in the implementation and operation of the call center and in providing the range of services required to manage customer communications effectively. This chapter describes the evolution of call center technologies and provides a detailed analysis of these technologies and how they function as well as how they can be applied to meet call center requirements.

Advances and changes in technology have made many new features available to call center operations, providing increased efficiency and better opportunities for serving customers and empowering CSRs with the capability of better managing customer interactions. Most call centers use several systems and applications with specialized functions. In parallel with these advances in technologies that are internal to the call center, more "intelligent" network services offered by carriers make possible the routing of calls based on a wide range of criteria—area code or prefix, dialed number identification service (DNIS), time of day, day of week, and other parameters that are under the control of call center management. Call allocation facilities are also available that can program the network to send defined percentages of calls to selected sites.

Other significant changes that have occurred in the call center because of the availability of enabling technologies include the following:

  • Accessing of applications using icon-based GUI windows, allowing for simultaneous task execution

  • Scanning and retrieval of on-screen documents, a process that increases the speed of document handling

  • Prerecorded CSR introductory greetings, with digital clarity

  • Enhanced fax-handling capabilities, including presorting and generating faxes automatically from the CSR terminal during talk time, automated fax-back, and fax on demand

  • Capability to monitor and blend calls, switching CSRs automatically from inbound to outbound calls when traffic permits

  • Call selection techniques using a PC control window that enables CSRs to point to a call to answer from a list of calls in a queue

The technologies that are required to support an effective, high-productivity call center operation can be classified under the following major headings:

  • Computer telephony integration (CTI)

  • Call distribution technology (ACD)

  • Database software.

As pointed out in Chapter 1, effective management, use, and distribution of information are important elements in today's fast-paced business environment. Technologies play an important role in the accomplishment of these objectives and provide and sustain competitive advantage. Technology by itself cannot attain business goals, it is how people use the technology that will ultimately lead to improvements in communications and operational processes. CTI, the integration of computer and telephone technologies, is one of the applications of technology that has the capability of maximizing the benefits of both technologies for the user community. CTI is an approach to merging two fundamental modern-day technologies, bringing together the disparate and advanced technologies of computing and telephony in a manner that focuses on providing user organizations with choice and flexibility in the implementation of call center operations.