1.3 Vendor solutions

1.3 Vendor solutions

A number of vendors have proven success in assisting organizations to develop, implement, and integrate call centers into their corporate customer management structures. Appendix A provides a selected list of these vendors with contact and product or service information. The technology tools offered by these vendors range in price from very expensive licensed solutions, in the range of $200,000 to $300,000, to relatively inexpensive hosted models, averaging $600 to $1,000 per call center position (seat).

Selection

Among these tools, it is important to select those that fit the organization's needs and integrate well with existing telephony equipment and current applications. The tools should be compatible with PBX equipment and dispersed data sources from data warehouses, shipping, and customer accounts. Also, the tools selected need to have the capability to handle multiple customer-access channels, such as telephone, Web self-help, e-mail, fax, and Internet chat.

Integration

Integrating all these components is time-consuming and expensive; however, it is necessary to the development of an effective call center that is fully responsive to customer interactions. The list of systems and applications that need to be integrated might include the following items:

  • Data warehousing systems

  • Legacy systems

  • Disparate relational databases

  • Internet technologies

It is important to select vendor tools that are capable of integrating telephony equipment and software components with all of these systems and applications.

1.4 A 10-point call center development process

The following 10 guidelines provide a logical, step-by-step process for developing and managing a call center operation.

Select a location for the call center where there is an educated workforce

Determine the size of the facility and the number of service representatives. Real estate and labor are two key cost factors in any call center operation.

Select the underlying technology components

These will include: PBX, voice mail, automated call distribution, computer telephony integration, and network equipment, such as routers, servers, and desktop PCs.

Decide which channels to support in the call center

Channels will include e-mail, chat, phone, Web forms, text chat, VoIP.

Select software solutions that meet requirements and will integrate with existing systems

Typically, these systems will be those that contain customer information-data warehousing systems, accounting systems, and contact information.

Integrate systems when feasible

Call centers must be able to handle multiple customer channels. Integrated systems help customer representatives answer questions more quickly by having more customer information available to them. Integrating with the Internet is critical, as it provides more avenues for assisting customers with chat, self-help, and live agents.

Determine SLAs and business processes

Implement best practices-workflow and e-mail routing-for skills-based routing capability. Establish hours of operation and standard procedures for handling calls.

Hire and retain staff

Establish a hiring and training budget. Hire skilled individuals and provide training, retraining, motivation, and rewards. Identify required skills and set appropriate goals to keep representatives trained.

Finalize the budget

Make presentations to management regarding budgets and benefits. Factor in all costs, including training, hiring, hardware costs, deployment, and integration.

Establish measurement and performance processes

Software for monitoring service levels and performance is the key to measuring call center results. Survey customers to ensure satisfaction. Evaluate response times. Utilize reporting tools and continue to improve service.

Establish on-going policies for training and updating CSRs

The CSR is the lifeblood of the call center and it is important that these employees be kept up-to-date on the tools used in the center and that their job functions be kept interesting and challenging.