The blended contact center: myth or reality? The keys to building a unified inbound and outbound call center operation.For many years, there has been an ongoing industry discussion about the costs and benefits of blended best-of-breed contact centers that, among other things, leverage resources across inbound in·bound 1
Bound inward; incoming: inbound commuter traffic.
Adj. 1. inbound and outbound out·bound
Outward bound; headed away: outbound trains.
Adj. 1. outbound - that is going out or leaving; "the departing train"; "an outward journey"; "outward-bound ships" activities. Industry leaders tout Tout
To promote a security in order to attract buyers.
To foster interest in a particular company or security. For example, a broker might tout a security to a client in the hope that the client will purchase the security. the wisdom that truly blended environments will maximize productivity, enhance service levels and reduce expenses while maintaining the reliability and scalability of the individual components. Yet the successful and seamless integration An addition of a new application, routine or device that works smoothly with the existing system. It implies that the new feature or program can be installed and used without problems. Contrast with "transparent," which implies that there is no discernible change after installation. of these core contact center competencies remains an elusive goal. Many attempts at blended centers have failed simply because the ACD (Automatic Call Distributor) A computerized phone system that responds to the caller with a voice menu and connects the call to the appropriate agent. It can also distribute calls equally to agents. , outbound dialer and call management software were designed as separate technology silos--often forcing contact centers to operate inbound and outbound calling as distinct business lines, each with separate reporting capabilities and agent interfaces. This silo-based approach is more expensive by way of redundant applications and systems, incomplete views of contact center activities and disjointed service. The inadequacies of this approach are also very apparent to the end customer.
To build a truly holistic customer service operation, today's customer-centric businesses require an integrated system for balancing calls across inbound and outbound activities; the ability to optimize agent resources across different skill sets and abilities--regardless of type of interaction; and a reporting structure that provides a single, unified view of the contact center from end-to-end. Following are five key elements that are essential:
1) Centralized cen·tral·ize
v. cen·tral·ized, cen·tral·iz·ing, cen·tral·iz·es
1. To draw into or toward a center; consolidate.
2. Decision Making
In outbound-centric blending, the decision to move an agent is usually made by monitoring information available through the CTI (Computer Telephone Integration) Combining data with voice systems in order to enhance telephone services. For example, automatic number identification (ANI) allows a caller's records to be retrieved from the database while the call is routed to the appropriate party. link. Typically, this will include data on inbound queues and agent skills. CTI links provide call and agent state change events and allow for external call control. However, they do not provide a complete view of the ACD to external sources. Additionally, routing within the ACD has become more complex, with multiskilled agents, calls queued to multiple skills and multisite call routing capabilities. This makes it much more difficult for an external system, such as an outbound call management system, to estimate the true wait time of a call in queue. Likewise, an external system must view each call within a queue as having the same value, while the inbound system may have additional information about the caller and his or her value to the enterprise. Essentially, an outbound system using a CTI link to make blending decisions is analogous to peeking through one window of a large house and trying to determine what's happening in every room. There is a partial view and some information available, but there are many blind spots that may hide important details. The key to improvement lies in having the most comprehensive information available to the system that is making the blending decision.
Today's contact centers are required to support open standards Specifications for hardware and software that are developed by a standards organization or a consortium involved in supporting a standard. Available to the public for developing compliant products, open standards imply "open systems;" that an existing component in a system can be replaced which allow other systems, such as e-mail and chat, to provide data feeds and define and invoke To activate a program, routine, function or process. business rules--thus enabling universal queuing and call blending. By tightly integrating an outbound system and treating it as just another channel, you end the data isolation of the outbound dialer and give the call management software a more holistic view. The decision to pull an agent from outbound to handle an important queued customer is identical, regardless of whether the customer is queued on an inbound voice call or a chat session. The contact center can now optimize every customer interaction, improve customer satisfaction and provide consistent, personalized per·son·al·ize
tr.v. per·son·al·ized, per·son·al·iz·ing, per·son·al·iz·es
1. To take (a general remark or characterization) in a personal manner.
2. To attribute human or personal qualities to; personify. service across all contact center channels. Because the decision-making has been moved from the outbound dialer to a centralized routing engine, blending decisions can be made across multiple inbound and outbound telephony switches.
2) Consolidated Reporting
More informed blending decisions are not the only benefit of blended information integration. Shared data provide the basis for achieving consolidated real-time and historical reports. The lack of consolidated reporting has proven to be a significant problem in call centers with standalone stand·a·lone
Self-contained and usually independently operating: a standalone computer terminal. inbound and outbound operations. While it is common for multichannel Using two or more paths for transmission or processing. It can refer to a variety of architectures including (1) multiple I/O channels between the CPU and peripheral devices, (2) multiple wires in a cable, (3) multiple "logical" channels within a single wire or fiber or (4) multiple contact management systems to provide reports on inbound contacts across channels, in many cases, data related to outbound activity are generated by a separate system using separate metrics metrics Managed care A popular term for standards by which the quality of a product, service, or outcome of a particular form of Pt management is evaluated. See TQM. . Without a mechanism for combining inbound and outbound calling data, it becomes difficult to derive complete business intelligence, taking into account all customer transactions, regardless of what channel or direction of contact. Through integration, contact centers no longer have to retrieve report data from two systems and try to tie all the information together, a necessity when agent duties can span inbound and outbound call handling within a single shift.
The first step to producing consolidated reports is to store both the inbound and outbound data in a common database so information can be easily viewed and summarized. Over the last decade, reporting has become more advanced and complex. Where simple printed reports were once the standard, today's reports have evolved into complex data analysis, complete with drill downs, "what if" scenarios, trend analysis and consolidation of data into key performance indicators Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are financial and non-financial metrics used to quantify objectives to reflect strategic performance of an organization. KPIs are used in Business Intelligence to assess the present state of the business and to prescribe a course of action. . Having the data for all channels in a single repository makes it possible to perform complex analysis across all channels, enabling centers to measure and manage agents in a more sophisticated manner.
With this in place, supervisors can easily classify clas·si·fy
tr.v. clas·si·fied, clas·si·fy·ing, clas·si·fies
1. To arrange or organize according to class or category.
2. To designate (a document, for example) as confidential, secret, or top secret. their agents into groups. One group of agents may have shorter-than-average handle times for voice calls, but longer-than-average handle times for chat--perhaps indicating a need for typing skills training. On the other hand, there may be groups of agents who have a high success rate on handling outbound calls, but a low success rate on inbound calls. Perhaps these agents feel more comfortable "pitching" someone on the benefits of a product than they do handling a distraught dis·traught
1. Deeply agitated, as from emotional conflict.
2. Mad; insane.
[Middle English, alteration of distract, past participle of distracten, caller who needs assistance. As it becomes easier to measure key performance indicators across channels, agent skills can be defined and improved at a more granular granular /gran·u·lar/ (gran´u-lar) made up of or marked by presence of granules or grains.
1. Composed or appearing to be composed of granules or grains.
2. level. For example, Agent "X" is primarily outbound, but can do inbound in a pinch and should only do chat as a last resort. Or, Agent "Y" should be moved to inbound as soon as service levels for sales contacts exceed a certain threshold, requiring a person with the skills to handle voice or chat. These more granular details can then drive decisions on blending, staffing, training and routing.
3) Right Agent, Right Time
Sophisticated routing that takes into account agent skills, location and contact channel is now a must for today's contact centers, driving more responsive, focused and effective customer interactions, and efficient use of resources. Integrating these routing capabilities across inbound and outbound activities enables proactive customer service while also providing improved agent utilization.
Consider for a moment the use of proactive customer service in the travel and hospitality industry. Advanced routing provides the ability to ensure the right agent is available at the right time to deliver the highest quality customer service possible. For example, it enables outbound agents to proactively alert your most valued customers about flight delays or changes, promoting customer loyalty and alleviating inbound backups from the inevitable increase in customer calls later in the day. In other cases, scheduled callback An authentication technique that calls the sender back. After connection is made, the receiving side breaks the connection and calls the sender to ensure that the logon was made from the authorized computer. Callback prevents a stolen ID and password from being used on a different machine. functionality reduces customer frustration with hold times during high call volumes by offering them the option of a callback at another time. This concurrently enables outbound agents to pick up the slack 1. (operating system) slack - Internal fragmentation. Space allocated to a disk file but not actually used to store useful information.
2. (jargon) slack when call volumes are high, and offer greater convenience to the customer.
When inbound and outbound routing is coordinated, agents can be more effectively utilized based on real-time occurrences in the contact center. This is not about blending agent skills, per se. Typically, very different skill sets are required for either inbound or outbound customer interactions. This is about blending the management of inbound and outbound calls so that the most appropriate agents are being matched more specifically to each customer need.
4) Holistic Workforce Management Workforce Management (WFM) encompasses all the responsibilities for maintaining a productive and happy workforce. Sometimes referred to as HRMS systems, or even the larger ERP systems (Oracle, PeopleSoft, SAP). There are many software vendors within this space.
Advanced agent management that carefully balances forecasted call volumes with agent schedules is another function that needs to move out of inbound and outbound silos. Holistic workforce management must take into account both inbound and outbound staffing so that even greater efficiencies and cost savings can be derived from the system.
Workforce performance analytics based on integrated data spanning inbound and outbound activities is another way to drive new gains in agent optimization optimization
Field of applied mathematics whose principles and methods are used to solve quantitative problems in disciplines including physics, biology, engineering, and economics. . Most contact center managers must work very hard just to manage day-to-day scheduling and agent troubleshooting Troubleshooting is a form of problem solving. It is the systematic search for the source of a problem so that it can be solved. Troubleshooting is often a process of elimination - eliminating potential causes of a problem. . Without the time and tools to analyze how they should modify operations to ensure there will be less need to rearrange re·ar·range
tr.v. re·ar·ranged, re·ar·rang·ing, re·ar·rang·es
To change the arrangement of.
re schedules or to deal with under- or over-staffing in the future, it is extremely difficult to continually improve performance. Should the routing scheme be changed? Should the company invest more hours in agent training? Forward-thinking workforce management should not only allow managers the time to ask these questions by automating labor-intensive manual tasks, it should also provide the tools to answer them.
Analytic solutions are available that are geared toward improving performance across the entire contact center. Analytical applications are designed to answer a pre-selected set of questions, not just aggregate collections of raw data. With a unified contact center, the time-consuming work of sorting through the data to search for what's relevant to both inbound and outbound operational and business requirements has already been done. These applications are capable of analyzing only what applies directly to the pressing concerns of the contact center in direct support of business objectives.
Workforce management solutions provide a detailed source of data regarding forecasts, schedules and schedule compliance. All of the advantages that analytics can offer, such as quick access to relevant information, job-specific displays and tools to communicate and take corrective action A corrective action is a change implemented to address a weakness identified in a management system. Normally corrective actions are instigated in response to a customer complaint, abnormal levels if internal nonconformity, nonconformities identified during an internal audit or are directly applicable to the processes of managing and motivating agents for maximum efficiency, whether inbound or outbound. Backed with strong analytics and advanced workforce management functionality, contact center managers can ensure that inbound service levels are kept high while outbound campaign goals are met.
5) Consolidated Administration
Consolidated administration is the final piece to the blended contact center puzzle. Even in an environment that has installed best-of-breed components, contact center supervisors are forced to use separate interfaces to administer and manage the inbound and outbound systems. This creates unnecessary overhead because administrators must be trained on multiple interfaces and duplicate agent information must be entered into two distinct systems. There is also the ongoing maintenance nightmare of keeping the two systems in sync as agents are hired, acquire new skills or are promoted to new roles. By creating a single point of administration, and more importantly, a single configuration repository shared by the inbound and outbound systems, duplication duplication /du·pli·ca·tion/ (doo-pli-ka´shun)
1. the act or process of doubling, or the state of being doubled.
2. of effort is eliminated. This does not mean that all configuration items must or will be shared. In fact, outbound-centric configuration information such as trunk group definitions should be administered directly on the dialer and not be part of the shared configuration. What is vitally important is that all the configuration data that are used by more than one system either for blending or for consolidating reports be stored in one location, administered through one interface and available to all systems.
Implemented intelligently, a truly unified contact center should allow companies to best utilize resources across inbound and outbound operations, optimize every customer interaction, improve customer satisfaction and provide consistent, personalized service across all contact center channels. At the same time, it should provide scalability and reliability to support the most demanding enterprises today and well into the future.
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BY Larry Mark Larry Mark is an American footballer currently a free agent. He plays right wing.
In 2005 and 2006 Mark played for American University in which he scored 11 goals and 7 assists in 37 matches. In 2007 Mark played for Crystal Palace Baltimore. , SER Ser serine.
smooth endoplasmic reticulum.
serine. Solutions, Inc. and Paul Lang, Aspect Communications Corp.
A call center industry veteran, Paul Lang, VP of Product Line Management for Aspect, is responsible for ensuring the successful introduction of new Aspect products to market. Prior to this position, Mr. Lang was VP of Call Center solutions with oversight over Aspect's suite of ACD products. Aspect Communications Corporation (www.aspect.com) is a provider of contact center solutions and services that enable businesses to manage and optimize customer communications.
Lawrence P. Mark, CTO (Chief Technical Officer) The executive responsible for the technical direction of an organization. See CIO and salary survey. of SER Solutions, Inc. (www.ser.com), brings more than 20 years of technical development and managerial experience to his position. As CTO, he leads the company's strategic planning Strategic planning is an organization's process of defining its strategy, or direction, and making decisions on allocating its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people. and technology direction initiatives. SER Solutions, Inc. provides software solutions to help companies achieve efficiencies, maximize workplace productivity and enhance customer service.