Contact Center Technology: Taking Call Centers into the 21st Century

As businesses around the world become more high-tech, they are turning to contact center technology to maintain productivity and continued success. The trend in contact center technology emerges at a time when business executives are trying to increase their bottom line and facilitate the processes between employees and consumers. This trend has taken the traditional call center and evolved it into what is known today as a contact center. The difference between the two is that traditional call centers typically support only telephone and fax operations. Very little infrastructure is in place to handle the needs of an Internet user. The new contact center expands its role to include Internet access, e-mail, text chat, Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP), video and interactive voice response (IVR).

This concept, also known as multimedia access, recognizes that customers can choose from a variety of media options when conducting business. The change to a mobile consumer lifestyle and the proliferation of handheld devices, cellular phones and laptop computers make it easy to place orders, ask questions and request support from anywhere at anytime. With fierce competition, Internet companies are positioning themselves to target the unhappy customers who fell through the cracks in the old business process and surfaced to share their bad experiences as well as search for alternative suppliers.

Las Vegas-based Advanced Information Systems (AIS) has developed two products to bring customer service into the 21st century. WebChat enables customers to communicate with agents immediately if they have any questions about products. Customers simply type in their questions on a vendor’s Web site and an agent responds with an answer. This access to an agent can mean the difference between a sale and a confused customer. If the customer doesn’t feel comfortable typing during a text chat, AIS has developed another product known as CallBack. With CallBack, the customer enters his or her telephone number on the Web site and sends a request for an agent to call that number.

Contact center technology also addresses the dilemma facing business executives trying to cut expenses. One of the biggest investments in a call center is obviously the cost of employees’ salaries and benefits. During a typical day in most call centers, a consistent pattern known as the "busy hour" is associated with incoming calls. A call center is staffed to support a percentage of those calls during that time period. When the busy hour ends, call center agents receive fewer calls, but need to stay around to handle the next busy hour. The result is a poor efficiency ratio, which leads to increased salary expense. On the other hand, a contact center makes efficient use of an agent’s time because, when telephone volume decreases, agents can be used to respond to e-mails, handle text chats, support outbound calling campaigns and use their time for other productive tasks. This results in less idle time and, if executed correctly, more satisfied customers. As an added bonus to the employer, contact center technology has the potential to reduce the number of employees due to the efficient use of each agent’s time.

AIS offers consulting services and installs software solutions for business users desiring call center or contact center technology. This technology allows companies to assemble contact facilities that include call management, sales and service automation, workflow and business process optimization. It also offers more sophisticated customer sales and service capabilities through integration with various software packages. Founded in 1987, AIS consults, designs, develops and implements applications in many areas, including advanced eCRM, CTI and VoIP, all of which enable contact centers to compete in the new e-business economy. AIS clients include many Fortune 1000 corporations, in fields from manufacturing to insurance and from telecommunications to finance, banking and credit card services.