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8:00pm EDT July 26, 2007

In today’s world, there is a lot more to inbound or outbound marketing than simply handling phone calls. In fact, a proactive partner with a good view of information technology can add a whole new dimension to a company’s call center efforts.

Michael Van Scyoc is responsible for all IT client services at InfoCision. He plays a pivotal role in deploying new technology to meet internal and client needs.

Smart Business asked him to share some innovative IT ideas.

What is hot today in IT for your clients?

One of the hottest topics has become business intelligence. Retail and financial industries have led the way with great success. Supporting the call center with business intelligence will provide improvements in both productivity and performance. By analyzing past patterns, you can better predict the future.

We are experiencing productivity improvements from our best-time-to-call business intelligence. Past outbound call results indicate when to call a certain individual in order to increase the likelihood of successfully connecting with the right party decision-maker.

We also see performance improvements with increased response rates by advanced data augmentation and more precise segmentation and data modeling. Advanced data modeling on a prospecting list works in two ways: First, you are able to identify and focus on leads that statistically have a higher propensity to respond to a given appeal, and second, you can remove with a higher degree of precision those leads that aren’t cost effective to pursue. Both have a very positive affect on the overall response rate while retaining the maximum number of leads in your list.

Can IT really make a difference in a world that revolves around plain old telephone service (POTS)?

Absolutely. Plain old telephone service is merely one form of the media used in a marketing or customer service program. Business intelligence and sophisticated customer database management systems can add great value without being hindered by POTS. Also, just because you are limited by POTS to your end customers, doesn’t mean that you cannot implement creative telephony strategies in conjunction with the carrier networks or the latest premise-based telephony systems.

What are some of the new things in IT software for call center clients?

It’s not really new, but I’m surprised by how many call centers haven’t implemented a fully automated inbound/outbound blending solution. Many call centers running both inbound and outbound operations utilize disparate call center systems for each operation. You can gain greater staff utilization and productivity if call center staff transitioned automatically and seamlessly from inbound to outbound, and vice versa, as the changing needs dictate. If you are doing this manually, you experience downtime during manual transitions as well as lower customer service levels.

Are there hardware innovations, too?

Perhaps the most exciting thing happening with hardware is virtualization. We are able to reduce the overall number of servers needed to support a business or call center process because of operating system advancements that enable us to have multiple virtual servers on a single physical server. Server processing power and capacity continues to grow, and we are able to take advantage of that with virtualization, which leads to long-term lower cost of ownership.

Can you share a success story or two where a new use of IT paid off?

Several come to mind. For one of our fundraising clients, we applied a demographic data overlay to its lapsed donor file. Sometimes we look at things like age, length of residence, race, religion, etc. In this case, we used business intelligence that places individuals into one of 24 different consumer groups, which we used to segment the file. Again, we were able to focus on the best prospects and increase the dollars raised per completed call.

We can also perform more intelligent routing of inbound calls by recognizing a customer before he or she is connected with someone in the call center. For one client, we compare the ANI [the phone number the caller is calling from] to a current customer database. Current customers are routed to our client’s call center, while we handle new prospects.

Do you come to clients with ideas, or should they approach you?

We are always open to our clients’ ideas, but typically we present new ideas to our clients. Many ideas can be implemented in a few weeks or even days. We start out with relatively simple ideas that can be implemented quickly. As we continue to raise the bar, things get more and more complex, which takes more time.

MICHAEL VAN SCYOC is senior vice president of IT client services. Reach him at mikev@infocision.com or (330) 668-1400. In business for 25 years, InfoCision Management Corporation is the second largest privately held teleservices company and a leading provider of customer care services, commercial sales and marketing for a variety of Fortune 500 companies and smaller businesses. InfoCision is also a leader of inbound and outbound marketing for nonprofit, religious and political organizations. InfoCision operates 28 call centers at 12 locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For more information, visit www.infocision.com.