State of the art Featured

8:00pm EDT July 29, 2006
From databases and call management software to workstations and headsets, call center technology should be able to meet any and every one of your needs. Some providers even make available such “back-end” services as fulfilling orders, adjusting accounts and completing transactions initiated via fax or e-mail.

“The flexibility to customize solutions is the key to it all,” says Michael Van Scyoc, senior vice president of IT client services for InfoCision. “One size does not fit all. But that doesn’t mean you have to start at ground zero to create a custom solution that’s cost effective and timely.”

Smart Business talked to Van Scyoc about current technology and how it can positively affect customers and the bottom line at the same time.

What state-of-the-art technology is available to call center customers today?
Integrated Voice Response (IVR) can fully address caller needs and leave them feeling great about the call. It gives callers simple, efficient options for accessing information and doesn’t require a communicator or operator. Its chief advantages are giving callers 24/7 access to your products and services and providing an efficient, economical solution for fielding frequently asked questions.

Remote call monitoring allows analysts, managers and clients to monitor a program’s calls from any location. This gives them the opportunity to hear communicators in action and evaluate their performance while listening to the script and making any adjustments they feel are necessary.

Digital Audio Recording Technology (DART) allows you to digitally record every call in its entirety. This service is available at any time in a variety of formats or a proprietary format that ensures privacy.

Automated voice messaging allows you to speak to your customers and donors easily and cost-effectively. It’s quick, inexpensive and a great way to generate inbound call volume and improve direct mail response. The benefits of automated voice messaging include more contacts in less time, increased consistency in your message and higher inbound call volume.

Lastly, some call centers can build and host Web sites with features such as dynamic content, credit card processing and electronic shopping carts.

What technologies have the most positive impact on a call center experience for customers?
The right customer relationship management (CRM) solution is very important. Some possible features of CRM solutions include comprehensive customer profiles, screen pops and script on screen. Your CRM or call center information system must provide your communicators with the right information to handle your customers’ needs efficiently.

Just because a CRM solution is rich in features and provides unlimited access to information doesn’t mean it’s going to have a positive impact on your customers’ experience. If your communicators have to navigate through too much unnecessary information while trying to help your customers, the experience won’t be positive for either of them. If it’s not a positive experience for your call center staff, it probably won’t be for your customers either.

Also, make sure the CRM solution complements your existing business processes. Your business shouldn’t have to revolve around the CRM <m> it needs to be able to adapt and revolve around your business.

A company with advanced technology should be able to custom-build a CRM solution for your program or seamlessly integrate your existing applications into its call center technology.

From the standpoint of running an efficient, high-quality call center, what technologies impact the most?
A call blending solution improves efficiency and contributes to higher customer satisfaction. With an automated blending solution, if communicators are handling outbound calls and they get an influx of inbound calls, they are automatically diverted to handle those inbound calls that have a higher priority. This maximizes utilization of communicators and reduces or eliminates the time your customers have to wait on hold.

A comprehensive quality assurance program drives a high-quality call center. A good program is going to require supporting technology like remote call monitoring, digital audio recording and quality scoring software. Without state-of-the-art technology, any quality assurance program is going to be limited.

How does state-of-the-art technology translate to a higher return on investment?
It makes the entire call process more efficient. If you provide the right information at the right time to your call center staff, your customers’ needs are going to be satisfied with less time on the phone.

Usually companies are well aware of the cost of their call center operations per minute or per hour. They are often looking at ways to reduce these costs, but fail to look for ways to reduce the talk time.

Also, investing in a flexible call center technology platform will also pay off in the long run by reducing the cost to modify call center applications when the business needs change.

MICHAEL VAN SCYOC is senior vice president of IT client services for InfoCision. Reach him at (330) 668-1400 or