By Connie Johnson
Outsourcing inbound calls to call centers has become one of today’s key business strategies for many organizations. “Businesses are embracing business process outsourcing (BPO) because to survive — and ultimately prosper – they must…offload core and non-core functions to experts in those fields so they can dedicate internal expertise to the business’ core competencies,” according to Dan McDade in Five Silver Bullets for Revenue Growth. BPO has made appointment scheduling and event registration commonly requested services in today’s call center.
Whether outsourcing is full time or after hours, appointment scheduling and event registration clients have traditionally been difficult for call centers to coordinate and keep up-to-date. The biggest issue to these services has commonly been keeping multiple systems mirrored and current and delivering timely updates to clients.
The development of Web-based solutions has made providing these services to call center clients not only feasible, but profitable as well. Appointment scheduling and event registration solutions allow call centers to increase the services they offer and fulfill more clients’ needs. Potential appointment scheduling clients range from the traditional trade industry (such as plumbers and electricians), medical arena (physicians, fitness, health, and other independent instructors and counselors), massage therapists, real estate agents, and sales representatives. The need for event registration services includes traditional classes, seminars, and conferences, in addition to tournaments, sporting events, and fundraisers.
Internet access is the key to efficiently and effectively managing these types of clients. Web-based systems allow easy, real-time access from multiple locations, so that the client can access the schedule as well as call center agents, all using the same up-to-date records. Many Web-based scripting tools include the ability to schedule appointments and register event attendees.
These tools, although mostly Web-based, are often applications that you install in-house and usually allow the call center to customize the agent script to each client’s needs. Some applications allow the Web-based script to be accessed from a client’s website for their customers’ self-service. Since these applications are on the call center’s equipment, the call center has control of them, usually purchasing them outright, so there is no monthly fee. Since a call center probably uses the application for other scripted accounts, the agents will be familiar with the user interface and therefore require even less training.
Other applications are available through an application service provider (ASP). These are commonly known as hosted solutions. Again, access is through the Internet to the hosted site and call center agents and clients both log on to the same central scheduling or registration application through the Internet. There is no software to purchase or maintain with these systems, but they do incur a monthly access fee. The fees will vary from a flat fee, usually per schedule or event, to a variable rate depending on how much an individual call center’s schedules or events are accessed.
Whether using an in-house application or a hosted application, these tools simplify what can be a complex call process with intuitive and easy-to-use scripts or applications. This means a short learning curve for agents. Although the features will vary from application to application, some of the common and most useful capabilities include credit card processing, schedules for multiple resources, multiple appointment or event types, lengths and recurrences, prevention of double booking and conflicts, and generation of confirmations and reminders.
The growth of small and medium businesses that are looking to outsource appointment scheduling and event registration is a larger opportunity than ever before. It provides a wealth of new opportunities for call centers to service a new and expanding market. The Web-based applications that are now available, whether in-house or hosted, make efficiently processing appointment scheduling and event registration calls easier and more profitable than it has ever been.
Connie Johnson is the eCreator Product Manager at Amtelco in McFarland, WI.
[From Connection Magazine – September 2006]