By Kevin Beale
The days of pink message slips are long gone. Today’s telemessaging call center clients are demanding more and more sophisticated and intelligent message processing. How can we keep up with these demands? Call center systems, both software and hardware, have to provide your staff with the intelligent tools they need to meet client demands.
Telemessaging call center agents have to be extremely adept at changing personalities and skills for each call they handle. On one call, they may answer for a small service company to provide after-hours customer service. On another, they answer for a Fortune 500 company, look up information on their website, and place an order for one of their products.
Providers of call center systems essentially become partners in each of their customers’ businesses. The success of the call center depends, to a large degree, on how well the system handles their calls, captures information, and forwards that data to clients.
These systems have to be very proficient at gathering information from callers and then quickly processing that information for the call center’s clients. Dispatching information is one area that has changed tremendously. Telemessaging clients no longer accept having the call center take messages and hold them until they pick them up later in the day. Clients want the information immediately. They also want to control how they receive the messages based on the time of day, their current location, or the type of device they may be using. In other words, clients demand intelligent messaging.
Kelli Harrigan of Spectrum Communication Services, Inc., a teleservices company in Brookfield, Wisconsin, had this to say when asked about how messaging and dispatching are evolving: “Clients call us saying that they just want basic [telemessaging] but upon further examination, we find that they usually want to build in exceptions to virtually every rule, and need to be educated as to what their options, and our capabilities are. We have very few clients left where we truly ‘just’ take a basic message. Our clients’ requirements have become more sophisticated, often requiring customized scripting, which can often get very complex. And quite often we are doing more screening for the clients – between spam emails, telemarketing calls and the various media, information overload is rampant. This can provide us with an opportunity to be a ‘screener’ for some of our clients, allowing them to focus on the things that are important to them and we take care of the rest.
“All of this, in turn, requires us to be constantly vigilant in our training and our programming of accounts, to strive to make things as consistent as possible for training purposes while still meeting the customization needs of our clients. With regards to dispatching, our clients today are also more used to instant messaging, email, etc. They expect that every action we take should be immediate, which, on our part, requires us to automate as much of the [backend] as possible to eliminate agent decision making and potential error.”
Some of the critical pieces for any telemessaging call center’s toolkit include:
- Message scripting: Scripting the message-taking process has become increasingly important using message templates and forms, controlling the flow of gathering information for a message. This process is becoming more and more sophisticated with the introduction of branching, database lookups, and validation of information. Flexibility and ease-of-use are the keys here.
- Operator dispatching: After a message is taken, it must be dispatched to the client. Very often this is handled by agents who make decisions about the best method to dispatch the message. Providing agents with the needed information to select the appropriate method and the ability to quickly perform the action is critical.
- Automated dispatching: The dispatching of messages to many clients can be automated. This reduces the burden on agents by allowing the system to handle the dispatching process.
- On-call scheduling: Many clients assign coverage for various departments based on the time of day or day of the week. You need to be able to quickly locate whom to reach for each situation. Automated on-call scheduling is a great tool to manage dispatching messages to these clients. An automated on-call schedule can display to whom a message should be dispatched and allow the operator to quickly contact the person.
- Automated reminders and follow-up: Dispatch attempts are not always successful. Clients are not always reached on the first attempt. In these situations, your messaging system needs to provide automated reminders to assist the operators with following up on the dispatching process to ensure that the client gets the message in a timely manner.
- Flexible dispatch methods: It seems like every day a new device is introduced. Clients expect their call center to be able to send messages to their new devices. The devices include pagers, cellular phones with Web and email support, PCs with Web and email, and PDAs.
- IVR (Interactive Voice Response): Many routine calls that are currently handled by agents can be automated with IVR scripting. This can reduce the burden on call center staff, allowing them to focus on the tasks that do require their involvement. IVR tools like call scripting, text-to-speech, and speech recognition are critical for today’s telemessaging call center.
To address these needs, Spectrum Communication Services is using the Infinity and eCreator call center systems from Amtelco. These systems provide Spectrum Communications Services with the toolkit they need to meet the unique needs of each of their clients. The future of telemessaging is strong. A human touch will always be required; the industry will continue to grow as long as we stay flexible. Now go and take an intelligent message!
Kevin Beale is Director R&D Software at Amtelco. For more information on Infinity and eCreator, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or email@example.com.
[From Connection Magazine – Jan/Feb 2004]