By Alan Tucker
The federal “Cash for Clunkers” program got my attention. To say I drive an older car is being polite. I have to unlock the doors, shift the gears, and roll the windows up and down by hand. The car doesn’t talk to me if I leave the lights on. The glove box should be called the map room. I measure time getting up to expressway speed in radio commercials, not seconds.
With 2010 looming like an eighteen-wheeler bearing down on a subcompact, the owner of a telemessaging call center shouldn’t be driving my kind of car. If you aren’t already using message-taking software, it’s time to cash in your “clunker” and get a new model specifically designed to improve your bottom line.
Paperless messaging systems are nothing new. The assortment of message-taking software applications on the market is many and varied. Some are basic transportation. Others come with more amenities than a banker’s limo. Here’s a list of questions to consider when shopping for a new system.
Base Model: Capturing a message is the easiest element of the equation. A messaging application also should include the latest tools that simplify and expedite the messaging process. At the very least, a modern messaging application should include most of the capabilities of your average word-processing application, like spell-checking, a dictionary, and automatic case conversion.
Does the solution allow the user to dictate the elements of each message and the order in which each is encountered? Each client has their own set of needs and expectations. Your messaging platform should enable you to customize your message forms to meet those needs and surpass those expectations.
Can the solution make it possible to design different message forms for different purposes? People call your clients for a variety of reasons. One message form cannot satisfy every need, but one form can serve several clients. Make sure the system lets you easily copy scripts from one client to another and create templates for different types of messages.
Lastly, can the message form be easily edited to add that extra question that one client needs, and delete the question that another client doesn’t want?
Advanced Features: Computerized message taking has opened a new world of possibilities and at the same time has raised the expectations of computer users, including agents and call center clients. Look for additional value when evaluating messaging software. Kick the tires and look under the hood. Then consider the accessories and options.
Can the messaging system automatically insert a caller’s name and phone number into a message form based on the Automatic Number Identification (ANI), the caller ID of the incoming call? Keystrokes take time, and time is money.
Does the solution include the capability to include on-screen instructions with each field in the message form? Labels serve a purpose, but they can’t include everything an agent needs to know about a client’s business when answering a call.
Does the software allow you to customize the delivery process for each client? Taking a message is only part of the task. The message still needs to be delivered. Your messaging software should be able to accommodate this need with a great degree of flexibility. Every client has at least three contact methods – office phone, office email, and personal phone – and most have many more. Each client likely has a preferred message format, if not a firmly established procedure, for receiving his or her messages.
Does the model you’re drooling over include all these features? If not, move on down the sales lot. Purchasing messaging software should not be viewed as a business expense but as a business opportunity.
The Deluxe Package: You wouldn’t buy a pickup truck without a trailer hitch, so why settle for message-taking software that can’t do anything else? Interoperability among common applications soon will be the norm in messaging software.
You learned long ago that it’s important to keep your calendar, telephone, and email address books – as well as meeting and appointment schedules – current and up-to-date. Your clients learned the same lesson and probably face these realities on a broader basis.
Why can’t your message-taking software include the same types of tools you use to manage your days and your business? Better yet, the application should be able to integrate with popular programs for managing personal contact information, scheduling appointments, compiling calendars for on-call coverage, and other activities.
If keystrokes take time and time is money, why not look for a message-taking application that capitalizes on this reality? A telephone agent logs on and off at a workstation, so look for a messaging platform that captures those keystrokes and reads them like a time clock. Messaging software should not only capture messages, it should also be able to capture statistics and present a method for making use of that information.
This statistical element goes far beyond call durations and destinations. A message platform should be equipped to provide a broad range of management reports. It should be capable of generating client billing information and/or producing the actual invoices.
The selection and range of messaging software solutions will increase as the months and miles roll by. Selecting a messaging platform is a big decision that will only get more difficult the longer you put it off. Don’t allow profitable opportunities pass you by – become a part of the modern message-taking world.
Alan Tucker, a software documentation editor for Amtelco, has written for several daily newspapers and is a regular contributor to Connections Magazine. His first car was a white 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air with four doors and an automatic transmission.
[From Connection Magazine – October 2009]