Tag Archives: Software Articles

Vendor Profile: Szeto Technologies



Szeto Technologies has been a leading vendor of answering equipment and communication systems since 1986. As the industry has evolved extensively over the last thirty-two years, Szeto has continued to remain on the leading edge of technology in providing solutions in voice-plus data processing and telephone switching. Technology has certainly changed over time, but Szeto’s greatest strength has not changed—they continue to provide their customers with turnkey, customized communication systems to meet their client’s needs.Szeto Technologies recently added the capability of automatically handling the check-in and check-out procedures using satellite SPOT (satellite positioning and tracking) devices. Click To Tweet

Call Linx & SSS-100

Powered by Linux, Szeto’s Call Linx TAS system is built to be reliable, flexible, and user-friendly. Through the years, Call Linx has expanded add-on features to complement its traditional telephone answering service applications. In 2013 Szeto Technologies modified the generic Asterisk software and tailored it to be their Call Linx telephony switch, the SSS-100. This approach replaced their proprietary hardware strategy in their telephone switch and allows them to provide redundancy and reliability using virtual servers. Another advantage of adopting Asterisk is the freedom of having multiple technology suppliers.

The company’s latest wireless features secure text messaging for HIPAA compliance and employee safety monitoring for remote or isolated workers. The popularity of webchat has grown in the past years, and Szeto Technologies makes it easy to provide businesses with this feature, which was once available only to large corporations.

The story of Call Linx, SSS-100, and Linux is still evolving. The TAS service industry is striding into the future in full force. So is Szeto Technologies.

Secured Text Messaging App

Szeto’s secured mobile app ensures that messages transported via wireless mobile devices are secured for HIPAA compliance. This protects medical patient privacy and personal health information.

In conjunction with the Szeto-designed mobile app, the company also has special APIs (application program interfaces) designed to interface with third-party vendors such as TigerText, OnPage, eVigil, Qlig, Doc Halo, Secured Bridge, and Med Tunnel.

Employee Safety Monitoring

Employee safety is a concern for most employers. All employers are expected to take reasonable precautions to ensure the safety and the well-being of their employees. Workers in remote areas, unsupervised, working with dangerous equipment, or in hostile environments need assurance of their safety and well-being. Business owners must offer the workers additional means of security, by routinely monitoring their safety in the field.

Szeto’s employee safety monitoring provides preventive monitoring of employees working in potentially dangerous environments. In the event of an employee found in danger or requiring emergency help, the system will trigger a rescue procedure to alert the appropriate personnel for human intervention. Those who can benefit from such monitoring are organizations with workers in remote locations or dangerous environments, handlers of dangerous and hazardous materials (such as oil and gas field workers), maintenance crews in remote areas (electricity, telephone, antenna sites), employees vulnerable to possible hostilities (visiting nurses, social workers), and security guards.

Features include:

  • Automatic identification of current or next work location by satellite or mobile apps
  • Automatic detection of a worker-down situation
  • Check-in devices (telephone, SMS text, and mobile APP)
  • Alert methods (telephone, SMS text, email, and pager)
  • Time-stamped logs of transactions and activities
  • Web access to work team status

Szeto Technologies recently added the capability of automatically handling the check-in and check-out procedures using satellite SPOT (satellite positioning and tracking) devices. This monitoring equipment is a stand-alone system but can also be tailored to integrate with existing data equipment.

Web Chat

Web chat enables your operators to offer online help via text chat for people visiting your clients’ websites. Szeto has recently enhanced its web chat to be friendlier, including the option of displaying the agent’s picture. While large companies can have their own agents for web chat support, this may be too expensive for small- and medium-sized businesses. Szeto’s web chat gives call centers the opportunity to supply this feature to clients who can benefit from this opportunity.

SIP Service

Szeto Technologies has partnered with Pulsar 360 to offer SIP services to its customers. The company also recently developed software to directly interface with SIP services without relying on any third-party middle piece of conversion equipment. This eliminates a potential source of hardware failure and the necessity of providing spare parts, not to mention saving having to rent the equipment. If a customer already has the setup with gateway arrangements, they can continue with that approach.

Szeto TechnologiesFor additional information please contact Szeto at info@szeto.ca or 877-697-9386.

Best Practices for Surviving a Ransomware Attack


Startel, Professional Teledata, Alston Tascom


By Jim Graham

In 1989 the first known ransomware attack occurred when twenty thousand floppy disks containing malware were distributed to researchers across more than ninety countries. In 2017 Symantec recorded an average of 1,242 ransomware complaints per day, not including the infamous WannaCry and NotPetya attacks. According to a survey conducted by Malwarebytes, one in six organizations impacted by a ransomware attack were down for twenty-five hours or more.

A recent attack on one of our clients was a painful reminder that ransomware continues to be a genuine threat to individuals and businesses worldwide. Our client received the virus upon clicking on a bad link in a “spear phishing” email. Their business was down for twenty-four hours before they were able to process calls.

The longer a business is down, the harder—and costlier—it is to recover. The financial impact can be just as staggering, with one hour of inactivity costing small businesses as much as $8,500. That doesn’t include lost business opportunities or the personnel cost associated with downtime.

Common Best Practices

There are many best practices, tips, and recommendations to mitigate a ransomware attack. The options can be overwhelming. However, you can lessen the likelihood you’ll become another statistic and decrease the impact of an attack by implementing these best practices.

1. Be Educated: Staff training is the first and best line of defense against ransomware. In most cases, systems are infected by user-initiated behavior such as clicking a malicious link in an email, opening an executable email attachment, or unknowingly giving a password to a potential hacker.

Educate staff about recognizing suspicious links and attachments. Phishing expeditions have become more sophisticated and targeted. These “spear phishing” attempts typically include client-specific information you’d assume no one else knows, making them much more believable. Never click on email links unless you’re absolutely certain of the identity of the sender.The longer a business is down, the harder—and costlier—it is to recover. Click To Tweet

2. Be Prepared: No matter how well-trained your staff is, be prepared for the possibility of a ransomware infection. This is where robust system and data backup strategies become essential. It’s critical to backup your data, software, and configuration settings frequently. Without a backup, you could permanently lose data. Create three copies, on two different media, and keep one copy stored securely off-site. Then test all backups to ensure you can successfully recover data.

A detailed incident response plan can make these instances a little less daunting. Take the time to put together an incident response plan, and test it each year. Also, consider investing in a business continuity and disaster recovery solution. These solutions minimize downtime and help ensure customer data remains secure and accessible 24/7.

Finally, in the unfortunate event you’re impacted by ransomware, consider enlisting the assistance of qualified IT professionals skilled at recovering from an attack. They’ll be able to get your company up and running and help minimize the impact on operations.

3. Stay Proactive: Once staff is well-trained and you have a strategy in place, continually monitor other areas of your business that may be vulnerable to ransomware. Implement these approaches to stay proactive:

  • Update operating system patches and antivirus software. On average, Microsoft releases several “critical or security”-related updates each month.
  • Limit administrative rights to only those that need to have them.
  • Deploy strong spam filters that block executable files.
  • Consider using a secure email gateway (SEG) in addition to your email client filter.
  • Set firewalls to block known malicious IP addresses.
  • Lock down your firewall from inside out to prevent data from being extracted.

HIPAA and Other Compliance Implications

A breach caused by a ransomware infection can have significant HIPAA and other compliance-related implications. Whether or not data has been taken, a successful attack is still considered a breach by HIPAA standards. Be sure you’re maintaining backups and log files for all systems that touch electronic protected health information (ePHI), because your company security policies will be subject to review by auditors. Proper HIPAA training is also essential in protecting ePHI.

Disclaimer

No matter how well prepared your business is, you can still be a victim of ransomware. However, following these recommendations will lessen the likelihood and impact of an attack.

StartelJim Graham co-founded Professional Teledata (PTD) in 1993 and served as vice president until the merger with Startel in September 2015. As the CTO of PTD, Jim draws upon his thirty years of computer and software development experience and twenty-three years of call center experience. Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom provide unified communications, business process automation, and performance management solutions and services. They leverage their solutions and industry knowledge to empower organizations to improve agent productivity, reduce operating costs, and increase revenues. For more information, call 949-863-8776 or visit www.startel.com.

AnswerNet Acquires Synergy Solutions

AnswerNet acquired Synergy Solutions in an asset transaction. Synergy Solutions specializes in high-touch consultative customer service and sales support programs for many of the nation’s leading brands.

Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, Synergy Solutions was established in 1999 and focuses on innovative customer interaction solutions. This allows Synergy Solutions to provide superior results for its clients in fast-growth retail and e-commerce, as well as traditional verticals such as healthcare, insurance, and financial services.

Gary Pudles, president and CEO of AnswerNet stated, “Synergy Solutions furthers AnswerNet’s continued growth in high-touch customer engagement space for well-known companies and brands. AnswerNet’s customer care business has been growing exponentially over the last three years, and adding the incredible Synergy team further deepens our strength in providing solutions that help our clients continually stand out in providing support to their customers.”

Synergy’s president and co-founder Lori Fentem is staying with AnswerNet and will work closely with Pudles on building and executing AnswerNet’s growth strategy. Fentem is a well-regarded leader in the contact center industry. “We are thrilled by the opportunity to become part of the AnswerNet family,” says Fentem. “This acquisition allows Synergy the ability to continue to offer high-touch customer experience solutions. I believe that integrating with AnswerNet will present the ideal environment for Synergy employees and clients.”

New All-in-One Spectrum / Prism II Server

Amtelco hardware and software engineers designed the new Prism II server to run Spectrum, Prism II, and other applications from this one server. Some of the key features or the Amtelco/Telescan designed server are:

  • Redundant power supplies
  • Redundant long life solid state disk drives—480GB disk drives mounted in easily removable/replaceable hot swappable carriers, making for easy maintenance if maintenance is ever required.
  • Rack mountable 2U chassis
  • Windows Server 2016 with up to two virtual machines
  • 2GHz Intel Xeon quad-core processor
  • 32GB of RAM
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Additional 1TB hard drive for storage
  • Redundant 500 watt hot-swappable power supplies
  • Front USB panel and DVD drive
  • Intel RST (rapid storage technology) RAID management console allowing easy drive and RAID array management

In other Amtelco news, the Genesis Just Say It feature enhances the IS Navigation Menu feature by enabling callers to speak responses in addition to pressing telephone keypad digits. The Just Say It Navigation Menu features give callers the ability to access information and conduct transactions using either speech recognition and/or live operator involvement.

Genesis Just Say It automatic speech recognition applications simplify and speed telephone calls. The Genesis Just Say It applications listen to what a caller says to interact with the caller and understand the caller’s meaning based on pre-defined parameters. The Genesis Just Say It applications make it possible to increase call handling capabilities and call traffic volumes while decreasing labor costs and other operating expenses.

AmtelcoFor more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148, or info@amtelco.com.

How Secure Is Your Contact Center?



Why Your Agents May Be Putting Customer Data at Risk

By Tim Critchley

Despite the rise in automated, self-servicing technologies in contact centers, many customers still prefer to pay bills and receive support by speaking with a live agent or customer service representative (CSR). Live agents continue to play a significant role in the customer experience, as they provide more personalized service and help streamline payment transactions. However, agents can also pose threats to contact center security, especially when they handle and process sensitive customer data.

To determine how personally identifiable information (PII) such as payment card numbers are captured, Semafone surveyed five hundred global contact center agents across a multitude of industries. The survey confirmed that contact centers still rely on outdated data collection practices, making organizations vulnerable to security threats and putting customer PII at risk for brand-damaging data breaches. Here are the most common ways callers share their PII with agents, along with the security challenges that accompany them.A single data breach can cost more than $3.6 million and jeopardize your reputation and customers’ trust. Click To Tweet

Reading PII Aloud

According to the survey, 72 percent of agents who collect credit and debit card information or social security numbers (SSNs) require customers to read their information out loud over the phone. This creates several risks, as the information is exposed to the agent on the line, call recordings, and even nearby eavesdroppers.

While most agents are honest, hardworking people, it is possible that a rogue agent could copy down a customer’s credit card number for fraudulent use. Or numbers may be stored on a call recording system that could be breached. Some contact centers rely on “pause and resume” or “stop/start” systems to pause recordings while PII is read aloud, but these systems are prone to failure—especially since an agent must manually stop and start the recording at the right point in time. If an agent forgets to pause the recording, PII may inadvertently be logged and thus vulnerable to a breach.

Using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems

Used by 11 percent of agents surveyed, these automated telephony systems interact with callers to shield PII from agents and recordings. However, without an agent on the line, customers often don’t know how to correct miskeyed information, which can result in ended calls before the transaction is complete (perhaps meaning a lost sale). Plus, a poor customer experience can impact contact center metrics such as first contact resolution (FCR) and average handling time (AHT).

However, the data still touches various IT systems, so it is still susceptible to a breach by either rogue employees (30 percent of agents have access to customer PII when they aren’t on the phone with them) or an outside hacker.

Sharing Data Through an Online Chat Window

Ten percent of agents said they capture customer information through an online chat window. Although data is not verbalized, basic chat functionality is merely a glorified “instant messenger,” not designed with encryption capabilities. Also, the agent is still exposed to PII, unless the contact center implements an appropriate method of encrypting the payment session within the chat engagement.

Phone Keypad Entry (DTMF)

A fourth method of capturing data, mentioned by only 8 percent of agents in the survey, is customers entering their data by their phone keypad. This approach may involve dual-tone multi-frequency (DTMF) masking technologies, which shields data from agents and keep it out of business IT infrastructures. As customers enter PII, such as payment card numbers, DTMF (keypad) tones are masked with flat ones so agents and eavesdroppers cannot decipher the numbers. In addition, numbers are not stored on call recordings that could be breached. PII is sent directly to the appropriate third party (such as a payment processor) so it never touches the contact center’s environment. Unlike IVR systems, DTMF masking solutions allow agents to remain in full voice communication with the customer, assisting with any issues, completing wrap-up tasks, and providing a better overall customer experience.

With these survey results in mind, think about how your agents collect customer PII, as well as how your contact center stores this sensitive information. In a time when a single data breach can cost more than $3.6 million and jeopardize your reputation and customers’ trust, there is no room for taking risks. The bottom line is to explore technologies that replace outdated data capture practices and remove as much PII as possible from your infrastructures.

No one can hack the data you don’t hold.

Tim Critchley has been the CEO of Semafone since 2009 and has led the company from a UK start-up to an international business spanning five continents. Under his leadership the company has secured global partnerships and won clients across a range of industry sectors, including major brands such as AXA, BT, Capita, Harley-Davidson, Next, Rogers Communications, Santander, and Sky. Prior to joining Semafone, Tim was COO at Knowledgepool Group

5 Questions to Ask When Switching Contact Center Software



By Melanie Valenzuela

Is it time to update your contact center software? You may have had the same software for a while and feel you need an upgrade. Perhaps you’ve heard of some new features you’d like to try or are looking for better support from your supplier. Or it could be that your current system no longer fits your needs. Maybe you’re trying to improve your customer service, which has suffered due to a poor system.

No matter what prompted you to think of switching, your contact center software is an integral part of your operation. You need to choose carefully. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask to ensure that you’re making the best decision possible and getting the call center solutions you need.

1) What Will Your Contact Analytics Look Like?You want to make sure that you can gather enough data to analyze and see patterns and trends. Can you get speech analytics, text analytics, and other customer feedback from every type of interaction? What about web, email, and social media contacts? You need to be able to gather information from every source so that you are getting the whole picture and not just hearing from one demographic that uses one particular way to contact you.

2) How Compatible Is the New Software to Your Other Systems? Your call center supervisors spend a lot of time on performance management, workforce management, training, coaching, and other oversight activities. Does the new software integrate those systems? All these items, along with any analytics, should be compatible so your supervisors can spend more time working with agents and less time trying to get the information they need.

You want your call center management to gain productivity, along with the agents. As an organization, your ultimate goal is to understand customer interactions, improve workforce performance, and optimize your service processes.

3) How Flexible Is the Software Company in Working with You? Every software company wants your business, but how willing are they to work with you to create a system to address your specific needs? Yes, they all say they are flexible, but ask questions about exceptions or special needs to see if they actually follow through on processing your requests.

Keep in mind, if they aren’t flexible now, they won’t be getting any more flexible in the future, so beware of any obstacles at the beginning of the relationship. Are you seeing or hearing any red flags that remind you why you’re going through this process again? You don’t want to have to repeat this search anytime soon.

4) How Much Customer Support Will You Be Getting? You want your new vendor to be flexible in setting up a system for you, but you need great customer service to make the system work. What does their contract say? What do you know you absolutely need? As you talk to the company, make sure the level of service matches your needs and you feel good about it. Because this will be a long-lasting relationship, you need to feel comfortable with the company you choose.

Support in the beginning is standard. Ongoing support will differentiate a company serious about servicing you as a client. Are you getting clear and definitive answers to your questions? Are they asking relevant questions about your needs, or do they seem more interested in finalizing the sale?

5) Can the Software Handle Your Future Needs? There’s no way to tell exactly how the industry may change in the future, but based on what you know now, you need to feel that this system can handle your needs, both now and in the future. Changing software is no small task, so you don’t want to be making a change again because you didn’t fully anticipate your future needs.

Are there other systems or features the company offers that don’t fit your needs today but you may need as you grow? That’s a good sign that, even if you need to upgrade the system later, you will be able to continue to use the software you have now, and it will be fully compatible with the additions you make in the future.Switching contact center software vendors be sure the relationship is a good fit. Click To Tweet

Switching contact center software is never easy or fun. But once you’ve decided it’s necessary, make sure to take your time and really vet the companies you are considering. Besides reputation and cost, consider the compatibility and flexibility of both the new software and the company supplying it. You will be working partners for quite some time, so you want to be sure the relationship will be a good fit, both now and in the future. Once you find the contact center solutions you’re looking for, the only question remaining is, “How soon can we switch?”

Melanie Valenzuela has been writing about business topics for several years and currently writes for the contact center vendor KOVA Corporation.

Using Technology to Humanize Customer Care

By Matt Lautz

Most everyone would agree that when it comes to modern customer care, technology is integral to service delivery. But that doesn’t mean we always like it, especially when it interferes with – rather than enhances – the customer experience.

Such has been the case in the past with traditional workflow automation and call scripting software. With limited flexibility, such tools give customer care agents little opportunity to think on their own and adjust to various scenarios. And while attempting to juggle multiple call scripts (and sometimes multiple screens), the agent becomes less focused on the customer and more intent on managing the process.

What is the result? A customer experience that’s scripted, robotic, and anything but effective. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can have your technology and provide an outstanding customer experience.

Technology as a Force for Good: Keeping employees, management, and customers happy is challenging for customer care managers. Customers’ high expectations and the importance of the agent’s role are in direct contrast with the fact that agent jobs are often entry-level positions, sometimes with limited financial incentives or opportunities for advancement.

These realities, combined with other challenges – such as agent turnover, complex product lines, rapidly changing scripts, and compliance requirements – can make managing a successful customer care center a formidable undertaking.

Fortunately, the newest generation of workflow automation software has evolved to meet these demands. The best of these offerings put people (customers, agents, and their managers) at the center of workflow solutions. Modern workflow tools not only work in collaboration with customer needs but also with the way agents access the systems. In addition, these tools also provide managers with the ability to quickly create and share consistent and accurate information with the front lines.

The result is a much more natural interaction that’s focused on the customer.

How Does Workflow Work? Today’s cloud-based workflow software allows companies to centrally manage key business processes. While offerings can vary from vendor to vendor, many provide managers with the ability to easily create and turn diagrams of business processes into automated applications, online screens, and guided call scripts that agents can then reference for contextual guidance during customer interactions.

Via screen prompts, agents are equipped with the next best action to take, troubleshooting questions to ask, or sales suggestions to make based on the path the conversation is taking. Hence modern workflow tools make it easier for agents to act like real people, while reducing the amount of training required. Agents are not only well informed and more helpful, but most importantly, they’re able to treat the customer as a fellow human being.

In this regard, technology has provided a better agent experience that allows for a better customer experience. It has actually helped rather than hindered all the humans involved: Managers build the processes they want and drive more efficiency; agents get the tools they need and become more empowered; and customers get the results they desire without the robotic interactions.

In short, workflow automation is not only a technology tool that accomplishes its task; it makes people happier in the process. And at its most essential level, that’s what outstanding customer service is all about.

Matt Lautz, president and CIO of Corvisa, is responsible for business development, strategic partnerships, and product vision. Matt has served as the CIO for Corvisa’s parent company, Novation Companies, Inc., for the past three years; he is an original founder of Corvisa. Matt brings more than fifteen years of experience in building and leading software companies. Previously Matt served as CEO of a wholesale VoIP carrier and software development firm.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2015]

Vendor Profile: OnviSource

OnvisourceFounded in 2004, OnviSource enables companies to cost-effectively optimize, automate, and unify their customer interactions, business transactions, and processes for their contact centers, back offices, and IT organizations through software products, cloud services, or outsourcing solutions. With a customer base in a wide range of industries, independent analyst Ventana Research has recognized the company as a major contender in enterprise and contact center workforce optimization. Since its inception, OnviSource has experienced consistent growth and profitability, regularly launching innovative solutions.

The company offers the OnviCenter 7™ suite of advanced and highly affordable solutions, including:

  • Telephone answering services, teleservices, emergency and medical services, help desk services, and customer service solutions
  • Call recording, screen capture, and quality assurance
  • Automated, analytics-driven and socially enabled quality and liability management for 100 percent of customer interactions
  • Multi-channel analytics, including speech analytics, desktop, text, and process analytics, as well as social media analytics
  • Voice of Customer (VoC) and customer sentiment
  • Workflow and process automation
  • Workforce management
  • HIPAA/HITECH-compliant secure messaging and content delivery
  • Unification of all customer transaction journey and operational data across multiple organizations, platforms, and sites
  • Integrated social media engagement and management
  • Operation continuity and automated IT

Supporting the Teleservices Industry: OnviSource has an expanded suite of unified and enterprise-wide solutions. It recently announced OnviCom™, integrating an end-to-end IP-PBX, teleservices, and CRM applications with workforce optimization. OnviCom enables multi-channel connectivity, interactions, and transactions via traditional methods such as telephone, email, and text, as well as through social media channels.

The specific strategy for the answering service vertical market is centered on the Web-based, universal OnviCom platform. OnviCom is the next generation of teleservices offerings that has evolved into an all-software, all-inclusive set of solutions. It can support all functions of a telephone answering contact center, including a variety of network interfaces, PBX capabilities, answering service applications, secure messaging, database management, reports, client portals, billing, call recording, screen capture, quality assurance, operator scheduling, and operation continuity.

As with all OnviSource solutions, OnviCom is delivered as software products, cloud services, or outsourcing solutions, all supported through the OnviCare™ customer lifecycle assistance program. OnviCom is anchored by the current release of the OnviCenter 7 product suite.

Collaborative Management: OnviCenter 7 offers OnviLink, a collaborative management solution that allows contact center managers to manage their local or remote agents through real-time collaboration, chat, bulletins, messaging, and document exchange to be virtually present with each agent and significantly improving their performance. OnviLink also provides a unified user interface, single point of security, process automation, and OmniVision management of the entire enterprise.

Multichannel Analytics: OnviSource’s multi-channel analytics solutions provide big-data management and transformation into actionable knowledge from all interaction channels of calls, desktop, emails, chat, messaging, and social media. Through multi-channel analytics, users can automate quality assurance, compliance management, coaching, workflows, and next best actions. Capabilities in predictive and prescriptive analytics offer insightful and enterprise information, followed by the user-defined automated launch of actions.

Secure Messaging: OnviGuard™ is a secure two-way messaging and content delivery solution, maintaining private communication and full privacy of messages with end-to-end message encryption, verification, and data integrity through SSL. It also provides a Web-based secure messaging server accessed by clients only through encrypted passwords and other security measures. It is fully compliant with HIPAA and HITECH regulations, securing and protecting sensitive information for healthcare personnel and their patients.

Client Self-Service: OnviClient™ is a Web-based application that enables telephone answering providers to offer convenient self-service access for customers to easily manage their own account information, calls, and messages. Clients can even update their account information and maintain their own on-call schedules. Billing for self-service functions builds incremental revenue while providing clients with easy, convenient access to their account activities 24/7.

Implementing OnviClient™ saves time and resources as end clients now have the capability of using the Internet to manage their own accounts, retrieve messages, and monitor call recordings on demand, giving the call center a competitive sales advantage.

Operation Continuity: OnviSource’s operation continuity and compliance solutions reduce operation management expenses and IT workload while maintaining operational continuity through a series of automated operation management tools. Several new features include enhanced backup and purging functions to support HIPAA regulations that mandate file archiving for up to ten years.

Customer Lifecycle Assistance Service: A key vendor differentiator is the OnviCare customer lifecycle assistance service, including the advantage program. The advantage program is a special service program assisting new and existing customers faced with complex business issues. The advantage program guides and assists clients with a complete knowledge exchange that helps customers learn and understand the software and easily manage and administer solutions.

In addition, OnviSource helps customers with the challenges of understanding and selecting the right solutions, implementations, deployments, and ROI recognition of their products and solutions. This includes speech analytics and data mining through provisioning of application analysis, ROI analysis, free trials, project planning, customization, pilot programs, and business continuity-assurance measures. The advantage program offers true partnership services, with the objective of making sure that OnviSource’s products successfully and cost-effectively work for their clients.

OnviSource has a strong focus on customer satisfaction and customer loyalty through dedicated customer-centric programs managed by a customer relation management (CRM) team consisting of fully empowered executives of the company. OnviSource’s best-of-class customer support has enabled it to maintain high customer satisfaction, resulting in a 95 percent customer retention rate.

Strategic Partnerships: OnviSource continues to develop strategic partnerships that enable it to offer relevant products for today’s evolving enterprise and call center environments. One new solution is a comprehensive and analytics-driven social media management solution, offered as an all-inclusive managed service designed to make the customers’ socially enabled enterprises work for them in customer service, sales, marketing, and branding.

The company also maintains a re-seller program for those companies that desire to be more successful and profitable by adding and re-selling OnviSource solutions to their product portfolio.

Additionally, OnviSource is actively involved in its partnership with the OnviSource Equipment Owners (OEO) association users group. This alliance continues to strengthen the company’s ability to better serve its TAS customers with their specific needs.

Testimonials

Partners for More Than Twenty-Five Years! “For me, it’s all about the people. The time OnviSource team members take to care and share their knowledge – that’s what makes the difference. I am supported across the board from the executives to my account manager, technical support, and the responsiveness of the OnviSource Equipment Owners Association. In addition consistent improvement in features and product reliability over time has contributed significantly to my longevity in the TAS market,” says Nancy Kotich, executive director, Physicians Answering.

Evolution in the Technology: “OnviSource products have continued to evolve to meet the demands of the market, and we need that. They have introduced us to technology that enables us to run a leaner operation without sacrificing our quality of service. We realize cost savings as a result of improved efficiency and productivity at multiple levels,” adds Steve Kenny, owner, Best Answer.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2015]

Call Centers Look to IT for Better Document Access in 2015

By Simon Wieczner

Having access to timely information empowers call center personnel to react quickly to customer needs no matter what they are. There’s nothing worse than not having access to existing information that can help resolve an issue. That information can range from an email or letter from the customer to the entire customer file or diagrams and photos. What’s key in all of these situations is reducing resolution time while also minimizing the need to escalate issues internally. In 2015 we will see companies making a concerted effort to improve document access systems in order to reap these benefits and streamline operations.

Challenges in the Global Marketplace: The many challenges in today’s global marketplace make implementing a universal interface for viewing information critical. In order to compete, numerous companies offer 24/7 support, but to do this across time zones, a call center’s staff might be dispersed geographically across the globe. In this case they need to have tools in each operator’s native language and may need to satisfy cultural factors – such as the need to output to paper even with the availability of electronic copies. Other IT challenges include slow communications to central databases and difficulty standardizing the hardware and software for agents on different continents. In some cases it makes sense to consider tools that are independent of the operating system and the hardware.

Browsers and Viewers: So what tools do call centers need to accomplish this? Today’s call centers need to be equipped with computers that have modern browsers, a phone, a back office server with full customer data, a CRM system that can access customer data, and a viewer for customer records such as letters, photos, and insurance claim forms. With these tools in place, let’s talk about connection.

In order for call center personnel to have reliable document access, call center computer stations need to be connected to company servers where customer data is stored on a CRM or other database system. Connections could be through a local network or over the Web for remote workers. It’s also helpful to have a modern browser with fast network and database access. Lastly, customer records must be available digitally (including scanned documents) and organized for quick access.

In a perfect world, with perfect data access, a customer phone call, chat, or email should not have to wait due to lack of access to existing documents. It’s a simple concept – but one that few companies have mastered.

A Multimedia Environment: In today’s multimedia environment, there’s an increasing multitude of document formats in a typical customer file: paper scans, photographs, faxes, Word documents, spreadsheets, and database reports. To address this document diversity, the best solution today for Web-based document viewing and processing is simplifying the number of applications needed to handle customer information.

Historically there have been issues with training operators on multiple applications (i.e., Adobe, Word, and Excel) as well as the cost involved. In addition to initial training and refresher training, there is the effort required in updating the client software and the risk that geographically dispersed call centers and systems would have different versions of the applications they were running.

One Universal Viewer: Clearly having one user interface for viewing all documents would simplify training and installation. Similarly, application software that does most of the processing on a central server ensures that everyone is working with the same version of the application and accessing the same database.

Today it is possible to avoid specialized document viewing applications like Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, fax viewers, and others. Now one viewer can handle all the documents in the customer record. And if that viewer is using the latest HTML5 technology, then all that capability can be provided from the central server while the client system has minimal requirements. This alone can drastically reduce training and support efforts, as well as response times.

The result is that call centers can actually have universal viewers running entirely within a browser that operates on any PC, Mac, or Linux system – or even on a tablet or smartphone. These viewers can seamlessly operate on a variety of different Web browsers and therefore can significantly increase the efficiency and reduce the response time for call center agents. This also makes incremental device updates a non-issue, which is key, because it’s rare for a global call center to upgrade all of its devices at once and virtually impossible to do so instantaneously across different regions.

Future Streamlining: There will undoubtedly be more technological advancements in the future that further streamline document access, but as we look to 2015 and beyond, browser-based call center systems can unlock many of the doors blocking call center agents from the documents they need to resolve issues. The benefits of a universal interface, simpler support leading to lower support costs, less training, and greater flexibility are all possible with current technologies. Organizations will be using that technology to build on their current processes to further streamline operations and give call center agents unfettered access to the information they need when they need it.

Simon Wieczner is the CEO of Snowbound Software. Simon’s background includes over twenty-five years of software industry experience. His management and marketing experience spans a number of companies, including First Data, Computervision, ADP, BSO/Tasking, Numonics, Ergo Computing, and AccuSoft. He holds a BS in Management and an MBA in Marketing from MIT.

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2015]

The Demystification of Information Management: A Non-Techie Guide to Software Applications for Call Centers

By Ross Vance

If you are like most contact center professionals, you have attended at least one networking event or industry conference where collecting, managing, and reporting on information was a topic of discussion. In contact centers today, “information management” is a term bordering on trendy. However, not everyone understands the concept of information management software or how it applies to his or her role in an organization.

Knowledge Management Systems: You may have overheard a contact center professional say, “We can greatly impact metrics if we roll out a knowledge management system (KMS).” An effective KMS is a warehouse of company information that draws on proven best practices rather than expected policies or common knowledge. These best business practices can be represented in the form of articles, flow diagrams, and process documents. In order to help contact center agents predict or respond to customer questions, these documents are compiled into a searchable database that can often be added to or edited by the employees themselves.

Knowledge Management in the Call Center: For call center leaders, a centrally located virtual warehouse of company best practices is extremely valuable, as it provides access to specific details they might need in order to make decisions. Additionally, employees themselves can find answers about processes and procedures not only from a manual but also from the historical experiences of the company’s own customers and agents.

With a KM tool at their fingertips, call center agents can schedule or reassign themselves without concern that more training or direct oversight is necessary in order to maintain process integrity. Having such a clear way to access best practices creates confidence in both the representatives and operational business units (such as workforce and project management).

A KMS is a vital component to have when educating employees – but definitely not something that should stand on its own. In order for a KM system to reach its full potential, employees must have a foundational understanding of company processes, policies, and procedures so they have the ability to articulate their questions and ultimately know where to find the answers. This makes any database of best practices serve more as a training tool than a training replacement. Additionally, having the ability to definitively answer questions related to best practices on the fly will reduce training time and errors in quality.

Where Do You Start? Skip the Google or Yahoo search in an effort to fill a proposal for potential KM solutions. Instead, shop around for success stories. Hyundai, a strong player in an industry plagued by customer service challenges, decided to implement a KM application to help its call center representatives. Because of both greater efficiency and higher job satisfaction, a key performance metric for the call center, calls-per-case, revealed a 15 percent improvement.

For those with a preference for open source software (OSS), a simple hosting account with a provider that offers a one-button installation of common Web applications, such as MediaWiki or DocuWiki, costs less than the average movie rental and can be up and running in a matter of minutes. Furthermore, open source does not mean less powerful or unsupported. MediaWiki, a popular and free wiki application, is the software base for the KM giant Wikipedia and is supported through an initiative of hundreds of developers worldwide.

Customer Relationship Management: Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are another type of information management tool. A CRM application is designed to collect valuable customer and contact specific information. CRM software provides the backbone for reporting and analytics. Some systems provide integrated scripting tools, allowing agents to create a seamless experience by capturing and referencing customer information for more informed and knowledgeable responses.

CRM in the Call Center: A data-driven CRM system should give call center leadership the ability to view call statistics, agent activity, dialing lists, and campaigns in real time. Also, a singular repository of customer information allows for better security and compliance safeguards.

A common criticism of many CRM solutions is that they do not easily align with a company’s current workflow. An effective CRM should not be responsible for outlining call processes. Instead, call processes should outline the requirements for the needed CRM solution. When that happens, operational processes become intuitive and easier to manage.

A CRM solution that is agent-centric makes it difficult for information to be entered incorrectly. Since call center representatives handle copious amounts of customer information every day, it is important to ensure that the CRM makes it easier to accomplish necessary tasks. This not only reduces the need for consistent refresher training, it also increases the knowledge retention of an individual by giving them appropriate context clues during a call.

Where Do You Go from Here? From an enterprise perspective, there are several major players in the CRM industry. From Microsoft to Oracle, there is no shortage of application styles. Most CRM software companies offer a trial period of their software. Taking them up on their offer may reduce some headaches and potential downtime due to incompatible matches.

If an open source approach is desired, it is easy for someone with limited technological knowledge to set up a simple hosting account with a provider that offers a one-button installation and install any number of free, open source CRMs. Two of the most popular are SugarCRM and VTiger, both of which can be used immediately upon installation or customized to match a call center’s needs.

In conclusion, the collection, management, and reporting of customer information and best practices are essential elements to maintaining an effective business strategy. Customer service organizations thrive on data, and those that manage it well are leaders in the industry. Even though “information management” may seem like a buzzword, there is a reason it’s at the forefront of conversations these days. Information management is essential for growth in the contact center industry. Understanding the role that information management software can play in your organization will keep your contact center cutting-edge.

Ross Vance is the training manager for SupportSeven.

[From Connection Magazine November 2013]