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By John Edwards
While most businesses eagerly embrace call-center automation solutions in order to streamline their operations and cut costs, the general public often takes a different view of the subject. In fact, there's a widespread perception that automation tools make life more difficult for callers by forcing them to navigate confusing voice menus, listen to canned music and messages, and talk with agents located on the other side of the world who may not be native English speakers.
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Fortunately, there are a variety of call-center automation solutions that manage to benefit both businesses and callers.
Automated Attendant: By prompting callers to respond to certain voice-menu selections, automated attendants benefit both businesses and callers by categorizing and shortening calls. Automated attendants get a bad rap when they are poorly designed and configured, so it's important to thoroughly test the systems before deployment and make periodic adjustments based on caller feedback.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response): IVR solutions — like automated attendants — serve both businesses and callers. IVR systems can support many more caller choices and are generally easier for users to navigate than automated attendants. The technology is often used to automate routine tasks (such as balance inquiries), which allows call centers to get by with fewer agents and enables callers to receive fast answers to their questions. Like automated attendants, IVR systems require careful configuration and occasional tweaks in order to operate at maximum efficiency.
Screen Pops: Using CTI (computer telephony integration), screen pops allow callers' records to be automatically retrieved and displayed to the agent as soon as a call arrives. The solution speeds calls by allowing agents to serve callers without first interrogating them for routine information such as addresses, order dates and product serial numbers.
Skills-Based Routing: No caller likes to be bounced from agent to agent in search of an answer. Skills-based routing automatically matches caller inquiries with the most appropriate agent or resource based on customer requests; service levels; and agent skill, availability and workload.
Visible Queuing: If there's one thing callers hate more than lengthy wait times, it's being kept in the dark. Visible queue technology tells a caller the estimated wait time as soon as he or she enters the queue. The best solutions also provide periodic updates as the caller waits. Visible queuing benefits users by reassuring them that their wait time is actually dwindling and helps businesses by reducing the number of abandoned calls.
Web Call-Back Transaction: A call-back is a transaction that allows a Web site visitor to request a phone call from the call center. The method can be used to request more information on goods or services, make a reservation, or complete an order. Deploying call-back support requires linking the call center's ACD (automatic call distributor) to the Internet via an Internet gateway.
Web Call-Through Transaction: Like a call-back transaction, a Web call-through is designed to get Web site visitors in fast contact with a call-center agent. The call-through transaction begins when a site visitor clicks a button on the Web page and is directly connected to an agent while still viewing the site. However, call-through technology requires the visitor to have a computer or mobile device equipped with VoIP technology, so the approach isn't as widely used as call-back technology.
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