Call-centers, or outsourcing call answering, is one of the main directions in telecommunications, intensively developing both abroad and in our country. More than 80% of U.S. companies use call-center services that combine telecommunication, computer and social technologies, but most consumers do not know what it is – they just call.
The term call-center has been used for a quarter of a century, and it has withstood many attempts to replace it with other seemingly more appropriate ones – customer interaction center, customer care center, multi-media access center, contact center.
In the simplest case, the functions of an office call-center are performed by a girl on the phone who answers several dozens of calls and sends several faxes a day. Phone statistics collection, pre-sale processing and interaction with clients via Web are transferred to other employees or are not made at all.
The larger and more well-known the company, the more actively it interacts with customers, consumers of services. We have to organize additional jobs, change the office PBX. For round-the-clock reception of calls, mass mailing of faxes and other, more complex communication tasks it is necessary to solve the solution that is able to provide full-featured interaction with the client.
This is the solution offered by the call center technology, which is focused on the automation of interactive interactions between the company. The main function of the call-center is to sell, attract and serve customers without personal contact with them. Call-center becomes a key link in the business process of the enterprise and a tool to improve the productivity of personnel working with clients.
Call-center organization schemes
Call-center can be organized in different ways, the choice of which depends on the specifics of the enterprise. Thus, an enterprise planning to integrate a call-center into its business can take advantage of the offer of a company specializing in these services.
This scheme is called outsourcing and is most often encountered in practice. The company rents a call center from a telecom operator and uses its staff as operators. In fact, the operator is in charge of processing the orders, and the tenant company gets the finished result. It does not need to expand its own staff and spend money on additional communication lines.
Secondly, the call center can be built in its office, which will require the organization of high-speed communication channels for customer service. In this case, the functions of call center operators are taken over by the company’s managers – they communicate with clients, receive reports on the work and distribute the information flows inside the office.
The third way is to distribute the processing center to different offices and branches of the enterprise. However, management and configuration are carried out centrally in the call center core.
As a rule, such centers are built into the developed IP-infrastructure and, besides telephone calls process e-mail and VoIP-calls (such as Avaya and IPCC Cisco Systems). Such a call center is transformed into a distributed network of numerous call-centers, which can be connected to home operators in different parts of the country.
Call-center can work not only with telephone calls, but also with e-mail, Web-pages and video images. The current technological trend is to unify calls and move to IP-based unified communications.
Queues and subscribers
The call-center connects the communication channels with the outside world. Their bandwidth determines how many subscribers can simultaneously contact the call-center. If the channel capacity is sufficient for 50 conversations, the 51st caller will hear the signal “busy”. It does not matter which call-center numbers to call – all subscribers can dial one number at a time and connect to the call-center.
Calls to the call-center are received by the PBX, which distributes them among operators or agents. If all agents are busy, the station puts calls to the queue, from where they come to the released agents. Thousands of calls can be in the call-center queue.
Working with calls in the queue is a fundamental advantage of a call-center over a multichannel number: if all channels of a multichannel number are busy, the calls are lost, and it is impossible to know how many subscribers are lost. It is possible that 15% of advertising calls are taken to the multichannel number, and other potential customers hear the signal “busy”. Call-center allows you to avoid this.
Managers and agents of the call-center promptly receive information about the parameters characterizing the call-center operation and load level: the number of calls in the queue (for the call-center as a whole and for each group of agents separately), the maximum time of waiting for a subscriber, the average conversation time, etc.
The service level is characterized by two basic parameters. The first one is the average time a subscriber waits in the queue before connecting to an agent (Average Speed of Answer, ASA). The ASA parameter is usually updated every half hour. The second parameter is the percentage of calls interrupted by subscribers while waiting (Abandon Rate). The normal level is 2-3%, while the rate of interrupted calls above 5% is considered to be alarming.
Under the existing rule, 80% of calls must be connected to the operator within 20 seconds. The level of service for the needs of the management is calculated every half hour, for the client – once a week or month.