Today’s contact centers—which handle inbound and outbound communications with customers using phone, e-mail, fax and Web chat—rely on specialized software to automate or streamline many processes. Using solutions delivered via the software-as-a-service (SaaS (News
)) model, contact centers can affordably access the tools they need to succeed.
Contact center software can be divided into or used for many different applications. Some of those, outlined here, include: general customer management, help desk, monitoring/recording/reporting, business continuity/disaster recovery, and virtual call centers using home agents.
First and foremost, contact center software is used to manage customer communications. Management of central contact center functions is available in a Web-based interface, meaning it doesn’t require extensive training and is quick to deploy. After being routed via an interactive voice response (IVR
) function, agents are connected with customers and are presented with relevant information from the customer relationship management (CRM) database—such as account number and zip code.
The customer communications application for contact center software is vital for increasing productivity and achieving first call resolution. Callers are connected with the most qualified agent available, and the agent is provided with the information he or she needs to effectively serve the client. It’s a win-win.
The help desk department of a customer-facing organization is often where the evolution from call center to contact center is most obvious. The contact center help desk assists customers through a variety of communications channel—including phone, e-mail, and chat. Managing the multi-media aspect of modern help desks is an important application for contact center software.
is used by the contact center software to ensure that customers connected with the help desk reach the person who can best answer their questions. Help desk staff are provided with information and tools—such as FAQ knowledgebases and case management systems—to respond efficiently.
Keeping the contact center efficient also requires monitoring and reporting, and software does this too. Supervisors can gain insight into staff performance and customer experiences using real-time monitoring and reporting, historical reporting, and voice recording functions.
Since the contact center is so critical to business success, it is imperative that the software in place fits into the larger disaster recovery plan. The goal is to ensure that if disaster strikes, operations can go on as usual or are at least minimally affected. SaaS solutions can include built-in redundancies by duplicating the contact center’s IVR, call flow and call processing operations.
Finally, many contact center organizations are setting up virtual call centers using home agents. This enables the organization to utilize agents located in different time zones, ensuring around-the-clock coverage without having to maintain multiple physical locations. Virtual call center software enables agents to work anywhere there is an Internet connection and phone.
Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.