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Implementing Call Blending

TMCnews Featured Article

July 18, 2006

Implementing Call Blending

By Special Guest
C. Sorensn, Marketing Manager, OPC-Marketing

Call Blending is certainly the most priceless innovation to call center technology since the appearance of the predictive dialer. Many call centers that were once dependent on ACDs have been able to eliminate or greatly reduce their need for it and with the call-blending feature, agents can respond to incoming calls while also balancing their workload with outbound calls.
An ACD is an older style device that handles heavy incoming call volume. It sends a call to the first available answering position or, if all positions are busy, plays a recorded message and puts calls in a queue until an answering position becomes available. With call blending, what was once an outbound only dialing group now has the ability to also take inbound calls.  Using SpitFire equipment, ACD’s become almost obsolete.
Here's how it works: let's say you have a SpitFire Predictive Dialer system with ninety-six stations; each one of those stations could be a blended station. This means that while you are waiting for the next outbound connect; you are also able to receive an inbound call. After your station completes the inbound call, you may return to the outbound mission as call flow dictates.
Based on independent needs, agents can also be assigned as outbound only. This can be helpful when training new employees, allowing them to master one task at a time. Likewise, agents can be set to inbound only or any combination, at anytime.
Example: Twenty agents on inbound only, twenty on outbound only and 49 blend agents.
As the Administrator of your SpitFire predictive, you are in control. You will have to ability to establish the level of inbound service you wish to provide by simply assigning agents to the various category tasks, all of which can be changed almost instantly—for flexibility that allows your team to be more efficient and productive.
As an administrator you will also no longer have to find busy work for your inbound staff at time periods when call volumes decrease since as they too can be set to make outbound calls. This will further team momentum between the agents who share managing ownership of both the inbound and outbound telemarketing process and allow them to enjoy more diversity while on the job. Also, as volumes differ each day, you will have the ability to fine-tune the ratio of calls accordingly.
Best of all,  ACD users can retain the functionality that they have become accustomed to such as wait queue and after hour messages.
What if you have additional groups of inbound communication lines coming into your call center either t-1 or analog lines? Not a problem.
SpitFire predictive dialer systems can handle multiple inbound line groups, independent messaging, and reporting, and you control how campaign the calls come in.
Example: Let's say your two inbound line groups are made up of one set for collections and the other set for customer service.
You would link the customer service group to your telemarketing campaign while the inbound collection group would be linked to the collections campaign.
You also have the ability, say during staff shortages, to link both inbound groups to any one outbound campaign or create one large inbound group.
Another important aspect of call blending is the ability to update your outbound calling campaign with inbound call information. This feature allows the agent to update the dialer, instructing it to remove the customer from that day's calling campaigns.
While call blending can abolish the need for ACD equipment, in particular for call centers with inbound call numbers under thirty-five thousand calls per month, you don't have to discard your old equipment to get the payback from call blending.
You can use call blending as a means to control overflow traffic from your ACD.
This option gives you the ability to reduce the staffing levels of your inbound agents so they can remain productive regardless of call volume and service levels are still maintained as extra calls are routed to your dialer.
Call blending also works well with most IVR and VRU systems.
Here again, centers running VRUs and ACDs can use blending as overflow for either or both systems. A VRU is defined as a voice response unit (VRU) that can handle easy tasks with pre-recorded messages or message components.
Now, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and e-business initiatives are pushing proactive customer contact to the forefront and demand for call blending applications is increasing. Any lull in a call center's volume means idle time for inbound agents. With call blending, this lull can be translated into opportunities for proactive customer contact.
The implementation of call blending is a fairly simple process, but, once again, requires your input. To start, your dialer vendor will need to know your monthly calling volumes as a whole and also the volume broken down by the hour of the day
Download our free [Call Volume Tracking Sheet]. The blank Campaign Tracking Sheet is in Adobe PDF format and will print in landscape mode to any black and white or color Laser or Inkjet printer. It will also open in Photoshop in case you would like to put your own logo in place of OPC’s logo. It shows a shift from 08:00 to 08:00 12 possible hours on one page. You will also need to use a program like WinZip to open the archive.
The purpose of this “Call Volume” tracking sheet is to be able to provide your predictive dialer vendor with an accurate picture of your call center's calling goal in terms of amount of inbound and outbound calls. How much involvedness and volume requirements are needed. Just fill these out manually. You can use this “Call Volume” tracking sheet for the call centers without ACDs, use the following table to tally and determine your inbound volumes over the course of a month.
The next decision to be made, and one that is partially driven by the volume of the call center, is whether call blending will be replacing this type equipment or used as overflow. To figure out your specific needs, you need some type of data and will vary on date, times and periods of the year.
Finally, decide if ANI/DNIS function is desired.
ANI, Automatic Number Identification, is more commonly known as caller ID.
Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) is a telephone service that identifies for the receiver of a call the number that the caller dialed. It is a common feature of 800 and 900 lines. If you have multiple 800 or 900 numbers to the same destination, the DNIS tells which number was called. DNIS works by passing the touch-tone digits (dual tone multi frequency or MF digits) to the destination where a special facility can read and display them or make them available for call center programming.
DNIS in the consumer world is more commonly known as "caller ID." While caller DNIS will not impact call blending itself, for the smaller call center, it will require the use of t-1 lines for inbound calls.
A word of caution here: some call centers appear on the surface to be handling their inbound call volumes correctly------at least the calls that are getting through. However, in reality, your call center may not be receiving your true inbound call volumes.
Let's say you have twenty inbound lines. How often are all twenty or your lines in use at one time? How many of your lines have ever been audited? How many are correctly identified? Are there any that you just don’t know what they do? Or perhaps these line(s) were unmarked and installed in an earlier time. Now the carrier was bought out, or merged with someone else and no one ever came back from the phone company to help you lower your costs.
Normally referred to as line utilization, this is the measurement of the volume or load that determines the amount of lines used during a specified period.
Example: Of our twenty inbound lines, the peak usage yesterday was eighteen lines, or ninety percent utilization.
Some ACD systems may also provide information regarding the duration of time the peak occurred. In our example, perhaps it was less than minutes in duration. This would be acceptable but needs to be monitored.
The goal is to have enough lines so your customers are not getting a busy signal but few enough to ensure that your organization is not wasting resources on lines that are never going to be used.
If you don't have access to inbound traffic reports for your call center, contact your company's telecommunications representative or your 800-service provider. Ask them to provide you with a traffic study to determine the number of times all of your inbound circuits are busy. This information will help ensure that your call center is able to meet today's inbound needs. It is important to get all your lines audited at least twice a year.
If your carrier refuses, never has the time, or never shows up then, it’s time to find another source.
Call blending will help you become more productive, and "Time IS money."

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