What is a Contact Center and how is it different from a Call Center?
A contact center is a call center. But, it comes with enhanced call handling facilities that go beyond voice – like web chat, email communications, PC based remote assistance, callback from the websites etc. that can be handled by the same agent who is handling the voice calls for a company.
Why would a contact center be required for an enterprise company?
Think about it. If you have a help desk, you might make it much more professional and much more productive using a contact center. A contact center enables your service personnel to respond to customer queries through phone, email, web chat, PC based remote guidance etc. A contact center helps streamline all such communications with customers and monitor if the customer queries have been resolved or not. Of course, in addition to the inbound communications, even outbound communications from your company can be carried out in a methodical way (during product launches, marketing promotions etc.) to ensure that there is a maximum reach for your products and services. This can be done from your company or outsourced to a professional contact centre, based on the business objectives and size of a company.
Components of a Contact Center:
A contact center has all the elements that go about building a call center. It has a Automatic Call Distribution/ Skills Based Routing system to route the incoming calls based on the caller ID to the agent based on their skill sets, it has a Interactive Voice Response system to automate some of the processes like checking a bank balance from the savings account etc, it has a Speech recognition system to enable a customer to talk to the system which recognizes the words and takes an action based on what was just said by the customer, to enable natural interaction, it has a Voice Logger which records all calls or selective calls for compliance/legal purposes and also for training purposes where some calls could be replayed to monitor and improve agent performance, it has Predictive Dialers or Progressive Dialers that can automate the dialing process (for outbound contact centers) to improve the productivity of the agents (You click on the links to know more about any of the above components).
Interactive Web Applications:
Blending of calls in a contact center includes the interactive web applications that can be accessed by customers and agents as a medium of communications. This is the main advantage of a call center. Suppose a customer feels that an issue could be solved by email, then the same agents could communicate to them via emails. Or, geographically dispersed customers could want to have a web chat to determine the solution for an issue. Which can also be handled by the agents of a contact center. There are certain support issues that are better done by taking control of the remote PC screen and guiding the customer simultaneously over PC prompting and voice. The customers might be able to solve a number of problems faster, if such a guided support is provided to them.
The point of diversifying the support system is to enable customers to contact in their preferred medium which could also mean (sometimes) faster resolution and lesser voice calls.
IP Contact Center – Integrating the pieces:
Well, there is a enterprise VOIP switch, the call center applications are residing on the servers and network PC’s. It makes a lot of sense to integrate all these components to a uniform IP platform. The advantages of an IP Contact center are follows:
¤ Consolidation of Call Center infrastructure: Server and PBX, which are the key components of Call centers could be consolidated on the IP platform so that they can be maintained in a data center environment which is much easier and more efficient to maintain.
¤ Single Network: Why have a separate network for analog phones/ lines and manage them separately? There are always integration issues between analog systems and IP systems, if a dual network is maintained.
¤ Expansion: Many analog systems have severe constraints on expansion. IP based systems are just about adding additional servers and licenses, for expansion and backup.
¤ Centralized control over disparate locations: Actually an IP network enables centralized control over disparate physical locations and allows for resource pooling. Agents from any branch can take calls for any location. Also, since VOIP networks are less expensive for long distance calling, contact center solution can also be implemented in less expensive countries to take advantage of lower human resource cost.
¤ Remote work from home agents: IP Contact centers enable agents from their home, to participate in the calling processes if required for an an emergency.
¤ Open Standards using SIP protocol: SIP is truly an open standards based protocol that has standardized the IP communications. Different vendors and different applications can work together and it also enables Presence – ability for agents to see if other agents are available at a given point of time, to contact them for support, etc.
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