In any given industry, technology plays a major role in improving how things are done – and call center technology is no exception.
The call center industry has been around since the 1960s. With the invention of the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) and utilization of Private Automated Business Exchanges to handle large volumes of customer contacts, the concept of a call center was born.
Systems fitted with Automatic Call Distributors gained the ability to filter calls and assign every call to the best agent available for that specific time frame.
This feat was made possible through the use of specialized algorithms which determine which call gets routed to a specific agent.
The advent of ACD technology paved the way for other call center technologies. Soon, human operators were replaced with a computerized system capable of routing large numbers of calls over multiple destinations. In conjunction with PABX systems, ACD technology made the development of large-scale call centers a reality. Early systems not only allowed systematic routing of calls, but faster access to customer records as well. Soon after, computerized systems capable of handling multi-lingual inquiries were developed and implemented.
Improvements in call center technology during the 1970s and 1980s have allowed more and more businesses to capitalize on increased customer interactions over the phone. As a matter of fact, some companies even thought of creating their business models based on telephone sales. As an ever-evolving technology began granting ACD systems the capability to distinguish call types and routing calls to specific teams or departments, the time that customers had to wait on the phone was dramatically reduced, allowing companies to service more customers within a specific timeframe.
Offshoaring & ‘The Cloud’
The ‘dot com’ boom of the 1990s further fueled the development of call center technologies. As businesses increasingly capitalized on the potential of the Internet, the number of customer contacts grew tremendously, with more call centers venturing into customer service and technical support functions. At the turn of the century, cheap labor costs in countries such as India and the Philippines gave rise to the concept of offshore call centers.
By harnessing the power of the Internet and other related technologies, the capability to route calls and transfer massive amounts of information over continents was made possible. Today, with the rise of social media and introduction of new technologies during the past few years, call center technology is taking yet another step in its evolution through the utilization of virtual networks and cloud computing technology.
Today’s call centers utilize a basic set of technologies crucial in its operations. Let’s take a look at some of them
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
ACDs (inbound) or dialers (outbound) form the core of all call center systems. While ACDs control the flow of incoming calls by filtering and routing it to each respective departments, dialers enable call center agents to automatically place outbound calls based on specific company-specific parameters.
Customer relationship management (CRM) applications are utilized by call center agents to document customer interactions and as a means of responding to customer concerns. This is the second most crucial technology for call centers. CRM applications allow records to be kept for future access.
Campaign Management Systems
Campaign management systems (CMS) is used by outbound call centers for their campaigns. This system produces a list of customer contacts which is then fed to the dialer system. Advanced types of CMS have the capability of determining customer responses to calls made out through the system.
Fourth, call recording systems are used to record inbound and outbound interactions with customers for purposes of review and quality control. Basic systems capture calls and store it in digital format. More advanced recording systems can record both the call and screenshots used during customer interaction.
Interactive voice response (IVR) and speech recognition systems facilitate the handling of incoming calls by routing calls based on customer responses. Through the use of speech recognition systems, customer can interact with the system with their voice instead of pushing buttons. A number of businesses have reported improved service quality and productivity after switching over to an IVR system.
Workforce Management (WFM)
Workforce management (WFM) software is utilized to generate forecasts on the number of customer interactions (calls, emails, or chat), agent schedules, number of agents required to meet service level agreements. WFM software takes into consideration factors such as training sessions, absences, and agent breaks. The use of WFM systems ensures that an optimal amount of agents are available at any given timeframe.
Quality management (QM) systems allow call centers to measure agent adherence to internal procedures and policies. Quality measurements are primarily utilized by company management as a primary measure of performance. QM applications are mostly used by inbound call centers. However, a growing number of outbound call centers have begun to explore the benefits derived from using QM systems.
Computer telephony integration (CTI) applications serves as a bridging component between ACD and CRM/CMS systems. Basic CTI applications display customer account information on the screen at the start of customer interaction. CTI applications enhance agent productivity since it automates the process of locating customer information. Due to its usefulness, CTI applications have become a mainstay among call center companies.
The aforementioned systems are common example of call center technology. However, as technology improves, more and more improvements are expected to come up in the coming years. Emerging technologies include the use of virtual networks and cloud computing for call center applications.