Call centers are centralized offices – or facility- that are habitually purpose-built to handle phone calls for an organization. They’re operated by phone representatives or “agents” who field calls for customer support and are often serviced as phone-based hubs for telesales, telemarketing, after-sale support, and other customer services.
In this blog, you will find the basic definitions of different call center types, terminologies, and 9 key technologies that a functioning call center should have.
Inbound and Outbound Call Center – What is the Difference?
When it comes to call centers, there are basically two types – inbound and outbound call centers. They focus on different business functions and have different metrics to track for performance evaluation and elevation.
Inbound Call Center
An inbound call center receives and handles phone calls from current and potential customers. Instead of actively making calls, inbound call center agents react to situations initiated by customers and find effective ways to resolve them accordingly. They often field inbound customer services like expert technical support, over-the-phone order processing, advertisement inquiry, and so forth.
The idea behind designing an inbound call center is to keep agents as productive and busy as possible. Technologies like intelligent call routing, IVR and customized on-hold announcement are often relied on to reduce call drops and improve customer satisfaction. In the inbound call center, first call resolution (FCR), average waiting time, abandoned call rate, call transfer rate and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) are the top metrics to measure.
Outbound Call Center
An outbound call center, on the other hand, focuses on making outgoing calls. This type of call center is more sales-oriented. The agents often work with a list of customers/prospects and call proactively to promote products, survey shoppers, and collect market research.
In the outbound call center, based on the call purposes, metrics like number of calls per average unit, list penetration rate, first call close (FCC), and average call length are often used as the key KPIs to evaluate agent performance.
Call Center Technologies and Essential Features
Depending on organizational needs, call centers can implement an array of different technologies to maximize productivity. These include the underlying infrastructure of automated phone system that handles both inbound & outbound calls, and more advanced call center components – such as Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), IVR applications, call recording solutions, performance monitoring & reporting utilities, and various desktop & software integrations – to optimize agent engagement for improved, consistent customer satisfaction.
Typically, a refined call center uses a mix of the following technologies.
1. Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
Automatic call distribution (ACD), otherwise known as call routing system, is a telephony technology that distribute incoming calls programmatically to the right agent according to preset criteria. The call routing algorithm for ACD can work in a few different ways, considering various factors like day of time, incoming phone number, agent availability, and the skills or departments needed on the receiving end of a call. One of the typical algorithms especially for call center is called Queue Ring Strategies, which route calls to agents based on past agent activities.
2. Queue Ring Strategies
Similar to hunt or ring groups, call center queues capable of ACD offer additional ring strategies to fine tune the way that calls flow to agents. Each type of strategy has its pros and cons. Some prioritize speed while others boost agent productivity. Using the right one will help reduce call abandon rate while dividing workload fairly among agents. Here are the most commonly used Queue Ring Strategies and their common use cases.
|Strategy||Explanation||Common Use Case|
|Ring All||Ring all available agents simultaneously until one answer||The preferred method to reduce customer waiting time|
|Linear||Rings agents in fixed order. Calls are initially distributed to the first agent on the list and move to the next agent only when the previous one is busy||A good choice to distribute calls to more experienced agents first and drive faster call resolution for customer inquiries.|
|Least Recent||Ring the agent who was least recently called||Recommended practices to balance agent workload, allowing for better agent utilization across the queue|
|Fewest Calls||Ring the agent with the fewest completed calls|
|Rrmemory||Also known as “Round Robin”, where the system remembers the last agent it rang and starts the sequence from the next agent.|
|Random||Ring a random agent|
3. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, is commonly found in call center to facilitate self-service for faster resolution. It interacts with callers through a series of automated menus and collect instant caller input – for example, account numbers, required services type, or prescription refill codes – to address queries with auto response. In some cases, an IVR itself could handle the entire service process without human intervention. In other cases, it helps auto-direct callers to the required agents or departments via call distribution system, freeing callers from duplicated data input or multiple transfers.
4. Enhanced On-hold Announcement
Queueing is often the case in call center. To improve caller experience in that process, proactively serving helpful information is critical. Using enhanced on-hold announcement, you can better engage callers waiting in line by playing custom prompt/music or announcing the caller’s position and estimated waiting time. In some cases, the on-hold announcement can be combined with IVR to provide callers with alternative routing options (e.g. opt out of the queue and leave a voicemail) to facilitate queue management.
5. Call Monitoring, Barging, Whisper Coaching
Live call monitoring, call barging, and whisper coaching can be invaluable tools to enhance the agent coaching process as well as managerial practices. Call monitoring allows call center managers to listen to a live call without caller and agent knowing, while whisper coaching enables managers to speak to an agent and provide assistance directly without letting the caller know. The call barging is a more extended feature that allows managers to talk to both agent and the caller in an ongoing call for faster call resolution.
6. Call Recording
Having call monitoring capabilities are fantastic, but not enough for busy managers who don’t always have time to listen to live calls. Call recording is here to fill the gap. When used for quality management, recordings between customers and agents can be stored, retrieved, and evaluated to determine if agents are following call flows, building rapport, offering cross-sell products, etc. Likewise, it allows call center teams to recall conversations on-demand for regulatory compliance. A properly-built recording solution makes it easy to find conversations via date, time. Caller ID, Agent ID, etc.
7. Real-Time Metric Tracking & Reporting
Data analytics technology in call center serves an essential ongoing function to ameliorate performance. A refined call center solution would integrate real-time metric visualization tool (commonly known as wallboard/dashboard), audible threshold alerts, and report generation to spot emerging call center trends and provide data for in-depth call center optimization.
Metric visualization tool: usually a central dashboard that analyzes and displays a range of relevant call center metrics and KPIs in real-time.
Audible threshold alerts: email, phone or SMS notification systems that prompt call center managers on SLA threshold overflow or important call center activities like call missed and call abandoned.
Report generation: comprehensive reporting tool that provides real-time/historical statistics on agent, queue and group-level performance by date or by interval.
8. Administration Console
An administration console is a dynamic, streamlined user interface that delivers real-time visibility to queue traffic and easy access to a variety of agent activities, such as call transfer, pickup, hold, agent log-in/log-out and more.
9. Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) / Desktop Application
CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration, is frequently implemented in call centers to allow agents to manage calls on computers rather than physical handsets. When used in tandem with a unified desktop application for call center, CTI could facilitate advanced features like screen pop (showing caller information upon incoming calls), remote desk phone control, and automated dialing, which in turn lead to increased agent efficiency.
Call Center Solution – Where Does Your Company Stand?
There is no one typical technology that can skyrocket your call center performance, but there are certainly ones that can help you turnaround your call center’s efficiency in connecting callers to the right agents, and eventually build positive customer experience.
If you have missed any of the technologies above for your call center. Maybe it’s time to think about where your company stands, what you need, and how your call center can be better built for greater outcomes.
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