Last week, we spoke of two of the four areas to think about in making your call center work for your customer. Here’s an infographic of the issues, with details below.
Work the phone system
Your phone system can tell you a whole lot things that software can’t. And that data can help you connect with customers in very interesting ways. For example, you may want to automate an email/text message to the caller when s/he hangs up – imagine the impact of the caller’s phone pinging with your thank-you message seconds after hanging up. Or, you may want to compare the time spent on the phone with the time spent writing up notes, by specific agents. You can do that kind of thing by getting what’s called CDR (Call Data Record) from your phone system into your app.
CDR data is very detailed information about every call that goes through your phone system, maintained by the PBX. At the end of the call, your PBX can be set up deliver that detail to your app, including an ID that uniquely identifies each specific call. Some phone systems will deliver an initial record when the call comes in and then deliver more detail about the same call as the call progresses and when the call ends; some systems will deliver just one record, after the caller hangs up; some systems will deliver multiple records, one for each “forwarding” that may happen within the phone system In any of those cases, you need a way to tie the CDR to the caller, usually based on the phone number, and roll that into your app for reporting.
Call control on screen
Another thing you should consider very seriously is to put call-control buttons on screen, for your agents. That way, s/he can answer, forward, hold, mute or hang up the call just by clicking buttons within your app. To do this, though, your phone system needs to provide APIs with the relevant functionality. IP-PBX systems have this kind of capability by default; if you’re using a phone-based PBX, you will need additional hardware. As a productivity-enhancer, this is significant, so you may want to check that price very seriously.
Other PBX possibilities
There are a number of other things you can bring into your app, if your PBX cooperates. For example, if a call drops in the midst of a conversation, you may want the caller to be called back at the click of a button. For another, you may want the PBX to submit missed-calls and off-business-hours calls to your app, so that designated callers can call them back during business hours. In a web-based Lead Gen program, you may want the phone system to call a visitor the moment s/he keys in her phone number on your website. The possibilities are endless!
OK, so you have the inbound model all trucking along great. Now, how about improving call center effectiveness in an outbound – or even “blended” – mode? In most phone systems, an outbound is actually two calls – one to the number you called, from the PBX and one to the calling agent, again from the PBX. This gives you a variety of options to use.
A simple button or icon next to every phone number, so the agent can just click on it to make the call, is a real improvement that agents will appreciate. Yes, s/he could cut-and-paste, but why do that when you can save a few minutes – and mis-dial frustrations – when you can enable a click-to-call? Phone-based PBXs are a but of a challenge (you’ll have to talk to the vendor about an add-on for this), but IP-PBXs routinely give you a simple URL that you can stitch into your app, to make this happen. And it’d really cool if you can show an icon next to every phone number, telling the agent if the number is in the Do-Not-Call registry (we’ve doing that in Impel for Indian numbers for years now).
Having saved people minutes for every call, you can now go further in your outbound contact program, getting the phone system to make the call automatically. So you can load up a long list of numbers into the PBX (into something typically called a “hopper”) and the PBX will just go out and make those calls. The neat thing here is, an agent will be brought into such a call only if it starts ringing, so wrong numbers, phones being off, etc. will never even show up in an agent’s radar. Call centers report improvements of 20% to 35% in terms of the number of people contacted daily, so its definitely something to consider. You’ll need to figure out one big thing, though: when the phone is ringing, will the AGENT wait or will the CUSTOMER? The thing is, when the PBX dials out a number, it could either connect an agent immediately as it starts ringing (so the agent waits for the customer to pick up the call) OR it connects the agent after the customer picks up the call. I guess that decision depends on whether you’re making Sales calls (agent waits, obviously) or Support (customer waits, unfortunately) calls!
You will also need to figure out how many calls an agent can handle, how much time you want to give him/her between calls and so on – all good things to think about.
Sync Marketing Program data
To really tie it all together, you should consider getting your app to manage the list of people to be called. You can just push that list down to the PBX periodically, so it goes off on its merry way with just the phone numbers, while your app has all the details about customer demographics, calls made, etc. Done well, this throws up a number of interesting possibilities. For example, let’s say you want someone to make a welcome call to every customer within 24 hours after they sign up and you want to make a follow-up call every 30 days. You could create lists on the PBX side for each of these steps and just update that list every time someone signs up. So the PBX will dial out every new customer when s/he needs to be called, without agents needing to track the details. And the pop-up would show the agent what kind of call this is, so s/he can say the right things!
So there’s a fairly long list of things to think about, when you’re looking to make agents focus on customers instead of calls. And (here comes the plug): we’ve done most of this already in Impel.
Let us know if there are other issues out there that need to be solved!