Make Your Call Center A Room With A View - InformationWeek

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8/24/2004
01:28 PM
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Make Your Call Center A Room With A View

How electronic displays can help your call center get a handle on its information overload.

When you need to get up-to-the-minute information on the changing conditions in your call center, what essential data comes to mind? Number of calls in queue, average speed of answer, or average hold time? No doubt, these are critical stats that agents and supervisors must be aware of at all times - in real time - to keep pace with customer demands. And, up until recently, these are just the stats that most call centers choose to display on their readerboard systems.

But if you're running multiple applications in your call center, you already know that you need to consult much more than your ACD to get a true picture of how well your call center is performing. For example, if you have established service levels for responding to customers' e-mails or if you need to keep track of how many open trouble tickets agents are working on. Information concerning predictive dialers, IVR systems, sales databases and workforce management software (to name a few) can be just as critical.

Each of these call center technologies produce very valuable and thorough reporting on their own but the problem lies in consolidating the most relevant information into an easily understood format for agents and supervisors.

"It's really about culling the information overload and boiling it down to critical subsets of each of your vital data sources - then you have to make that data available in the format that best meets users' needs," says Susan Saldibar, vice president of marketing with Centergistic Solutions (Orange, CA).

And, depending on your needs, this format can include traditional wallboards, desktop displays on PCs, large flat panel (or plasma) screens, or a combination of all three. (More on this in a bit.)

"The more systems you have, the more data you get," says Saldibar. "Much of it is very good data but you can't possibly glean what's most critical because there's too much of it." As Saldibar points out, it can often take weeks to consolidate reports from multiple systems and by the time the data reaches management, it's already out of date.

Electronic display vendors acknowledge that they do not aim to replace the comprehensive reporting offered by your existing call center systems. Rather the goal is to pull out the essential pieces of data you need to view in real time and merge it into meaningful metrics that can be displayed and easily understood in a glance.

"Most call center systems have their own reporting mechanisms but have no way to push out data in real time," says Chris Capo, Spectrum's (Houston, TX) director, global alliances. "Even if they can display real-time data, they have no way to display it to a large audience."

Electronic displays also work well in an environment where, through either acquisitions or consolidation, you have multiple ACD systems from different vendors.

"Because of budget constraints, companies are not able to standardize all of their patch-worked apps so they're faced with making the best of what's in place," says Frank Ortiz, president of Inova Solutions (Charlottesville, VA). "The primary requirement of our customers is data integration - the collection of data that resides in separate silos in a number of locations."

Many electronic display vendors now also combine their real-time data with historical reporting. By having the benefit of historical information, you can successfully analyze trends and set up performance management goals for individual agents and teams.

"A lot of customers request historical reporting that is trickled down from real-time metrics so they can compare apples-to-apples when looking at performance data," says Saldibar. "They don't want to have to interpret data."

Bob Brittan, senior product manager with Symon Communications (Plano, TX), cites how more executives are beginning to appreciate the powerful real-time and historical data produced by his company's software.

"Large businesses have matured and shifted the way they view the call center," he says. "They realize how intricately the call center is linked to the rest of the business whereas before they thought of the call center strictly as a commodity."

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