Call Center Solutions: Contact Center+
What Is A Call Center?
Call centers special offices that are purpose-built to handle a large volume of phone calls. Call centers typically handle customer service, support, telemarketing, telesales and collections functions. The employees who staff call centers are referred to as “agents” or “customer service representatives” (frequently abbreviated as CSRs). Call centers range from very small informal operations to massive, highly optimized sites with hundreds or even thousands of agents.
Call centers use specialized telephone equipment to maximize productivity. Specialized telephony switching systems called “Automatic Call Distributors” or ACDs are used to queue and route inbound calls to agents based on a wide variety of criteria. Outbound calls are frequently generated by an automated system called a “Predictive Dialer” that monitors the status of agents and places calls on their behalf. Other common call center tools include desktop integration (frequently referred to as “screen pop”), Interactive Voice Response (IVR) applications, call recording solutions, productivity monitoring utilities, workforce planning systems and various methods of historical and near real-time reporting.
Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)
An ACD is a specialized phone system that routes (distributes) incoming calls to teams of agents assigned to various call queues. Queues are simply ordered list of calls to be dispatched to agents. The ACD oversees the process of placing incoming calls into the proper queue, assigning priority to those calls based on various factors (the order of their arrival, the importance of the caller, the urgency of the caller’s situation), and ultimately dispatching those calls to an available agent. The algorithm by which calls are dispatched is called the queue strategy.
A simple ACD system consists of a source of calls (a pool of lines, trunks or virtual trunks), a FIFO (first-in, first-out) queue and a pool of agents who are selected using a “ring-all” strategy. In this case, when a call arrives the system rings the phones of all agents who are not already on a call. The first agent to answer the call is connected with the calling party. All the other phones stop ringing.
A more complex (and likely more useful) configuration would have the call offered to the agent who had been in the idle state longest. This “most idle” strategy is frequently used when all agents are considered equally qualified to handle a task. Other common strategies include round robin, linear hunt, least-recently-called, fewest calls and random. In some cases, the ACD can weight its selection based on the caller’s need (generally collected using an IVR application) and a list of skills associated with each agent. This is generally referred to as “skills-based routing”.
While waiting in queue, callers generally hear a combination of marketing messages, queue status messages and music. Marketing messages are simply audio recordings that are piped into the queue on a periodic basis. Status messages provide the caller with specific information about their status — the number of callers ahead of them in the queue, the estimated wait time and sometimes alternatives to waiting in queue. Some more advanced call queueing systems support virtual queueing. A virtual queueing system allows callers to provide a callback number, then disconnect. Their position in the queue is preserved and when an agent becomes available the system places an outbound call to the caller.
Outbound call centers frequently use a dialer application to connect agents with targets. Dialers can be simple desktop applications that implement a basic “click-to-call” function, or much more advanced systems
Desktop dialer applications are generally integrated with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software or other business applications. When an agent needs to make a call, the click a button or link in the dialer application rather than manually entering the digits on the keypad of their phone. The dialer application then places the call on their behalf by sending a command to the phone (known as “first person” integration) or to the phone system (known as “third person” integration). Automating the dialing process reduces errors and increases productivity.
Large-scale cold-calling operations commonly associated with tele-sales, collections and political campaigns, require more aggressive dialer systems. Some of these are simply “power dialers” which essentially place one outbound call for each available agent. When an agent hangs up, the system automatically dials another call and connects it to the agent’s phone. This pattern continues as long as the agent remains logged into the system. Power dialers allow an outbound call center to place far more calls than could be accomplished manually. However, there is still some agent time wasted handling calls that do not connect, reach answering machines or otherwise fail to reach the target.
Predictive dialers are essentially smarter power dialers. They carefully monitor the average handle time for each agent and attempt to predict when an agent will become available. Rather than placing calls on a one-agent-to-one-call basis, they place more calls than there are agents available. When a call is answered the system uses various methods to determine if the answering party is a human or an answering machine. Answering machines are either dropped or fed a pre-recorded message while live answers are handed off to agents.
Sometimes dialer systems are completely automated. These place calls then play messages to the answering party or machine. These systems are commonly used for notification purposes (i.e. reminder of a doctor’s appointment, notice that school has been cancelled) as well as marketing and political messaging. Some automatic dialer systems support additional features like surveys or transfers to live agents.
In most jurisdictions there are many laws governing the use of dialers. Before deploying a dialer be certain to review these to avoid significant penalties or even criminal charges.
While ACDs and dialer systems are quite powerful on their own, interconnecting them with a number of related technologies has the potential to increase the efficiency and in some cases improve customer experience.
Automated attendant systems have long been paired with ACDs, allowing callers to route themselves into the appropriate call queue. Automated attendants are simply menu systems that prompt callers to indicate their preference using the keys on their phone or, in some cases, by speaking keywords. Callers are generally willing to accept up to two levels of menu before reaching a live agent. More than two levels tends to annoy most callers and can result in an increase in abandoned calls.
Interactive Voice Response
Interactive Voice Response or IVR applications are another technology frequently integrated with ACDs. IVR systems prompt callers for data items — things like account numbers, prescription refill codes or package tracking numbers — and use those values to look up caller-specific information from remote data sources. In some cases the IVR application can handle an entire transaction without human intervention. In other cases the IVR feeds data to the ACD to help it route the call appropriately.
CTI / Screen Pop
To increase agent productivity, desktop business applications are frequently integrated with the ACD in such a way that data related to the caller is automatically displayed when a call is delivered. This is commonly referred to as either “Computer-Telephony Integration” or simply as a “screen pop”. There are several ways to accomplish this. In some cases the business applications support a CTI standard like TAPI or TSAPI. In other cases the applications are custom and communicate directly with the ACD or a “CTI server” that acts as a proxy for the ACD.
Call centers frequently record calls either to monitor the performance of their agents or for regulatory compliance. Call recording systems handle the process of capturing the audio from all participants in the call, mixing it, storing it and producing an index that allows administrators or regulators to locate and review recordings. A properly built recording system makes it easy to pinpoint conversations using common keys including Caller ID, date, time and agent ID.
ContactCenter+ & 3cx
Call centers can be the ultimate double-edged sword for businesses. On one hand, if your call center is functioning optimally and providing customers with top-notch service, you’re likely to create long-lasting relationships and increase sales through cross selling and upselling.
On the flip side, a dysfunctional call center that causes long wait times, multiple transfers between agents, and other frustrating issues can lead to customer churn and lost revenue. Hiring skilled agents is critical to great customer service, but onboarding the right personnel is not the only factor in contact center success.
Call Center Features
To truly optimize their call centers, businesses need IP-PBX telephony with contact center functionality. For example, 3CX Phone System Pro Edition offers a variety of contact center features that boost agent productivity and support top-of-the-line service, including:
•Allowing customers to hang up and keep their position in the call queue, automatically calling them back when their turn is up
•Real-time viewing of the number of callers in the queue
•Queue functionality such as: Round Robin, Longest Waiting, Least Talk Time, Fewest Answered
•Instant notification when callers have been in a queue beyond the set SLA time
•Listen In & Whisper feature that allows supervisors to relate important information to agents during a customer interaction
•Barge In feature that allows managers to assist service representatives and/or customers by joining in mid-conversation
3CX Phone System Pro also comes with advanced reporting capabilities that allow supervisors to quickly drill down on crucial performance indicators like average waiting time, call resolution percentage, or call distribution. Those statistics can also be displayed on a monitor so supervisors can keep track of what’s happening in the contact center just by looking at a single screen.
In addition to features specifically tailored to contact centers, 3CX Phone System Pro includes all the functionality of the product’s standard version, many of which are also useful for call centers. For example, contact center employees can leverage unified communications features like cross-office presence. Using presence to see the status of co-workers allows call center employees to: place a call to or leave a voicemail with a customer; contact a colleague in a different location to get an answer to a difficult customer inquiry; or transfer a call to the appropriate department—all from a desktop with a few mouse clicks.
Last but not least, 3CX Phone System Pro can seamlessly integrate with existing CRM systems like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage ACT!, SugarCRM and Google Contacts. The 3CX CRM Integration Module facilitates that integration, thereby allowing your contact center to continue using the customer database you’ve already built while reaping the benefits of your new best-in-class IP-PBX phone system. Once the integration has taken place, agents receive screen pops displaying customer information when an incoming call arrives from an existing contact in the CRM system. Agents can also make outbound calls to customer contacts with a single mouse click.
Trying to run a contact center effectively without a phone system that includes advanced call center features is a lot like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole; no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get exactly the right fit. But as soon as you install 3CX Phone System Pro, you’ll notice everything in your call center beginning to line up exactly right.
ContactCenter+ Asterisk Vicidial<br>
Asterisk is a powerful tool for building call center systems and solutions. With support support for call queues, IVRs, outbound dialing, recording, live monitoring and reporting, Asterisk includes virtually everything you need to create a working call center. Small and informal call centers can be built using a single Asterisk server or deployed from a turn-key IP PBX. Enterprise call centers generally make use of a cluster of Asterisk systems structured to scale as the business grows. Call centers with legacy ACD systems frequently use Asterisk as an adjunct, acting as the IVR front-end to a skills-based routing solution.
Cloud based call center software cater to very large systems. Asterisk is by far the most widely used telephony platform. As a natural evolution, the use of Asterisk in both Cloud and large premise based installations have come a long way. Technology for call center software is to some extent driven by the ‘assemble and build’ mode where various accessory technology element available in software form come together to deliver the final solution. Call center software depends on the underlying PBX technology and other technologies for web, database, SIP, and redundancy.
Redundancy and High Availability (HA) for data systems does not have the complexity associated with providing a fail-over mechanism in voice telephony where the two telephone end points of an established call need to be re-connected. In most cases, HA for a VoIP system is the immediate availability of a redundant system. The growth of VoIP based voice telephony has presented a opportunity that has been well exploited in the call survival mechanism embodied in Q-Suite HA. The contribution of Asterisk in such advancements is immense as it allows the developers of the call center software to focus on these frontiers by doing the heavy lifting necessary in SIP, digital telephony, and interoperability.
A large Asterisk based contact center in the cloud or in customer premise will have many Asterisk, Web, and Database servers under the control of the call center ACD. Applying call recovery and initiating call survival requires a more complex and robust system that can manage fail-overs without the loss of on-going calls. The redundancy offered through call survival driven High Availability for Asterisk contact centers offers the reliability for mission critical implementations in VoIP.
VICIdial Call Center Suite
VICIdial is an enterprise class, open source, call center suite in use by many large call centers around the world.
VICIdial has a full featured predictive dialer. It can also function as an ACD for inbound calls, or closer calls coming from VICIdial outbound fronters. It is capable of inbound, outbound, and blended call handling. VICIdial even allows you to have agents logged in from remote locations.
The VICIdial agent interface has been translated into Spanish, Greek, German, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Slovak, Russian, Dutch, Traditional Chinese, and Brazillian.
We invite you to step forward and move your office communications to a whole new level of technology. Our turnkey solution provides you with a great number of new features. You will have access not only to the standard functions of receiving, holding and switching calls, but will also be able to record conversations, manage intelligent routing, get advanced statistics, work with multi-level voice menus, organize conferences, view notifications about incoming and abandoned calls on the screen. You can join remote offices and branches into your own telephone network, connect your partners and customers to make calls to each other for free. All this is possible using ContactCenter+
ContactCenter+ — is a means of automating incoming and outgoing campaigns
The call center module enhances our core product — the intelligent PBX, and is a professional tool which enables you to automate inbound and outbound agent campaigns, perform predictive dialing, send sms and e-mail messages to customer base, manage agent resources, get extended statistics.
Call center — is not just a program
Creating a call center from the green field is not merely implementing software, but above all, substantially changing the scheme of interaction with clients, which often implies transformation of the company structure. The correct approach to call center organization requires a specialized unit, responsible for receiving and making calls. The results of call center activity are used by other system units in the form of reports, received orders and the results of outgoing calls. Such arrangement serves for reallocation of the non-core telephone load from the qualified staff to the agents involved only in contact with subscribers. Consequently, the quality of service is significantly improved, resulting, in its turn, in increased loyalty, reduced costs, increased productivity of the key personnel.
Experts claim that call center — is not how the phones are ringing, but how the information is processed. It is the accumulation, processing and updating of information that is the main objective of call center activity. A new service request, a new prospect found during the cold-calling, a telephone query processed by an agent — all this implies dealing with information. Information sources are the starting point of any call center. The ContactCenter+ platform allows you to create and customize your own information field in the form of various tables, and use information sources of other software applications, containing customer information.
All information in call center is handled strictly according to the specified rules. This is how the principle of service unification is realized. For this purpose, all contacts with customers are filtered by type, then for each type of service you need to create an algorithm and program it into the call center module. The configured algorithm is a series of interactive dialog forms appearing on the agent's screen at the beginning of the conversation. The agent that serves contact, following the dialogue form, would clearly meet all the requirements without delay. Consequently, the system will analyze the data entered by him/her and independently perform additional steps: create and send suggestions to the customer by e-mail, check and send the received order to the CRM-system and other activities.
The report data
The working call center resembles a conveying system where the agents perform only one single operation — communicate with customers and in the process of communication form the information field. As the call is completed, the information is pushed further, where it expected by other members of the production cycle. But to make it a real well-oiled machine, it is necessary to constantly monitor key indicators of this process: to control the queue, the service levels. Each business has plenty of indicators used to estimate everything is going according to plan. But if some figure gets out of the norm, this must be detected and compensatory measures must be taken immediately. This is what ContactCenter+ allows you to do by means of real-time and chronological reports, control events and resource management modes.
Are you sure you need exactly call center?
ManagedUC — is a flexible software product, customizable to each customer's needs. Its functionality covers the whole range of communication needs in the management of any company. It is used to create different solutions, from small office phone system performing PBX functions, to the powerful professional call centers, which are the top of corporate communication standards evolution. Very often, the potential customers turning to us with a question about purchasing a call center do not exactly understand what the term means. It turns out that they are willing to have a modern phone system software with the functions of call recording, statistics, IVR, subscriber information on the screen and so on... In this case, we believe that call center is not needed, because these and many other features are contained in our base product, which is much more popular and inexpensive, that is — the intelligent PBX software solution.
Call Center Phone System features with ContactCenter+ Pro for improved Customer Service
In today’s cut throat market, businesses of all sizes must be seen to be providing superior customer service to their existing and potential customers.
Traditional proprietary PBX’s with call centre functionality have proven to be either too expensive or difficult to set up. ContactCenter+ changes this as it provides professional call center phone system features within the ContactCenter+ suite at an affordable price, allowing your business to focus on providing the best possible customer service.
Advanced Real time Queue Statistics
Monitor queue status
Review the number of callers in a queue
Log agents in and out of queues
Advanced Agent Statistics
Total Time an agent is logged in/out of the queue
Review the number of answered/unanswered calls
Average and longest wait time and more
Call Back Feature
Allow your customers to hang up and retain their position in the queue
The customer is called back when an agent becomes available
Call back notification emails are sent to the supervisor
Additional Queue Strategies
Least Talk Time
Hunt By Threes – Random
Hunt By Threes – Prioritized
Supervisors and managers can be notified when callers have to wait beyond a configurable amount of time
Events are logged in order to meet customer service requirements
SLA notification emails are sent to the supervisor
Supervisors can screen calls by listening in without the agent and caller knowing about it
Listen and Whisper
The supervisor may need to relate some important information to the agent without the customer hearing
The supervisor can enter the call and assist the agent and customer