Technological advances further functionality

Tuesday, 30 March, 1999 - 22:00
CALL centres have gained prominence within the last eight years with developments in technology such as PABX, IVR (interactive voice response) and CTI (computer telephony integration).

To add to this, web-based technology is now further extending the functionality of call centre operations.

A spokesman from CyberResearch Intelligence said the new ‘digital economy’ offers today’s call centre customer better attention, information, convenience and helpfulness.

“In addition to the traditional media forms of telephone and mail, call centres are adding services such as Web Call Back, Fax Back, video, email and IP telephony to the customer contact mix in a bid for competitive advantage,” he said.

Industry sources estimate that email users will grow from 15 per cent of the US population in 1996 to 50 per cent by 2001, sending 500 million messages annually. The same relative growth is expected for the Asia Pacific region.

According to Forrester Research, the convergence of these new communication channels with existing call centre infrastructure has seen the end of the call centre and the birth of the Customer Interaction Centre (CIC).

A Customer Interaction Centre is a blended environment for email, fax, Internet, multimedia and telephony, providing the enhancement of customer-agent interaction using collaboration of a number of communication channels — increasing the opportunities for sales and maintaining customer relationships.

The value to the business is that customers are managed by market segments within self-service channels, thereby increasing the number of packages for market segments, and revenue is increased while automated agents and channel collaboration for operation decrease.

“According to statistics from Datamonitor, by the year 2000, 33 per cent of all call centres and 64 per cent of all outsourcers (service bureaus) will be ‘web-enabled’ offering multimedia contact solutions for clients,” a CyberResearch Intelligence spokesman said.

“Indeed, the Gartner Group has said that ‘strategies that do not embrace the changes coming in the email market will fail‘ and subsequently ‘enterprises that try to lock the doors and protect themselves from the Internet will be at a significant disadvantage in their industries’.”

“Almost any company could use call centre technology to reduce the transaction time and improve accessibility for any sort of commerce between itself and its customers.

“With the electronic commerce opportunities of the Internet, combined with call centre technology, business to business transactions, as well as business to consumer transactions, can only be enhanced,” he said.