DSC Tech Library
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Call Center technology and Best Practices plus software and products.
Since the Company's inception in 1978, DSC has specialized in the development of communications software and systems. Beginning with our CRM and call center applications, DSC has developed computer telephony integration software and PC based phone systems. These products have been developed to run on a wide variety of telecom computer systems and environments.
The following article presents product or service information relating to call centers and customer service help desks.
Customer Service and the Customer Lifecycle
The following is an extract from the article "Change Happens: Manage the Customer Lifecycle" from Destination CRM Magazine:
"Leading Web retailers such as Land's End and BMG Direct know a lot more about their customers than just their size, industry or geographical location. Instead, deeper knowledge of customer buying and behavior patterns allow the companies to respond to customers' changing needs in real time, more effectively targeting their offers and CRM resources.
The two companies are among the leaders in what some analysts are describing as the wave of the future. The Meta Group and its affiliate, IMT strategies, refer to this sales approach as "Customer Lifecycle Management" (CLM). The firms' recent study on the subject is based on 50 in-depth interviews with a sample of best-in-class CRM-user companies as well as a more generalized survey of almost 900 businesses.
"In a nutshell, CLM is using the customer as the design point for your business strategy," explains IMT's Steve Diorio, project director for the report. "The goal is to understand how various types of customers--be they individuals or businesses--want to be interacted with at each stage in the lifecycle. Once you have that understanding, you can tailor people, processes and technologies to respond to customers like never before."
Does this model represent the be-all-end-all? "No," asserts Michael Maoz of Gartner Group, which coined the phrase "Customer Relationship Planning" (CRP) to describe essentially the same paradigm. "CRP is essential in that it uses customer data to match an organization's resources with customer needs. In terms of grasping the concept, very few executives question the need for it. But actually getting there is an entirely different matter. A lot of things must happen before CRP can become reality."
Maoz predicts that most companies will spend the next few years planning CRP strategies but will continue to execute tactically--as they've done for years now--through at least 2005. "For some companies," he adds, "I even question whether they can ever bring this model to fruition, but it's what they should aim for."
stage 1: Put Technology Dots in Place
How will businesses evolve to a CLM model? For most, by playing a sort of grand-scale, corporate game of Connect-the-Dots. The "dots" are various technologies, processes and channels that must be integrated and optimized to render the big picture
Under the Meta/IMT scenario, the connect-the-dots strategy is a four-stage process. Right now, most companies are at stage 1, says Diorio. They can't link dots if the dots aren't there in the first place, so they've got to select and implement a mix of technologies that will meet their needs. The goal in doing so is to build what Meta and IMT refer to as a "CRM ecosystem," which consists of three categories of applications:
Operational applications are those that are customer-facing and transaction-oriented. They include back-office systems (ERP, supply chain management and legacy systems) and front-office applications for sales, marketing and service (such as Siebel and Clarify). About 80 percent of the companies surveyed for the Meta/IMT report have some degree of operational technology in place.
Collaborative applications help facilitate coordination and communication between a company and its customers. They include voice applications (IVR, ACD), conferencing applications (for tele- and Web-conferencing), e-mail applications (response management) and fax/letter applications. Over half of the companies surveyed by IMT and Meta have some type of collaborative technology today.
Analytical applications pull together data collected from operational systems and then dissect this data for purposes of business performance management. Analytical technologies include: data warehouses, data marts and marketing analytics applications (such as Exchange and E.piphany). Among the companies surveyed by Meta and IMT, about a third have deployed some type of analytical technology. Approximately 75 percent intend to invest in this technology in the year ahead.
Meta Group's Liz Shahnam underscores that all three categories of applications are necessary to create a real CRM ecosystem and to ensure its balance. Given that such a mix represents a lot of underlying technologies, where should a company begin? As always, she says, with areas focused on the customer. These areas frequently represent the company's greatest pain points.
"Often companies have aging call centers or sales teams that have no way to track leads. In those cases, they should begin by deploying operational applications and then implement the analytics and collaborational pieces that go along with just that slice," she says. Such a piece-by-piece approach is far easier to digest--both strategically and financially--than is taking on everything at once.
stage 1 Challenges: Beyond hassles typically associated with software selection and implementation, companies must decide whether to purchase best-of-breed point solutions or to buy software suites. Analysts tend to prefer point solutions but acknowledge that cost can be prohibitive for mid-tier and small companies. Companies purchasing suites should still look to point solutions to address mission-critical areas.
stage 2: Link the Technologies
If deploying operational, analytical and collaborative applications gives a company the backbone for its CRM ecosystem, linking those systems is what makes the ecosystem hang together. This connecting of technology dots represents the second stage in progressing towards a CLM model, and to date, only a small percentage of firms have done so.
Some of the major cataloguers--like BMG and Lands End--are among the handful. They're using call center systems on the operational end, various Web technologies that are collaborative, and analytics that do marketing segmentation and create a personalized experience. "With these technologies integrated," explains Shahnam, "call center agents can see that you cruised the Web site and aborted your shopping cart. They can also see that you've been targeted for a campaign and so can ask if you'd like to buy the right sweater today."
Because it's so early in the game, most companies that have accomplished a degree of integration are hard-pressed to quantify benefits. "For many, the incentive for integrating in the first place wasn't so much to get ahead as it was for damage control," asserts Diorio. "So the benefits they're citing are soft--things like improved customer service, fewer e-mails falling through the cracks and those kinds of things."
stage 2 Challenges: As companies begin tying together applications within each category and then linking different technology categories together, cultural issues that separate departments and divisions within the organization will become apparent. Beyond these issues, companies will have to determine the extent to which various types of data should be integrated--a task that can be far more difficult than it sounds....."
To review the entire article, visit www.destinationcrm.com and locate the article entitled "Change Happens: Manage the Customer Lifecycle".
CRM Call Center Software
Database Systems Corp. (DSC) has been providing CRM Customer Relationship Management solutions to businesses and organizations for 2 decades.
TELEMATION is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application employed in a wide variety of organizations including contact centers, help desks, customer service centers, service bureaus, reservation centers and corporate call centers. The package has extensive CTI features and is fully integrated with our PACER phone system. TELEMATION operates on Linux, Unix or Windows servers. Software programmers can develop call center applications quickly using the robost features found in the Telemation toolkit.
Call Center Phone System
The PACER is a call center phone system that handles inbound and outbound calls for a wide range of contact centers. Calls are either initiated by the phone system or accepted from the outside and distributed in an intelligent fashion to your service agents. The PACER includes ACD and IVR components, plus call recording capability. Using industry standard components, the PACER phone system has features and functions that can only be found in large scale PBX’s, but at a fraction of the cost. And the PACER has predictive dialing capability that cannot be found in most of these larger phone systems. The PACER phone system can connect calls to your employees working at home or in a local or remote office. The PACER communicates with applications written on Unix, Linux, or PC servers over a LAN. For a complete product presentation, download our PACER demo.