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 relates to call center technology or customer service best practices and techniques.
A Call Center in your Enterprise
Want to build up your own in-house contact center, rather than outsource? Here's how to pick the right platforms, technologies and processes
by Rajneesh De
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Amidst all the brouhaha about the global offshoring and its impact on the
Indian BPO/call center industry, there is a general tendency to ignore a
steadily growing constituency—the domestic captive call centers. Some third
party call centers currently do cater to Indian customers, but as India Inc.
becomes more and more service-focused, there is an increasing trend amongst
enterprises to set up in house call centers.
This poses a new set of challenges for enterprise CIOs, since setting up call
centers requires different dynamics which many of the old economy CIOs are not
really familiar with.
In many instances, it has often been found that though a CIO has been
mandated by the company to set up a call center for internal usage, he is often
at sea about how to go ahead. And the scale of the call center operation might
not justify outsourcing the services to a third party. The first issue that
concerns most CIOs in these cases is which technology to opt for during set up
phase. The options available are traditional EPABX-based systems, the
next-generation server-based systems and lastly the state-of-the-art IP based
systems. Other than the technologies involved, this choice would also depend on
a number of factors, including the domain in which the enterprise belongs, size
of the operation, whether scaling up would be required in the future and the
available skill sets within the existing IT team.
Considerations for an In-house Call Center
||Make the right
technology choice depending on the business requirement—either
traditional EPABX, server-based or IP-based call centers. Shift to
IP-based only if the business demands.
different call center equipments to handle projected call loads.
infrastructure and agent infrastructure should be properly monitored
and call center designed accordingly.
||Basic operational areas
like facility design, workforce management, tracking call center
performance and management and reporting tools must be in place.
||Set up a holistic CRM
ecosystem that should include such elements as interaction
management, commitment management and business intelligence.
Technology—What Will it Be?
The evolution of a call center could be traced back to the traditional EPABX-based
system—the PBX was deployed to distribute calls coming on common lines to the
desks of the agents. To create a full-fledged call center predictive dialers,
IVR systems and CTI were later added over the EPABX system. A predictive dialer
is an automated dialing system that empowers call centers so that they can spend
50 minutes of each hour talking to live prospects.
Says Atul Kunwar, MD-global outsourcing operations, eFunds,
"Telemarketers no longer waste time dialing numbers–all they do is talk
to prospects. Predictive dialers have more telephone lines than telemarketers,
which are used to initiate phone calls while telemarketers talk to
A complex algorithm is used to predict the average time it takes to get a
live answer and the average length of each conversation, so that telemarketers
flow seamlessly from good-bye to hello. It is common for productivity to double
or triple when making the transition to a predictive dialer. Avaya, Nortel and
NEC are some of the leading vendors in the country dealing with predictive
Computer telephone integration (CTI) is all about enabling computers to know
about and control telephony functions such as making and receiving voice, fax,
and data calls, telephone directory services, and caller ID.
According to S Madhavan, CTO, Servion Global Solutions, the main CTI
functions are integrating messaging with databases, word processors etc.,
controlling voice, fax, and e-mail messaging systems from a single
application-program; graphical call control using a GUI to perform functions
such as making and receiving calls, forwarding and conferencing; call and data
association–provision of information about the caller from databases or other
applications automatically before the call is answered or transferred; speech
synthesis and speech recognition; automatic logging of call related information
for invoicing purposes.
In fact, Servion had developed a CTI engine for call centers in India which
is compatible with CTI solutions from vendors like Avaya and Nortel.
Though EPABX-based call centers were the first model, server-based call
centers, that integrates all the components of a call center into one server as
software components, could just make life easier for CIOs.
Anwer Bagdadi, CTO, Epicenter Technologies, lists three main advantages of a
server-based call center over a traditional EPABX-based system. Most
importantly, it drastically reduces the costs over the traditional architecture,
often by nearly 80%. With call center components becoming software modules on a
common platform, the exorbitant integration costs can be avoided. The other
advantages are the flexibility available for scaling up operations—with most
enterprises becoming bigger in a flourishing economy this is a real possibility
for which provision must made. With Web and multimedia becoming important
delivery channels, server-based systems score over EPABX, as they allow CIOs to
make a seamless integration between video, voice and data.
In a traditional environment, while a multi-location contact center
would need an automatic call distributor at every site, a single ACD
could suffice for all sites if the network is IP-based
The Indian call center market is now witnessing a move towards IP-based
solutions—it makes sense for call centers to ride high on IP since that
provides opportunities for seamless addition of new, multi-location sites.
Remarks Sanjay Kumar, CEO, Vcustomer, " Investment into developing TDM-based
technology stopped about 12 years back. While it is now proven and mature, IP is
where the action is. You can therefore look forward to all innovations happening
on the IP front".
Kumar advises that if companies are starting out anew, then it is better that
the IP-way is chosen. Whereas if one is expanding a TDM-based set up, then go
for IP that is compatible with TDM.
Says Suchitra Srinivasan, Avaya, "IP-based converged voice and data
platforms are better equipped to meet customer demands of consistency across all
channels." This is because it can facilitate voice and data interaction
over a single network and single platform. IP also offers cost savings in terms
of more flexible adds, moves and changes. For CIOs setting up multi-location
contact centers or even location-less (home-based) centers, IP offers tremendous
potential. For instance, in a traditional environment, while a multi-location
contact center would need an automatic call distributor (ACD) at every site, a
single ACD could suffice for all sites if the network is IP-based.
Adds Bagdadi, "The IP-based solution also enhances the productivity of
the contact agents. Location independence is a key benefit of an IP based
contact center infrastructure. No matter where the agents are physically
located, as long as they have access to the corporate WAN, they can still
function as if onsite."
This also helps the CIO to reduce operational costs of the call center—he
can even convince the CFO showing him quantifiable benefits in terms of RoI. The
operation could be organized in a distributed manner, making the infrastructure
resilient to eventualities of failure/disaster. With an underlying IP-based
contact center infrastructure, one deploys and maintains a single network. All
these factors significantly reduce the total cost of network ownership, which
would make all–CFO/CIO/CEOs–happy.
Most often, the kind of equipment and software required in a call-center
spans generations of technologies and standards. Serviceability of the whole set
up is a paramount consideration.
Adds Kumar, "This consideration should not come as an afterthought…it
has to be there right in the planning stage." Once the choice of technology
has been made, the CIO faces the more crucial issue of sizing different call
center equipments appropriately to handle call loads projected for a call
center. A certain number of incoming PSTN trunks will be required to handle a
specific load. PBX/ACD and IVR units must have an appropriate number of ports to
receive incoming trunks and additional ports to handle internal agent lines.
Server-based call center architectures are generally non-blocking, hence the
complexity is reduced to estimating the call load, which is used to derive the
number of PSTN ports required. A general rule of thumb is that the ratio of PSTN
ports to number of agents for effective agent utilization should be between 1.5
Telecom equipment is generally sized based on peak loads and desired
performance levels. Various formulae and queuing algorithms are used to
determine line and port configurations for incoming call center operations.
These models are based on performance parameters including:
Blocking levels—number of callers who get a busy signal in a specified
period of time. Queue times—duration of time for which a caller is held in
queue prior to connecting to an agent.
IVR time—the time required to complete an IVR portion of a script. Agent
time—the time required to complete an agent portion of a script.
Re-dial rates—the percentage of blocked callers who re-dial within a peak
hour. Average number of calls per month; number of calls during a peak hour and
peak call volumes are traditionally used for equipment sizing. A number of peak
load situations may actually occur in an operation, all of which must be
considered when developing loading models.
Once the call center is ready, it is important for a CIO to check out certain
telecom nitty-gritties which could become crucial at the time of scaling up the
Bagdadi, a veteran in setting up call centers at Godrej-Lawkim, GE and
Epicenter, agrees on these points which many CIOs often gloss over. The issues
involved are whether the local exchange provides analog or digital links,
whether the PSTN service provider could give routing from two different
exchanges to increase reliability and whether existing PBX and phone lines can
be re-used in call centers.
Management & Reporting
Finally, the operational issues involved in a running call center include
facility design, staffing and workforce management, employee motivation and
training, performance management and utilization for cross selling. Once the
basic gear has been hooked up, the most important consideration is to assess the
management and reporting capabilities.
The operational part of call-centers involve the following :
Facility design: Call center development will, in many cases, require
the design of new facilities or redesign of the existing facilities. In either
case, it is important to create a well thought out facility plan, with process
work flows and employee satisfaction being two important criteria in the design.
Workforce management: Periods for peak claim loads may generally be
identified through call volume statistics. Bagdadi lists this as a priority for
most CIOs in 2004. The exact volume of calls at any point in time is unknown.
Optimizing the number of staff available to deal with these unknown volumes, is
Tracking call center performance: Important criteria are abandonment
rates, numbers of calls handled by each agent, average speed of answer and/or
wait times, average time of each call (by agent) and percentage of blocked calls
(busy). But, quality customer service is more important than achieving these
goals. Various reporting tools from vendors like Blue Pumpkin, Aspect and IEX
can refine this step.
Cross-selling services: Call centers that consistently cross-sell at
every opportunity can quickly become a profit center as opposed to a
CRM is another important aspect that a CIO should look once the call center
is operational. A holistic CRM ecosystem should include such elements as
interaction management, commitment management and business intelligence. Keeping
this in mind, one can start putting in place a contact center solution. For
instance, one must take into connsideration that customers appreciate
communication consistency across all communications channels. Similarly, the
business intelligence of the contact center solution should have tools that
satisfy an enterprise’s growing need to know its customers more and better.