CTI in the 21st Century

In the final part in this series of three articles looking at CTI in the 21st Century, Phil Reynolds, Technology Evangelist & Joint CEO at Oak, looks at how CTI should be deployed in formal and informal call centres to minimise support and to maximise customer satisfaction.

In the last article we looked at how formal and informal call centres work. In this article we’re going to look at the key elements that will lead to a successful installation of CTI based software and how to make sure it meets and exceeds customers’ expectations.

Of course there’s nothing new here, it’s all in the planning. But so often the planning goes out of the window, the customer wants a solution yesterday and you rush in and install something, something that neither the customer has clearly defined nor you as the supplier has agreed to. If you install a CTI based solution in a rush it will go wrong. This is not necessarily because its complex but it’s a bit more involved than installing call logging or call recording.

Let’s start off with hunt groups or queues. Incoming calls are presented to hunt groups and queue there until they are answered or hang up. If calls aren’t answered for a set period of time then you can move those calls to another hunt group often referred to as an overflow group. Now the biggest consideration in all of this is the FIFO rule, First In First Out. If a new call arrives it should not be answered ahead of any previous calls, which means that you have to plan the best way to handle overflow calls. The simplest and best configuration is normally a main group and an overflow group. You may end up with a number of different groups each targeted with different calls, but in essence they should all work to the same philosophy no matter where the calls are coming from.

Sometimes hunt groups are used to identify where calls have come from but then have the same agents in 10 different hunt groups. This makes no sense as call queueing statistics will be nonsense. It would be much better to have one hunt group where agents log in and use tags (labels for the call) for the different DDI’s for later analysis. If you have hundreds of hunt groups on a small switch then this is almost certainly wrong. If you get the hunt groups wrong then all the statistics on the wallboard will look wrong even though they accurately reflect what’s happening in all hunt groups. This then follows the GIGO rule, Garbage In Garbage Out. Yes the switch will be able to answer calls but the nonsense configurations will give you nonsense results and your support team will be very busy.

The next thing to be really careful about is lost calls. Call centres are always targeted on lost calls or at least the attempt to minimise them. If the lost calls total is too high then very quickly your support department will be busy again! If calls are presented to multiple hunt groups and calls get picked up by one group, then calls can look like they are lost against the other groups. This harps back to getting the hunt group configurations right so it’s clear what the call flow is. Where does the call come in, which hunt group is it sent to, if it doesn’t get answered in ‘x’ seconds where does it get sent to next? If a small number of test calls are made then it will be clear how totals are built up. The way each switch works is different and even on the same switch with a different configuration the results will be different.

So in summary, the switch configuration is key to sensible reporting and a well-considered call flow will not only aid the handling of as many calls as possible but will also allow the production of sensible reports to run the business on.

As luck would have it I met up with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, last week and found out that my geek like tendencies with software design were not far from those that drove Steve to create the Apple computer. His goal with each subsequent design was to minimise the chip count on each circuit board which of course needed a level of engineering expertise that only Steve possessed. Less was clearly more and I can’t help feeling that less is also more when running a call centre. Perhaps the KISS principle (Keep it simple, stupid) applies to call centre design.

The increasing awareness of how formal and informal call centres can help all businesses do more business presents a great new opportunity for the channel and one that Oak fully supports with its range of CTI based solutions including the new Evolve range.


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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine