The 20th Century saw enormous advancements in innovation, and is arguably the most remarkable in human history for the rate of advancement in technology. This century saw the invention of things like nuclear power, radio, television, airplanes, antibiotics, and the internet. The 20th Century was truly a remarkable 100 years.
Today, when we think about the rise of consumer purchasing and customer service, we think of Call Centers. Large, open-floors with hundreds of agents taking incoming calls to help customers, listen to complaints, and sell new products/services. These Call Centers were cultivated from an enormously innovative technology in the early 1970’s. The automatic call distributor (ACD) or automated call distribution system, is a system that distributes calls to a specific group of desks/phones/terminals that agents use. Simply put, a call comes in, gets routed through the ACD system, and is directed to an agent. As a consumer, I’m sure you can think of a dozen times in the past month you’ve worked directly with a call center agent.
The rise of Call Centers in (and outside of) the United States has been due to technology. But other factors, like the internet (and therefore, web-based applications), a more reliable power-grid, and an increased focus on customer service and retention has spawned some new technology that gives managers a more firm grasp on their agent’s performance, calls, activities, and provides a better way to coach and mentor them.
Over the past 10 years, technology advancements have become common-place and necessary in the “best in class” Call Centers around the world. Here are a few highlights of these technology advancements, which West Monroe Partners has helped validate, select, and implement with a number of large clients.
- Call Recording: Does “This call may be monitored for quality purposes” sound familiar? More Call Centers are recording the phone calls, from both a compliance, dispute resolution, and training perspective. Prior to the call recording technology, disputes were often unresolvable, as managers pushed the “customer is always right” mantra. With the rise of call recording, agents have felt more empowered as they have digital-evidence against any complaints logged. Recorded calls can also be used as a coaching/mentoring tool, allowing new hires to listen to the “best” calls, which have been archived for training purposes.
- Screen Capture: The rise of enterprise-systems often require agents to be on the computer during phone calls. The screen capture functionality allows managers/supervisors to watch how agents input information into the system, look up information, etc. It is a powerful way to understand the efficiency of each agent.
- Schedule Adherence and Scheduling Optimization: Companies such as West Monroe deploy “Workforce Management” type software suites for call centers, connecting to the call centers technical environment to predict call volumes, accurately forecast staffing requirements, and report on schedule adherence.
- Quality/Coaching Management: Technology-based “scorecards” are being used to evaluate employees. In some cases, the Quality/Coaching functionality is built-in to the Call Recording software. In that case, supervisors can listen to calls and perform “quality checks” in the same system. Most systems will aggregate the information and allow reporting functionality on items such as: top/bottom performers, skill-based performance, and performance-trending.