The challenge for small organizations is that they need advanced service, sales and collections applications, but do not have a large group of agents to share the costs. Until recently, most small companies could not afford to acquire the contact center technology and applications needed to give them a servicing advantage, but this has changed as feature-rich and functionally broad contact center infrastructure offerings have entered the market. While cloud-based contact center infrastructure offerings differ substantially, the good ones are multi-channel (also known as omni-channel) inbound, outbound and blended solutions that offer the following core capabilities:
- Automatic call distributor (ACD) – routing and queuing solution that manages the flow of incoming transactions and routes them to the most appropriate agent.
- Dialer – automates outbound calling in three modes: predictive – fully automated; progressive – partially automated; and preview – phone number is delivered to an agent who reviews it and then automates the dialing process.
- Interactive voice response (IVR) – automates the handling of incoming calls by using touch tones; advanced IVRs use speech recognition technology that allows callers to interact by speaking with them instead of pushing buttons on their phones.
- Computer telephony integration (CTI) – uses phone number data to identify and connect each caller to the servicing, sales or collections system, and then delivers the call with account information to the agent.
- Recording – captures and records all interactions (calls and screens).
- Universal queue – integrates the handling of interactions from multiple communications channels – voice, email, chat, short message service (SMS), fax, social media, etc. – into a single queue so that they can be delivered to the ACD.
- Reporting – tracks and manages the performance of agents, teams, the overall department, systems and processes within the contact center.
- Presence – real-time status information about the availability of each person in the network, in this case the contact center, as well as their preferred method of communication.
The more advanced cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions come with a number of optional modules to help managers improve the performance of agents and their departments. The optional modules that provide the greatest benefits for small and mid-sized contact centers are:
- Quality assurance (QA) – evaluates how well each agent adheres to the internal policies and procedures of the department.
- Coaching – provides highly tactical and timely feedback to agents to help them improve their performance.
- Surveying – creates, issues, receives and evaluates customer feedback about an organization’s products or services.
- Speech analytics – structures phone conversations and converts them to metadata for further analysis or actions.
- Performance management – integrates data from multiple sources to produce contact center reports and dashboards.
- Campaign management – facilitates targeted cross-channel marketing campaigns to customers.
- Customer relationship management (CRM)/servicing – provides an overview of customer journey.
- Workforce management (WFM) – forecasts and schedules the number of agents required to handle interactions.