Turning Technology to Profit - THE UTOPIAN INTEGRATED CALL CENTRE

By Rod Jones, Tele FacilitiesPty Ltd RSA. Copyright Reserved by Author

Abstract

Technical advancements in call centre technology have allowed the introduction of many practical new telephony-based Direct Marketing techniques and methods. For corporate and bureau-based call centre operators, these come with heavy capital expenditure and human resource price-tags. Optimisation of integrated call centre resources provide a wide range of cost-saving and revenue-generating opportunities limited only by the extent of creative, lateral thinking.

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The gigantic advancements in CTI technology that have taken place during the past two or three short years, unquestionably represent the most exciting and rewarding challenges and opportunities that, as a direct marketing consultant , I have been presented with in almost 30 years of hands-on involvement in virtually all spheres of sales promotion, advertising, public relations, customer care and marketing strategic planning. Overnight, it seems, technology has presented the tools and the practical, workable solutions that have turned this marketer’s wildest dreams into reality.

Wonderful and exciting as technology may be, innovation carries a price. R&D and the new tools of our communications trade are an expensive, demanding mistress. As attractive as she may well be, she is fickle, impetuous, moody, capricious, but oh, so wonderful to be with.

Technology has delivered the promise of the fully integrated call centre. At a price! It’s now largely in the hands of the marketers to turn opportunity into real, tangible, bottom-line profits if the bean-counters are to be appeased; if the capital required to implement these dreams is to be made available. How will we marketers use the new toys that technology have provided?

During the next thirty minutes, come with me to the Utopian integrated call centre. To a perfect world where unlimited capex budgets actually exist; where clients and users are beating a path to the door.

1: BUILDING UTOPIA

The Utopian integrated call centre is required to provide the full spectrum of telephony marketing services. Out-bound PowerDial telemarketing. In-bound "live" operator HelpDesks. 24 Hour Audiotext services. Fax-on-Demand. Out-bound PowerFaxing. Voice logging. Call re-rerouting. Database integration. And just about anything that internal or external clients can dream of or demand. What’s more, as neither the bean-counters nor these clients have any perspective or respect for application development, our Utopian integrated call centre must have absolute flexibility; the ability to change or alter configurations on the fly. Some challenge!

Let’s start with a solid, multi-function switch. In this example lets use the locally-developed DataFusion DVX2000. To handle our voice Response requirements, add - say - three, 30-DTMF capable channel DV30s. A dedicated, 8-port fax server can be made to work hard for it’s living as will a couple of 30-channel digital voice loggers. An extremely quick server or two each with ten or more Gigs of disk are also going to be needed for storing voice, applications and data.

Out in the call centre, let’s make a start with 20 CTI workstations, supervisor and call centre management monitor stations and a display board. Now add a string of administrative workstations, printers and other peripherals necessary to handle the day-to-day commercial workload.

Our switch can comfortably handle almost 2,000 lines. But that’s probably a gross over-kill at this stage. Let’s be rational and initially feed the system with six 2-MegaBit (E1) streams giving us an effective 180-line capacity. 90 lines in-bound and 90 out should address our immediate needs.

To round-off Utopia, I’m going to link-in an off-the-shelf PABX such as Telkom’s solid little Diana with an additional 20 analogue lines, to use just as one would any business PABX.

Now the cold realisation settles in. Utopia has to be infinitely flexible. Changes and alterations to configurations must be fast and easy. There must be the facility to allocate DDI numbers on and to establish and configure call groups without recourse to any external agency. The overall system must be as close to 100% stable and reliable as possible. Utopia needs the magic of custom-developed software to make it hum. So ... let’s add that magic.

So far, our shopping spree has probably cost us a mere 2 to 2.5 million Rand. But that’s OK. Remember, we have a queue of clients waiting in the wings, ready, willing and able to pay for the promised services that Utopia can and will deliver.

2: USING UTOPIA TO MAKE A PROFIT

Let’s assume that Utopia operates on a bureau basis. So, who are these prospective clients? There’s an instalment credit bank specialising in the financing of motor vehicles. A life assurance company in desperate need of lead generation. A commercial bank with a multiplicity of products and services. A market research business. A broadcaster. A medical aid scheme administrator. A direct response mail order marketer and a tribe of various advertising and promotional agencies each with a different idea of creativity. And for good measure, and having the resources to do so, our hypothetical bureau, Utopia Tele Services Limited, will market its own range of automated pay-by-phone and credit bureau-type services.

2:1 INSTALMENT CREDIT BANK: MOTOR FINANCE

Here’s what we’ll be doing for our instalment credit finance house. A 24 hour, fully automated, Toll Free audiotext-based information and response service.

Thanks to Utopia’s creative approach, between 60% and 75% of all in-bound calls can be processed as DTMF-capable. That solves a lot of problems. DTMF recognition is by far the most reliable of the telephony interaction types available to the public. Now, being an astute marketer in the New South Africa, our client provides his callers with multiple language selections. What information options do we have? Lets start with a 2-3 minute module - an overview of our client’s full range of services. What does a caller really want to know? How much is that new vehicle going to cost me on a monthly basis? Easy. Dial-in the capital cost of the vehicle. Dial-in the amount available as a trade-in or deposit. Dial-in a residual. Dial-in a term. A split second later I’m told that my dream car is going to cost me over R3,000 a month. Better try a 50% residual over 48 months. R2,200 a month. Now that I can afford. What do I do to get hardcopy? Chose FaxBack or Fax-on-Demand. In response to structured prompts I am asked to record my name and contact telephone numbers then to dial-in my dialling code and fax number. Seconds later, my fax machine bursts into life and I have the tables. What’s more ... They’ve faxed me the credit application form as well as a brochure giving me details of their full range of services .... and in my selected language too! And tomorrow morning, when my name and contact numbers have been retrieved from the message mailbox and passed into the call centre, I will get a call from a consultant to close the deal. This call is scheduled by the transcription clerk as a powerdial call. That’s the power of integrated audiotext!

2:2 LIFE ASSURANCE: LEAD GENERATION

Our Life Assurance client needs to feed his consultants with highly qualified leads. Not just names and contact numbers. He wants actual appointments. So, we start with three or four rented prospecting databases each holding both common and unique data. We’ll merge, de-duplicate and enhance a hybrid database. And, as this is Utopia we’ll assume that Telkom will license us to use the subscriber database to add or verify telephone numbers. Lastly, we run the composite list against the Direct Marketing Association’s database of consumers that have specifically requested not to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls. After all, we’re responsible telemarketers!

Good tele-operators are expensive. Time is money. Even with PowerDial and Predictive dialling capabilities, every wasted call cuts into the bottom line. So, before initiating the actual lead-generation campaign, let’s test our contact list by dialling every one of our 50,000 or so numbers. A couple of hours later every record on our database is flagged with one of seven codes. For example: Contactable numbers. Out of order. Fax or modem tone. Incorrect or invalid number. Out of order. Number changed. Now we are ready to turn on the full capabilities of the PowerDialler and CTI workstations.

In most commercial markets, operators working from dialling lists or contact management systems and using manual dialling, produce - at best - between 15 and 18 minutes an hour of actual "talk time". Theoretically, PowerDialling can increase this to 45 to 50 minutes an hour with provision for call wrap-up and the occasional break. Nonetheless ... a phenomenal increase in efficiency. A dramatic drop in cost-per-call and an astounding increase in bottom-line.

2:3 COMMERCIAL BANK: RESPONSE PROCESSING

In this hypothesis, The Second Volksland Bank recognised the opportunity of attracting in-bound response to a multi-million Rand print and Television advertising campaign in support of a new financial package including cheque account, credit card and garage cars as well as home loan benefits. As the package was considered to be unique in the marketplace, extremely high in-bond call volumes were expected. Client’s research has also clearly indicated that consumers are more apt to respond to advertising during after-hours, leisure time. In other words, after normal office hours when their branches were firmly closed.

Here is the system that the Utopia team designed.

In-bound calls via a Toll Free number are routed to a DDI number on the Utopia switch. A tone/pulse test separated calls into these two categories delivering two alternative prompt messages from the 90-channel audiotext sub-system. Tone callers offered the option "Please dial ONE for ....." and pulse callers, "Please say YES after the beep tone ....". A language selection menu followed and directly thereafter, the main information options menu. In this case, offering information on five topics related to the service offering. After listening to roughly 90 seconds of carefully scripted information written to achieve optimum comprehension and maximum motivation, callers are offered the following. 1: Listen to another topic. 2: An invitation for a consultant to call back to personally discuss requirements of application. 3: To receive an automated fax detailing the new cheque account package together with an application form. Both the FaxBack and CallBack modules include structured prompts to record callers name, contact telephone numbers and dial code and preferred time to receive calls.

On a daily basis, messages are transcribed from the system, and a permanent voice record is kept on the voice logger. They are then captured to the project-specific database and thereafter, forwarded to the appropriate client branches by fax or by e-Mail.

RESULTS: The Second Volksland Bank advertising campaign generated over 30,000 in-bound response calls during the intensive, 4-week advertising campaign. Over 3,000 new accounts were opened.

2:4 HIGH VOLUME CALL PROCESSING AND ROUTING

Utopia’s client operates a small, highly specialised office. His administrative staff are constantly being inundated with customer calls. Whilst it is necessary to provide customer access to his staff, a method of call-filtering was required.

Client’s Toll-Free customer service number was re-routed to a DDI number on Utopia’s system. A multiple-function call queuing service offered callers the options to wait for an operator, to visit an audiotext information service or to leave a detailed message for client to call back. During designated times, the "Wait for Operator" option was not given. On receiving a "Wait for Operator" request the intelligent call processing system attempts a re-routing to client’s site. If the call is not answered with a defined threshold period it is deemed that either operators on client’s site are all occupied or unavailable for calls. The call is retained at Utopia and re-queued. Following three unsuccessful transfer attempts, caller received an appropriate message and is routed into the combination audiotext / message mailbox sub-routine.

The system provides Utopia’s client with a number of benefits: High volume in-bound call handling. (Important during intensive advertising campaigns.) No capital expenditure on client’s site. Sophisticated, customised call queuing messages and systems. Over 70% of caller’s questions answered within the audiotext environment. Greatly reduced call volume reaching client’s offices. Better productivity of expensive staff. Accurate call statistics.

2:5 MULTIPLE CLIENT HELPDESKS

Whilst Utopia does provide certain of its clients with dedicated HelpDesk services, it was realised that many smaller clients with significantly lower budgets, would out-source certain low volume HelpDesk functions were the operational costs substantially reduced. Utopia’s highly flexible systems allowed for multi-skilled operators to log-on and stand as "available" for as many as six or eight client-specific of calls routed through specific DDI numbers. "Screen Pops" notify operators of the call source and type and automatically load all associated HelpFiles, database screens and support applications that enable her to effectively handle specific calls.

Voice logging for quality control or record purposes is evoked either automatically or at predetermined stages in the call process. At her workstation the operator can capture data, output - for example - personalised fax, e-mail or laser-printed letters or other documentation.

If required, she can transfer the call (an in some cases, all related data) either to an internal supervisor or off-site, to client’s offices. Each in-bound campaign has a fall-back from default "live operator" processing into a customised call queue with or without audiotext information and response options. Accurate call statistics are automatically produced on a per-client and per-workstation basis.

The advantages: A single operator can provide highly professional HelpDesk services for many individual clients. Service fees payable by each client are significantly reduced and workstation revenues and earnings increase substantially.

2:6 THE DIAL-UP CREDIT BUREAU

Having sophisticated CTI capabilities as well as in-house database skills, Utopia created a joint-venture, dial-in credit bureau service. Registered users are provided with unique PINcode / PassCodes to give access to the system. After user validation, callers are prompted to dial-in a customer ID number. At first stage, the Utopia system validates the ID number using a CDV process. Thereafter, the system carries out a look-up on the 500,000 plus records and reports, in audio form, one of five ID number status codes as well as the dates and times when that the given ID number was last queried. Callers may thereafter enter a second or subsequent query or, alternatively, request a transfer to a HelpDesk should more detailed information be required. The system automatically debits the user a tariff per automated enquiry or alternatively, a higher tariff for a live operator HelpDesk enquiry. Debits are consolidated at month-end and an ACB tape is produced for collection of usage fees. VAT invoices and statements are also automatically produced and mailed.

Benefits: 24 Hour operation. Only 5% of calls request an operator therefore low operational cost. Fully automated system reduces cost-per-query to user by 75%.

2:7 USING ANI/CLI TO ROUTE CALLS OR PRE-PROCESS CALLS

ANI or CLI is rapidly becoming a vital issue if high levels of true Relationship Marketing are to be achieved in the call centre. This process, as is the case in the cell phone environment, will allow in-bound calls to be routed from known callers to specific operators, along with any caller-unique data on file. The process establishes a unique and powerful personal "correspondence" between caller and operator. Whilst contemporary integrated call centre technology allows for ANI or CLI to be "read" by such systems, the practical, yet "responsible" application of this technique still requires network sanctioning.

2:8 THE REMOTE AGENT

It is frequently impractical to have in-bound operators "on stand-by" to receive calls. For example, in cases where campaign call volumes are low . The Remote Agent concept allows work-from-home operators to log-on as "available" and to receive and to process calls with many of the call centre resources at his or her fingertips. In-bound calls, "filtered" through the IVR can be routed to appropriate off-site agents. Calls can be voice logged if required. System controls can effectively distribute calls just as they would be in the call centre.

3: CONCLUSIONS

Technology has delivered the promise of the truly integrated call centre. The dreams of both corporate and bureau call centre operators have been fulfilled. But are they dreams? No. Today, Utopia actually exists and we can be extremely proud of the fact that South African-developed integrated call centre hardware and software stands proudly with the very best in the world.

THANK YOU

About the Speaker

Rod Jones has been at the forefront of innovative Direct Marketing techniques and methods in South Africa for almost 30 years. Recognised for his strategic planning skills and creative flair, he has gained extensive knowledge in such diverse fields as computer-based sales incentive programmes, customer club and affinity group marketing, premium rate telephone information services and telemarketing. An accomplished speaker, Rod’s presentation and paper entitled "Customer Clubs - The Ultimate Direct Marketing Tool" has presented locally and overseas since the mid 80s. In 1990 he co-authored the book "Stockvels in South Africa" with Andrew Lukhele, President of The National Stockvels Association and staged over 30 workshops on this subject with groups of marketing professionals in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Durban. A strong advocate of the Integrated Call Centre concept, since 1993 he has presented papers on this subject at telemarketing, call centre and HelpDesk conferences and symposia. Rod serves on the executive board of The Direct Marketing Association of Southern Africa. He is the Sponsoring Director of the DMA Tele Forum special interest group. A passionate flyfisherman In his spare time, Rod is married, has four sons and lives in Parkmore, Sandton.

Contact details : Rod Jones. P.O.Box 650420 Benmore 2010. RSA. Email rodjones@icon.co.za

 

 

 

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