Communications and the Enterprise: An Increasingly Mixed Environment

It almost goes without saying that communications remains an essential tool for enterprises, but as more and more applications are added delivered to enhance enterprise efficiency, it’s worth reminding ourselves how important voice remains. Without it, communication is limited and lacks the richness of person-to-person interaction.

But there’s so much more to voice than a simple telephone call. Voice can enrich a multiplicity of other services, adding context and meaning and turning a dialogue into a conversation. That’s why more and more enterprise applications are integrating voice communications capabilities, from P2P to multi-party interaction tools. This is particularly true in call centers, where some of the earliest efforts at integrating communications with applications such as CRM and customer care were made.

Today, there is a host of mashup applications that blend capabilities in order to deliver a better experience for customers and employees. Communications Enhanced Business Processes (CEBP) are enabling enterprises to integrate voice and other communication capabilities with applications to deliver a better, more rewarding experience.

And that’s not all. As users have become increasingly mobile, so communications must cater for a growing array of devices and channels – from conventional fixed handsets to mobile and to browser and soft-client based. To bring all of these together, enterprises need to be able to leverage APIs to deliver the CEBPs that suit their needs.

That’s why enterprises must choose solutions that come with API interfaces that allow them to create the blended applications they need for their business and the different functions within. Put simply, any communication tool that cannot lend itself to the emerging world of CEBP is obsolete. Enterprises need communications solutions with a future, that enable them to adapt and integrate new capabilities, today and tomorrow.

Why not talk to jtel and find out how we can help you deliver the communications infrastructure today that you need for the connected and mobile world of tomorrow?

Who uses a Call Center?

There are several different kinds of call center and we need to consider the needs of every stakeholder when implementing a solution to offer a specific set of services. Since today we all use call centers in one way or another, such an analysis is crucial to the successful deployment of a solution.

This might seem a strange question but there is a simple answer. We all do. We are all consumers of call center services in one way or another. If we consider the question in more detail, we might also think of the people who work in them and those who manage and deploy such solutions in the first place. The end result is that we have a clear ecosystem of consumers of call center services – both external and internal.

This is a crucial question, however. Call centers must be designed from the perspective of all users – the agents and operators and the people who either call in or are called - and the needs of users and agents alike are constantly evolving. In this series of articles we’ll consider how different stakeholder needs can be satisfied with the flexibility and agility to ensure that future needs can also be accommodated. To get things started, let’s think of a number of different cases that call for different capabilities and operational requirements in order to define present a form of classification or taxonomy.

Let’s start with the obvious. Of course, many call centers are deployed in commercial environments. They are a crucial way to service the needs of many thousands of actual and potential customers. Such call centers are now the effective link between consumer and provider, whether the service is a utility or whether it’s a product being acquired. But as consumers increasingly move to online purchasing, the need for contact with an individual can be overlooked. The call center must play an integrated part of the consumption experience, becoming a seamless part of the process. This means we have two basic commercial call center types – those to support services such as utilities or insurance, and those that support online channels and online merchants.

But we also have call centers whose purpose is to provide technical support and deal with warranty issues. These are the support call centers, which are contacted when customers need help. And, there are public services that must provide essentially the same function – help with tax issues or help with medical services, for example. Support call centers have a range of widely differing needs, depending on the urgency of the issue and the priority that it is given.

There are also call centers that work in the other direction – agents are tasked with calling out to consumers or businesses and they generally have to operate under different pressures. We can define this category as outbound call centers and their needs can be considered as particularly distinctive.

The first place to start when thinking about call center requirements is to think of what kind of call center it is designed to be. We have four basic kinds to consider, according to our classification:

  • Service call centers
  • Retail call centers
  • Support call centers
  • Outbound call centers

The second aspect to consider is the target market. The focus can be either on servicing the needs of businesses that is, B2B, or on consumers, or B2C. Again, these have different needs – outbound B2B is different from outbound B2C.

jtel is a vendor of call centers that meet the needs of all cases, requirements and stakeholders. We understand the different challenges that face providers of B2B and B2C call centers, which can be particularly in the outbound category. In this series of articles, we’ll discuss these different situations and show how our solutions can help deliver outstanding call center capabilities to suit any environment and need. If you can’t wait to learn more, contact us today!

Addressing multi-channel communications in the service call center – essential for operational efficiency and reputation management

Today’s service call centers need the flexibility to cope with a growing range of communications channels, prioritising requests and distributing information to ensure effective customer service. They must also correlate information across both internal and external channels. Failure to do so risks reputational damage and creating processing overload.

Customer service is a fundamental requirement. People buying goods and services often need help. With many transactions taking place online or in larger retail outlets without specialist knowledge and capabilities, customers often need to talk directly to vendors or their agents to resolve problems.

When help is required, the first thing customers do is to try to access one of the service options available to them. These might be a telephone number, an email address or a contact form on the web.

In most cases, these enquiries are directed to a call center for processing. In our classification, we identified several types of call center and this kind can generically be referred to as a “service call center”.

Today’s service call centers are a crucial element in the delivery of service and support capabilities to customers.  But of course, nowadays there is a wider range of communications media and channels to manage – service call centers can be sent voice calls, faxes, emails, social media messages, web forms, chat from instant messenger services and so on. This diversity is likely to grow, as new forms of communications channels spread, such as WebRTC-enabled click-to-call sessions.

This means that the staff in the call center – both management and agents – must have a high degree of flexibility in order to meet differing requirements placed on them by the different media types. In turn, this means that the systems on which they depend must be capable of managing media across a range of different channels and be sufficiently flexible to cope with new ones as they emerge and gain user adoption.

In addition, centralised reporting is essential so that media can be distributed effectively, not only according to its type, but also according to the skill and service levels required. This task falls to a modern, multi-channel ACD.

With a modern, fully multi-channel ACD, tasks such as reporting and managing multiple forms of communications (for example, email and voice calls) can be managed more effectively. Call center management staff can control daily operations using a ‘cockpit’ to obtain real-time visibility of events – providing essential monitoring to enable intervention and escalation when required.

To achieve this, you need an ACD that really can manage the communications channels of today – and has the flexibility to deal with emerging channels as they become adopted. The ACD needs to be integrated with reporting tools that enable the efficient monitoring of activity so that overall service levels can be maintained.

This is particularly important when we consider that customers will not only make contact with the provider directly via the available channels, but also that they may broadcast their experience over their own social networks. For example, suppose a customer sends an email to the service contact center – but receives no response because the email channel is dependent on manual checks or is neglected.

The customer may then become frustrated and send three further emails within a relatively short space of time. This frustration can lead to anger and the customer posts disparaging messages to Facebook to report the issue. Unless the call center is actively tracking both inbound enquiries across all channels and external media and correlating them effectively, then this activity could be completely lost – until the negative remarks create a backlash across social channels.

A multi-channel ACD must be capable of not only tracking all such activity but also of correlating them into a single case, report or incident. The example suggested above could have resulted in multiple incidents that are regarded as separate, when really they are all concerned with the same thing. In this case, there would be five incidents. Taking into account call volumes, this could cause situations that overload the call center and lead to operational paralysis that, in turn, will lead to further reputational damage.

With many retailers lacking direct, face-to-face interaction with their customers, it’s essential to address customer service issues. Good customer service is the foundation of a business and businesses must ensure they meet the expected service levels, through guaranteed response times, easy escalation paths, and observation and correlation of activity across all internal and external channels. Failure to do so will result in:

  • Unnecessary escalation of problems
  • An increased likelihood that customers will choose another provider in the future
  • Potential issues with reputation management that spread virally through the online world.

That’s why the multi-channel ACD is so important. If your infrastructure is not able to cope with the demands of a diverse and growing range of communications channels, or correlate information received effectively, it’s important to correct this.

Talk to jtel to find out how.

ACD protected against cyber security attack! Are you?

Cyber security is a pressing concern for the CIO community globally. Despite the growth in preventative measures, it can cause significant disruption, financial loss and reputational damage. The sad fact is that the risk is never likely to disappear: what matters is the resilience of systems and the measures put in place to protect them.

Communications platforms have been specifically targeted by hackers, as they can open the doors to fraud, user data and more, so as a mature provider of enterprise and carrier solutions, we pay particular attention to the issue. That’s why we have built security and resilience into our solutions from the outset. We know that telecoms networks are particularly attractive – back in 2015, well-known experts Kaspersky Labs stated that, of all industries, telecoms had the highest chances of experiencing an attack.

So, as trusted providers of carrier-grade solutions, we have used our expertise to protect all our products, from the smallest enterprise to the largest carrier deployment. Our investments have paid dividends. Just recently, one of our customers, with a cloud-based communications platform serving thousands of end-user enterprise accounts suffered a massive attack to its jtel|ACD. This is used to provided service centre functionality and so is a crucial element of the infrastructure.

The attack proceeded in two waves. The first spanned a period of 1 hour 45 minutes, while the second lasted for 45 minutes. During these times, almost 25,000 illegal login attempts were made to the system. Despite this, the system remained secure and fully functional. Our software took precautionary measures to prevent logins during the period, while maintaining open sessions until, finally, at 1715, the last attack was denied.

System integrity was maintained, with no illegal access and all data was protected – an essential outcome, given the coming GDPR legislation and the implications this have for responsibility and compensation. This resilience is critical – and is an essential consideration when choosing a supplier or partner. It’s not enough to provide functional performance, today’s solutions must be able to fit into an organisation’s cyber protection policies and procedures, delivering the performance required while protecting users.

jtel’s expertise was crucial. We’ve been building enterprise and carrier-grade solutions for 20 years, which means we have evolved software and practices to stay ahead of threats. As a partner, we work with our customers to ensure that our solutions are adapted to their security needs and we advise on how to ensure the resilience that operational goals require.

Why not talk to jtel and see how we can deliver the communications platforms you need while ensuring best-practice to protect against cyber security threats?

Business process integration – bring your call center into the heart of your systems

With business across all sectors increasingly taking advantage of cloud-based offers, they are also waking up to the potential to increase the value of solutions and processes by capitalising on integration between them. This used to be a technical and highly specialised area, but things have changed dramatically in the last year or so.

Most cloud-based solutions offer APIs that allow them to be combined with others. So, an order processing system can be connected to a CRM, allowing important data to be shared between them and for the two to remain synchronised. Indeed, many of the leading CRM solutions come ready with a wide range of existing integration packages, allowing simple connectivity to be enabled.

There’s also a growing series of resources that are available to download, which effectively enable off-the-shelf integration, so that almost anyone can now take advantages of the benefits of connecting different systems.

All of which makes life a lot easier and brings new efficiencies within the reach of any business. Basically, if you are considering a new solution, then the ability to connect it to others you use is now a key consideration when choosing from different offers and providers.

We’ve been doing this for years. Almost every solution we deliver has to be connected to something else in the enterprise, be it a CRM, a resource planning solution or some other software function that provides specialist capabilities for particular industries. This latter area is the one to which we have to pay most attention. While many systems are used by industries from all sectors, many others are designed for the needs of healthcare, or insurance or something else.

We make sure that we allow for any integration need, to ensure that valuable information from the call center is shared with other processes, allowing them to track customer communication, messages and more. What we’re seeing is that the enterprise domain is becoming increasingly unified, which increases efficiency and ensures that systems and processed are updated with valuable data.

If you haven’t taken steps to integrate your contact center with other processes that are valuable to your business, then perhaps it should be a key goal for 2018. It will definitely deliver benefits and the effort isn’t as much as you might think. And, if you want help in doing this – or if your existing contact center solution cannot cater to these needs, then perhaps you should talk to us. We can definitely help you create a more connected, unified enterprise and enhance the performance of your business.