There are different ways to install CTI. They could be both right and wrong. That is why various aspects need to be reviewed in order to make them function properly. Internally directed plan is one of the main elements to implement the new CTI system without help from the third parties, such as Consultants or Computer Systems Integrators.
The companies should define the scope of CTI system to meet the business needs and technical capacities of the organization. Therefore, it is suggested to focus on the different elements of the application and consider non-technical perspective. This service could be provided by the Consultants or Computer Systems Integrators. These specialists consult in wide selection of the products from the different layers, coordinate installation process, and provide professional help in adjusting custom linkages/ applications needs to meet the business needs of the company.
On the other hand, the company could consult with the vendors and use their expertise in choosing the application. Differently from the past, the vendors are focused on the end-users. The vendors are able to provide full support from the component layer to applications/service. Moreover, they have better knowledge of the market and multiple connections with the application partners; therefore, the organization is able to choose from the pre-certified applications compatible with the vendor’s hardware. It is additional advantage in evaluating the application and potential development of its functions.
There are various aspects of CTI installation and different business cases. Therefore, the most frequent aspects will be reviewed with the brief explanation and solutions to potential problem:
Single out the high-volume areas of your call center operations
When considering the specifics of the company, it is necessary to identify the core services and focus on the main functions of the company. It will allow choosing the best CTI application. For example, the telemarketing department selling various products might have high-volume for the customer service and new order division; however, the help desk would have low load. As for the computer vendor or IT service company, the help desk will be swamped even if the number of sales decreased.
In order to solve this problem, the company should identify its internal environment before it will implement new CTI system. Implementation of an open application could provide the greatest payback for the companies with high volume of calls. Moreover, the applications would be fully-integrated and synchronized with the computer-assisted telephony.
Additionally, the Telecom Manager should identify the needs and functions of every department in order to review if switch-to-host application improves or damages the organization’s image. The failure to do so might have detrimental effects on the company. For example, the client calling complaints division will be redirected to live support agent. The frustration and antipathy could be met if welcomed by voice response unit (VRU).
Improve host solution
The technical capacity (LANs, mainframes, or minis) of the call center could contribute to the organization’s host solution. The LAN (Local Area Network) could be utilized for the small call centers and function as the host side of the solution. Recent application development allowed providing more flexibility when utilizing LAN-based or Client/Server-Based applications to import telephone function to the workstations, which are provided with a mainframe. At the same time, if the company had already installed mini or mainframe, it will utilize its existing hardware. The company would usually use this type of hardware as central servers. Mini or mainframe would be connected to the workstations through LAN. Therefore, LAN’s flexibility will be combined with the mainframe’s processing power.
Request detailed information from the vendor
The business organization should be aware that majority of the applications’ salespeople are not technically savvy. Therefore, the company should be able to identify the time requirements to handle a call and calculate saving’s projections in advance. It is recommended to avoid unclear statements and focus on the savings by asking detailed explanations, projections, and scenarios. The client should be able to retrieve all necessary technical details form the vendors to make their mind. Moreover, consulting with the existing customers could also contribute to the decision of choosing particular vendor, since it is possible to identify potential drawbacks of the proposed CTI system.
In case the company has a regional monopoly (e.g. utility or water works), it is possible to call the clients from the other areas and discuss open applications they had implemented. If operating mail order facility, the company might not be successful, since it would be required to consult with its competitors, which might not agree to reveal their know-how.
Starring over or improving upon the existing order. Many applications tan be integrated into an open CTI environment rather painlessly.
Improve existing system.
The company should improve its applications and orders in order to integrate them into an open CTI environment with fewer problems. For example, there is an application that retrieves customer profile to find his/her phone number but requires an agent to key in customer’s Social Security Number. At this point, Automated Number Identification (ANI) would allow opening application to create the file on the agent’s screen and replace SSN with the phone number of the caller. Variety of open applications, such as predictive dialing engines, could be more productive and profit-generating in case they are purchased as turnkey applications. Therefore, it would be more economical to purchase new one instead of adapting the previously purchased application.
Test before implementing
It is recommended to test computer telephony applications before they are installed and implemented. There are varieties of free applications simulating call traffic to test existing or planned to purchase equipment, network services and/or application code. Moreover, it is possible to test specific region on the host, which allows conducting pilot test when testing the system, making changes, or performing load analysis. Majority of the telecommunication managers choose to implement new applications gradually by testing currents system in small portions. Others prefer implementing new application with 10-20% of their customer base and then including entire call center’s database into the application
CTI applications might have nice looking features; therefore, the most serious telecommunication center manager could be attracted with the fanciness of the application. There are different opinions on showing caller’s information to call center agent’s terminal before the agent picks up the phone. The company could save time in WATS time and agent’s labor. However, this could be lost in case the agent answers the phone by stating caller’s name, e.g. “Good morning, Mr Jones! How may I help you?” Here, there is a great chance that the caller would inquire how the agent knew the name of the caller. It would require at least 20 seconds of agent’s time; therefore, the result of this application would be three times longer and expensive if compared to manual solution.
Additionally, it is necessary to consider agent’s thoughts and training prior to the implementation of new application. The training program should be developed and coordinated by application developer to train the end-users.
Automation of the calling center would allow decreasing the number of the employees, e.g. agents working at the terminals, and divert Customer Service calls to another location, larger support group, or complaint division. The manager would be able to use attrition or layoffs to reduce unneeded human labor force.
It is also recommended to redesign evaluation criteria for the agents who remain at the call center. It is suggested to implement a voice response unit, which handles majority of the simple inquiries and does not require help of live agent. Therefore, the help of the live agent is involved only for complex and difficult claims. As a result, more phone calls are answered and the duration of the average call answered by the agent is increased.
CTI system monitoring and analysis
It is suggested to conduct the overall analysis of the implemented application in 3 months. After this period of time, the detailed analysis would allow identifying the advantages and pitfalls of the implemented CTI application. Moreover, the company should calculate the financial benefits/ savings of the new CTI application. Despite the fact that it is quite easy to calculate toll free usage and the number of agents needed to answer the phones, it is important to clarify additional benefits, such as simplifying insurance agent’s work by transferring data file and screen from the Life Insurance division to the Accident Group for the Insurance Company. Moreover, the company might decide to change its long-distance contracts, schedule of the agents, and the size of the calling center to implement new call processing architecture. These changes could have positive aspects from the bottom line perspective, since the end-users experience 9-16 months return on their investment.