EasyIVR Tech Library
ACD Automatic Call Distribution
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to ACD software and products.
Automatic call distribution systems are the heart of inbound call centers. ACD systems are call routing utilities for incoming calls and can be even used to route calls originated by our predictive dialer to the next available agent. Our PACER and Wizard phone systems comes with a complete automatic call distribution system for call routing.
The PACER and Wizard ACD system and automatic call distributor can route calls based on the dialed phone number (DNIS) and the time of day. Additionally, the PACER IVR system can intelligently route calls using complex conditional logic.
Customer-Value Based Call Routing
By Brad Wilson, VP of Product Marketing and Platforms, E.piphany
A Key Strategy for Upgrading Your Contact Center
To begin, let me congratulate today's call center professionals and information
technology executives. Over the past decade, they have created solid and stable customerservice
systems using rudimentary tools.
But as we move into the next millennium, these same executives are going to have their
work cut out for them. The call center will undergo sweeping changes, bringing both
good and bad news.
The bad news first -- the call center is becoming more complex. In today's economy, call
center managers need to lower costs, while also extending the call center's reach by
integrating new communication channels and revenue-enhancing services.
Now the good news: New technologies in customer relationship management (CRM) and
converged networking can move call centers from “one-size-fits-all” customer service to
targeted one-to-one service. This delivers value by improving customer satisfaction and
boosting revenue -- as in years past when local businesses offered personal service
because they knew every customer.
One key strategy in moving the call center forward is customer value-based call routing.
In conjunction with load balancing or skills-based routing strategies, customer valuebased
routing helps businesses do a better job of matching customers with specific needs
or propensities with the agents that are best able to meet those needs.
Let's see how it works by comparing traditional call centers with the modern "customer
In most call centers, discrete and often proprietary solution elements handle a particular
customer channel, such as the voice response unit, the private branch exchange (PBX) or
automated call distribution (ACD), and the Web server for online interactions.
Far more effective is the modern customer contact center, where new technologies merge
all channels into a single communications platform that handles voice, automated voice,
chat, agent assisted chat, e-mail, and the Web. IP-based infrastructure from Cisco, for
instance, puts all communication channels and customer data into a single
communications backbone, making it far easier to implement and less expensive to
maintain than today's disparate, multi-channel networks.
Traditionally, multiple groups within a company have managed customer data, creating a
fragmented view of each customer. Customer data has usually been organized by
division, by group, and by application, i making it difficult to get a single view of the
customer. Groups that manage call centers, the Web, e-mail, or other channels have thus
worked with a limited view within each specific channel.
By contrast, modern multi-channel contact centers are architected for intelligence. They
provide integrated customer information in real-time to respond to requests efficiently
and to make value-added recommendations of products or other information. The ability
to generate a real-time customer profile through a combination of offline data aggregation
and real-time application integration is critical to making a multi-channel contact center
both efficient and effective. Real-time statistical analytics are also now available that
allow every customer interaction to be personalized with a high degree of accuracy and
with very little overhead.
Customers today expect their suppliers to interact as a single enterprise consistently
across all channels -- a major challenge considering the multiple standalone applications
in the typical call center. Business logic for serving customers has been hard-wired into
applications such as e-mail, call center and interactive voice response (IVR), with little or
no integration. If the e-mail response system is separate from other applications, how can
an organization consistently decide whether to waive a late fee for a good customer, or
which calls should be routed immediately to an agent?
The usual answer is to duplicate business rules across all systems, creating a nightmare of
coding, revisions and upgrades. The modern contact center, however, delivers value by
featuring consistent, centrally administered business rules across all applications, and
shared customer information that allows agents to be matched with customers according
to their value. This approach easily provides answers to questions such as: Which
customers should be referred immediately to experienced agents and which should be
routed to an interactive voice response system? How should we handle customers who
are likely to churn? And who should receive special offers? The result is: greater
customer satisfaction and organizational effectiveness.
Traditional call centers have monitored performance by tracking metrics such as number
of interactions, call handle times, and time in queue: the focus has been on making simple
automated tasks faster and more routine. That’s been important in the past and will
continue to be important in the future. However, the modern contact center also needs to
improve organizational effectiveness by working smarter: understanding cross-channel
customer interactions and reporting cross-channel results. Once cross-channel reporting is
in place, a company can get a better view of each customer's account, history and buying
patterns, as well as the resources that are being expended on behalf of that customer. In
other words, a company can discover the value of each customer , which is key to
rationalizing the investments being made across a service organization, as well as
optimizing the potential value in each customer interaction.
Customer-Value Based Routing
By integrating communication channels, customer data, business logic and performance
monitoring, the modern contact center has the tools to perform customer value-based
routing. The optimal matching of staff resources with customers fulfills a key business
imperative for every call center.
Though businesses would like to provide great service to every caller, it's an expensive
proposition. If you learn which customers deliver the most value and which the least, you
can align each customer with the appropriate level of service. This has been done in the
past with rather simple offline segmentation schemes. Value-based routing achieves this
at a more fine-grained level and does it on the fly, ensuring fast routing to the right agent
or resource, regardless of agent location or communications channel. As a result, the most
knowledgeable agents will be focused on working with the highest-value customers.
Because customers are better matched with the right contact center resources, the contact
center can save money while boosting overall customer satisfaction and retention. Such
routing also boosts the morale of call-center agents, as they can specialize in ways that
offer them more satisfying work and new ways to advance their careers.
Architected for intelligence, customer-value based routing uses real-time profiling and
analytics to suggest cross-sell up-sell, and churn avoidance strategies, based on detailed
customer data, behavior, and preferences. Better routing and more personalized offers
and information help customers get what they want, faster. A retail-banking customer, for
instance, could be identified in real-time before the call has been routed as a good
candidate for a mortgage refinance offer, and could then be routed to an agent who has
been trained in mortgage products as well as in handling general requests like a funds
transfer (which was the reason why the customer called).
Most contact centers want to cross-sell, and most make some attempt. If you’re already
making the attempt, using more precise targeting strategies can generate tremendous
revenues with very little incremental costs – it’s "free money," so to speak, as the returns
far outweigh the incremental investment. As an example, consider a telecommunications
company that receives 50 million calls per year, where the value of a successful cross-sell
has a marginal value of $50. In this situation, every 1 percent of calls (in this example,
500,000 calls) that can be cross-sold is worth $25 million. Moving a cross-sell success
rate by a few points can have a huge impact.
Another benefit of value based routing occurs in customer retention. Calls from
dissatisfied customers – for example, those that have two or three open service calls --
can be routed to a "save" unit, where specially trained agents try to win them back. By
reducing customer churn and keeping valuable customer longer, contact center managers
can improve the company’s bottom line.
As with so many things in the contact center, it’s a numbers game: When you have a lot
of customer contacts, even small improvements in cross-selling and customer retention
can pay off big.
Action Items for Call Center Managers
What, then, should call center executives do to evolve their technology and staff toward
the vision presented here?
One of the most overused marketing phrases in this industry has been that you can “turn a
cost center into a profit center.” It’s largely been unachievable, due to a combination of
immature technologies and unclear customer service strategies. The good news is that, if
you can get your customer service strategy and objectives under control, the technologies
now exist (such as Web-based applications and real-time analytics) that allow you to
lower your investment while driving real top-line revenue. Customer value-based routing
is one technique that will extend the usefulness of your current call routing technologies
in place today and that offers the possibility of staggering returns for many large
- Keep in mind that you don't have to upgrade the call center all at once. Instead, you
can improve your contact center incrementally, by building a single view of your
customers, by implementing a converged communications platform, or by leveraging
real-time analytics within a site or across an enterprise. This can protect and extend
existing technology investments until you're ready to trade up. If you’re ready to move
faster, a Web-based, multi-channel contact center can be brought online today that
provides a consistent view of the customer, uses shared business logic, and uses real-time
analytics to get the most out of every interaction.
- Make sure you work with vendors that share your vision, and offer some compelling
technology that makes implementation and maintenance as easy as possible. Modern
technology can enable you to go farther, and with less effort, than you may be used to.
And watch out for “sheep in wolves’ clothing”: vendors with outdated technology that
have done little but update their data sheets with the latest marketing buzzwords.
- Since many call centers alternate between flat and peak periods, the contact center
solution that you implement should be able to scale up or down easily. Being able to
grow or shrink your contact center through the use of strategic outsourcers and
application host partners can be a good strategy, particularly if your call load is seasonal
or otherwise irregular.
- Business strategy and technology platforms are key concerns, but just as important
are organizational and staff issues. You can't make effective use of your resources
without tackling some serious management, training, and compensation issues. You may
build and deploy a very solid contact center solution, but see it fail if agents and
supervisors aren’t training correctly or provided with the right incentives to cross-sell or
perform other important functions.
About Brad Wilson
Brad has extensive experience in CRM, Web personalization, and enterprise contact
centers. He joined E.piphany as part of the RightPoint Software, Inc., a leader in realtime
marketing solutions, acquisition. Prior to that, Mr. Wilson was Product Marketing
Manager for Hewlett-Packard's Customer Relationship Management Operation. He has a
master's degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Florida and an MBA
from Emory University in Atlanta.
Brad can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
E.piphany is the leading provider of next generation customer relationship management
software for the Customer Economy. By providing an integrated suite of software
solutions, E.piphany E.5 blends web-based analytic and operational CRM to unify all
inbound and outbound marketing, sales and service customer interactions. E.piphany E.5
enables a single, enterprise-wide view of each customer to help global businesses better
understand and proactively serve customers in real time. With worldwide headquarters in
San Mateo, California, E.piphany has regional operations and offices throughout the
U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific.