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Phone Answering Services

acd system and auto call distribution system route calls This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to answering service systems and phone answering services. At Database Systems Corp. (DSC), we offer complete inbound call center and outbound automated phone services. Our inbound call center processes phone calls using our interactive voice response (IVR) system that answers calls without an operator.

Organizations looking to reduce costs and to improve customer service can now contract their inbound 800 answering services and outbound voice messaging programs at our automated call center facility. As designers of call answering systems and phone answering service software, DSC is uniquely positioned to manage your call answering service and 800 number service campaigns saving your organization both time and money. Because our phone answering service software was created in-house, we can deliver comprehensive 800 number outsourcing quickly -- providing you with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. From external database access to web integration including XML messaging, DSC can provide very custom phone applications. Plus you will find our 800 phone service to be quite affordable.

A Little Help From My Friends

The following is an extract from the article "A Little Help From My Friends" by Phillip J. Britt from CRM Magazine:

"Until recently, help desk systems, which are integral parts of most companies' call centers, weren't linked to call tracking, customer databases and other CRM systems. That's changing, however, particularly in the high-speed world of Internet commerce.

"Customers are more sophisticated today; they have high customer service demands," says Oscar Alban, product systems consultant for Witness Systems, Atlanta, Ga. "If you don't fulfill their needs, the competition is only a click away."

"It's critical that companies have world-class support systems driving the business forward," says Pete McGarahan, chairman of Help Desk 2000, a help desk certification, education and membership organization. "It's an exciting area as support and technology become fully integrated."

Internet Help

Internet commerce is fueling burgeoning demand for help desk systems, especially with the holiday season on the way. This year, companies are trying to avoid many of the fulfillment problems that resulted in late shipments and disgruntled customers last December.

The need for Internet-linked help desk systems will intensify in the next few years, as well. Forrester Research predicts that online shopping in the U.S. alone will grow from $20 billion in 1999 to $184 billion in 2004. To support this business, e-commerce companies are expected to spend $9 billion on call centers in 2003, up from about $2 billion this year, according to Stephens, a Little Rock, Ark.-based investment banking company.

"The Internet has really created a paradigm shift in the way we communicate," says Ofer Matan, chief technology officer at Blue Pumpkin Software, Sunnyvale, Calif. "It used to be that the telephone was the preferred way. Now we have e-mail, chat and other ways of communicating to resolve the calls to the help desk." In addition to e-mail, the newest help desk systems are incorporating automated functions, Web chat, Voice-over Internet Protocol and other capabilities.

According to a recently completed survey by the Help Desk Institute, Colorado Springs, Colo., telephone requests to the help desk declined from 79 percent in 1997 to 70 percent in 1999, a trend that is expected to continue. While the Internet has shown a modest 1 percent increase, the survey says, e-mail has nearly doubled, growing from 8 percent of the requests in 1997 to 15 percent in 1999. According to Blue Pumpkin's own research, 70 to 80 percent of contact centers have e-mail capabilities.

E-mail is nearly ubiquitous in today's help desk systems because it gives customers a choice in the way they communicate with the company and can help companies leverage their help desk support staff, to say nothing of cost savings. Paul Leamon, manager of systems engineering for IEX, Richardson, Texas, notes that the cost of a typical phone call to the call center is $2 to $5 (including personnel, supplies and technology). The cost of a typical Web transaction is only 25 to 50 cents, according to Leamon.

The move to e-mail and other Web-based self-help options follows a trend that started about five years ago as interactive voice response systems became more readily available, says Troy Lynch, vice president and chief technical officer for eOn Communications, Memphis, Tenn. eOn provides a Web Center suite of software applications that operates with its Linux-based communications servers.

"The biggest changes are always ones that try to get the most efficiencies from agents," Lynch says. "But companies are trying to balance the reduction in that flow against building relationships with customers." For example, while the addition of e-mail capabilities might at first seem to provide better CRM opportunities, the potential advantage is lost if the e-mail sits in a mailbox for a day without being answered.

Need for Auto Response

That's what tends to happen today. The e-mail usually goes to a central mailbox if it is not addressed to a particular person. So it sits until someone gets time to answer it, often a day later, according to Lynch.

The way to provide better help is to provide an auto response, Lynch says. Depending on the complexity of the question, the auto response may be enough to answer the customer's question. Even if it isn't, the auto response still tells the customer that the e-mail message has indeed been received, and may also tell the customer when he may expect to receive a response. E-mail management systems with auto response capabilities enable a contact center to handle several hundred customers at a single time.

Auto response can enhance customer relationships much the way working with a live agent does, Lynch says. For example, McGarahan ordered a handful of CDs through CDNow, Ft. Washington, Pa., an online retailer of CDs and videos. Immediately after placing the order, McGarahan received an e-mail thanking him for his business. The next day, McGarahan received an e-mail telling him his order had been shipped. Five days later, McGarahan received an e-mail telling him that he should have received his order and a $5 electronic coupon for his next order.

Even though there wasn't a single interaction with a live customer service agent, "I feel I have a good relationship with the company and I feel strongly that I will order from them again," McGarahan says.

"At our own company, we have six or seven people dedicated to technical support. Ever since we put in an auto responder, our calls have gone down significantly," Lynch says of his own company's experience with the technology.

Some companies are taking the automation of help desk systems a step further. "Our solution is to provide automated help for customers so they don't need to use the traditional help desk," says Keri York, marketing director for e-Help, formerly Blue Sky software, La Jolla, Calif., which provides automated e-help product DynaHelp. "DynaHelp's natural language interface provides an intuitive answering service that stays updated with any information that is added to the Web site."

DynaHelp is one of a growing number of technologies that use extensible markup language technology to give users a more defined and accurate way to search data. XML-enabled documents use semantic markup that identifies data elements according to what they are, rather than how they should appear. As a result, many diverse applications can make use of the information in XML documents. This enables the customer to help himself without going to the help desk or without getting lost on the Web site, according to York. "People are finally realizing that the Web is complex, and they're losing potential sales because of it," York adds....."

To view the entire article, please visit www.destinationcrm.com.