Call Center Service
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Call Center technology including software and products.
Since the Company's inception in 1978, DSC has specialized in the development of communications software and systems. Beginning with our CRM and call center applications, DSC has developed computer telephony integration software and PC based phone systems. These products have been developed to run on a wide variety of telecom computer systems and environments.
Contact DSC today. to learn more about our call center outsourcing services.
Data Flow Management: From Call to to Contact Centers
Jonathan P. Weindruch, Director of Marketing
What is a Contact Center?
"Contact Center" is of the latest buzzwords in the e-business arena. Simply put, a Contact Center is a communications hub that includes numerous communication channels of customer contact such as telephone, the Internet (email, online chat), fax, and mail. A Contact Center is both an inbound and outbound service-based environment in which agents handle all types of contacts regarding sales, customer service, marketing, telemarketing, collections and other functions.
As Contact Centers grow up, it is becoming evident that access to quality data is extremely important. A Contact Center where agents can access accurate and comprehensive data about you is an enjoyable experience.
Part of the reason many customers prefer to use static web pages as a communications channel, as opposed to contacting an actual person, is that Contact Center Agents (CCAs) are typically so misinformed that communicating with them is time-consuming and frustrating. How frustrating to call your phone company multiple times and have to explain your problem each and every time.
How frustrating to mail your credit card company updated address information and visit their web site weeks later to see that your account information still does not reflect your requested changes.
Transitioning from Call to Contact Center
Internet customers are attracted to the speed and convenience of the web as a communications medium and Call Centers are embracing strategies to transform themselves into Contact Centers by reengineering themselves for Internet integration with incredible fervor. Transitioning from a Call Center to a Contact Center is an enormous endeavor and many are struggling not only from a technical point of view, but also from a customer relationship management (CRM) point of view.
Call Centers can easily lose their focus of serving the customer by getting lost in the excitement of the latest methodologies and technological innovations. Access to quality data is vital to the success of a Contact Center because the level of data access and quality in a Contact Center directly impacts customer relationships.
A CCA who has access to quality data can talk intelligently and provide a pleasant experience for the customer. How pleasant when a CCA knows about your previous purchases and can recommend complementary products or services. How pleasant when a CCA can spell and pronounce your name correctly. Although many customers often prefer the anonymity of interacting with a web page, they still want to be treated like customers whose time, satisfaction, and money are valued.
Each time an interaction occurs, the accuracy and accessibility of the customer data as well as how the data is utilized contribute to either building or eroding a customer relationship. Contact Centers that emphasize accurate data to streamline and improve interactions demonstrate their commitment to fostering a meaningful customer relationship. However, before Call Centers can achieve enterprise data access and improve data quality to foster more valuable customer relationships, they must first understand the intricacies and challenges of Data Flow Management.
What is Data Flow Management?
Data Flow Management is the process of combining data from diverse data channels such as phone, email, fax, and mail found in a Contact Center, improving the quality of the data, and providing accessibility to the data for CCAs. Data Flow Management involves:
Data Flow Management is more challenging now more than ever as the number of disparate data sources increases. Efforts to implement new systems only exacerbate the problem by creating new information islands. In addition to new data sources, the quantity of information has also increased in Contact Centers adding to the complexity of the problem.
Add to the equation that customers now have higher expectations of Contact Centers in this Internet Age and one quickly recognizes the importance and challenge of managing the flow of disparate data throughout a Contact Center. Contact Centers are losing revenues and profits by not efficiently integrating disparate data sources into their operations.
Transforming Call Centers through Data Flow Management
Without effective Data Flow Management, Call Centers cannot successfully transform themselves into Contact Centers. Determining how to support an integrated, multi-channel customer Contact Center must revolve around the flow of the data, which are the strategic assets of a Contact Center.
Call Centers must re-architect their processes into a Customer-Centric Contact Center by listening to their customers and delivering the services needed. Inevitably, listening to customers and their needs means understanding and managing the flow of their data.
Data Transformation is the first step and involves analyzing and collecting the diverse data sources of the customer and converting the data into a format that can be understood by target applications (used by CCAs). Conversion and transformation are important, but data accuracy and efficiency depends on incorporating business rules into the entire data flow management process. Business rules reflect core business policies and shape business behavior as they direct the process of collecting, converting, integrating, cleaning, and distributing data.
In conjunction with business rules, Contact Centers can validate customer data, such as a web form, to ensure all required information is collected. Ideally, Contact Centers would utilize software tools that can identify data patterns and can search through fields of free form data and re-arrange the tokens (words, data elements) it finds into a logical order.
Like Data Transformation, Data Integration also relies heavily upon business rules and applying them seamlessly across diverse data sources. Integrating data from a customer phone call or a customer email requires software with an open architecture that can retrieve data fields from various sources as specified. Metadata is very important in data integration. Metadata is data about data and describes how and when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, and how the data is formatted. Understanding and managing customer data from a metadata point of view alleviates the need for additional, elaborate coding and helps Contact Centers control data pollution.
Data Cleansing is the process of checking data for adherence to standards, internal consistency, referential integrity, valid domain, and to replace/repair incorrect data with correct data. For example, replacing an invalid zip code with a zip code derived from the state/city information is an example of data cleansing. Data cleansing checks data quality and scrubs data by some combination of: look-up against valid data (e.g. a list of 140 million US mailing addresses), look-up against domain values (e.g. a list of valid US State and Territory codes), domain range checks (e.g. Employees less than 15 or greater than 90 years old), consistency checks among table data, pattern analysis of exceptions, correlations, and frequency distributions.
To augment the data cleansing, Contact Centers should consider investing in software tools that allow them to create a comprehensive view of customers before distributing the customer data to their CCAs. A unified view of a customer is obtained through software that can recode misspellings, identify "throw away" phrases, handle special characters, and match customer data phonetically.
The successful interaction between a CCA and customer often is the direct result of timely delivery of accurate data. Only data that has gone through above mentioned data transformation, integration, and cleansing steps should be distributed to CCAs to ensure standardized and quality throughout the Contact Center.
How the data is distributed from email, phone calls, or any communications channel will revolve around business rules. The ability to apply these rules dynamically is of prime importance. In a best-of-breed solution, Contact Centers would be able to implement one-to-many, many-to-many, or many-to-one customer data distribution.
In any event, effective data distribution will give CCAs access to complete customer data, enabling them to bring in "the right information at the right time" to fulfill customer requests. Extending the Contact Center enterprise-wide allows the organization to more efficiently address service interactions and effectively turn contacts into sales opportunities.
More than Technology
As one can see, effective Data Flow Management involves a number of technical processes, but selecting the appropriate software and hardware tools to perform these tasks is only one aspect of Data Flow Management. Indeed, effective Data Flow Management requires a well-trained staff and an executive team that emphasizes data quality and integrity as part of business processes.
Most Contact Center executives do not care about how the technology works or how customer data is processed. Executives want to see tangible results that positively impact their bottom line so they need to be presented with the numerous benefits of effective Data Flow Management.
Positive Results of Data Flow Management
In addition to the positive impact of a CCA that can interact intelligently with customers, there are other key benefits when a Contact Center is built around access to quality data so that a CCA is well equipped for intelligent interaction:
CCAs do not have to collect basic information from customers saving time
CCAs can spend more time developing a personal customer relationship
CCAs can take advantage of the extra time to cross-sell and up-sell faster and more thoroughly
CCAs and/or customers do not have to input redundant data
CCAs can identify potential fraud
Prevent Errors & Fraud
When Contact Center executives realize the benefits of effective Data Flow Management and encourage data quality to be incorporated into business processes, the organization will typically go through a period of investigation and analysis to determine where and how errors occur. For example, investigations often reveal that poorly trained data-entry personnel or customers themselves, who provide information inconsistently, are the sources of data quality problems.
Once the source is identified (and a well-trained staff will be able to identify the source of the problem quickly), new processes can be implemented or older processes can be revised to reduce the errors and their subsequent costs before they happen by incorporating them into the overall Data Flow Management process.
Because an effective Data Flow Management solution will provide access to all relevant customer information in near real-time, the CCA or web application interacting with the customer can ask appropriate questions to better qualify the customer and consider if fraud is a possibility. In many cases, a well-trained CCA can notice discrepancies in shipping and mailing addresses, or unusual changes in spending to identify potential fraudulent activity.
But without access to a unified, accurate view of customer data, a CCA is relegated to being an "order entry agent" and has no opportunity to consider fraud as a possibility or even begin to develop a personalized customer relationship.
The Time to Transform is Now
As more and more Call Centers adopt Internet-based business models, and interactions increasingly become automated, the need for enterprise data access and quality is crucial to the success of a Call Center attempting to transform into a Contact Center.
Call Centers that seize the moment and begin the transformation process now into a Contact Center through effective Data Flow Management will have a competitive advantage in the brave new world of "21st century e-business," where a plethora of communication channels is the norm.