CTI and IVR Extend To The virtual Call Center
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Tech Article - IVR systems interactive voice response

IVR Solutions

This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to IVR Development and custom IVR software and products. Business phone systems and toll free answering systems (generally 800 numbers and their equivalent) are very popular for service and sales organizations, allowing customers and prospects to call your organization anywhere in the country. The PACER and Wizard IVR systems add another dimension to our call center phone systems and solutions.

What Is IVR?. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) processes inbound phone calls, plays recorded messages including information extracted from databases and the internet, and potentially routes calls to either inhouse service agents or transfers the caller to an outside extension.

The following is an article relating to the IVR market including tips and best practices as well as product and answering service information.

CTI and IVR Extend To The virtual Call Center
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Telemarketing & Call Center Solutions
by Brater, Kenneth B

The convergence and integration of voice and data systems has produced a variety of solutions for optimizing call center management. Of those available, two robust solutions stand out interactive voice response (IVR) and computer-telephony integration (CTI). IVR works to offload calls from human operators. CTI improves the handling of live calls that need more assistance than the IVR can provide. Now, this convergence of voice and data reaches to include the Internet, and call centers have another option the Web-enabled or virtual call center. It's here where CTI applications can be very interesting and challenging.

What Is The Traditional IVR-CTI Solution?

In the typical IVR-CTI configuration, callers are "walked through" an automated system (IVR) to quickly access services. Here they enter the required identification information (account number and PIN, order number, etc.) to activate the voice response application software. Normally when they request live agent assistance, the call is simply transferred to the agent who must then ask again for this information to access the caller's record. CTI bypasses this step by automatically transferring caller information with the phone call. Thus, the agents have the caller's record ready when they get the call and can provide immediate assistance.

One cost-effective IVR solution for this scenario is the "whisper" transfer. 22 Telemaketing(R) & Call Center Solutions Here the voice response system "speaks" the caller information to the agent over the phone just before the call is transferred. Thus, the agent enters the data and looks up the record as the call is being passed.

A true CTI solution is more complex. It actively links the company's telephone and data systems to simultaneously transfer voice and data to the agent's desktop. As the PBX or ACD sends the call to the agent's extension, CTI creates an automatic "screen pop" of the caller's record on the agent's PC simultaneously with the call's transfer.

Why Bother?

The driving force behind the development of these call center management technologies is a desire to provide better service while at the same time increasing the efficiency of the call center to reduce costs. Using IVR automation, inbound call centers can typically offload anywhere from 30 percent to 60 percent of their total call volume, thereby reducing overhead expenses by 30 percent to 60 percent as well. The average call time for automated transactions is approximately half that of manual transactions, generating a significant telephone bill savings. IVR increases caller satisfaction by handling calls faster, shortening hold time, and operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

After a company institutes an IVR solution to automate as many calls as possible, they can utilize CTI to reduce the costs of calls that must be handled by their agents. With CTI, average call time is reduced by approximately 10 to 20 seconds, which can lower the cost per call by approximately $0.08 to $0.16. Also, agents can handle more calls in the same period of time; therefore, CTI users can reduce both hold time and their overhead requirements. Callers appreciate that the agent knows who they are when their call is answered and they enjoy the personalized, fast service they receive.

The application of IVR-CTI by one of the largest banks in the country clearly illustrates the benefits of these technologies. The bank's IVR system automates routine credit card inquiries. The caller is first prompted for their credit card number. The IVR system accesses the record on the host computer system to report the account balance, available credit, the date the last payment was received and the date the next payment is due. It also automates activation of newly issued cards. The bank estimates that 48 percent of customer inquiries are resolved within the IVR system.

The other 52 percent that require live agent assistance are handled with CTI. The system passes the account number to the agent's PC so the caller's record automatically pops up on the agent's computer screen as the call is received. The CTI portion of this call center solution handles approximately 1,000,000 calls per month and generates a cost savings of $100,000 per month. The bank realized payback on this solution in less than six months.

How The IVR-CTI Solution Works

Five basic elements are required to achieve such a solution after a call has been handled by an IVR system - a voice response system, the PBX with a CTI link, a telephony server, the main database and the agent workstation.

The first piece of a CTI solution is, of course, the voice response system itself. It passes the collected information and the call back to the PBX where it waits in queue until an agent is available. Next, the caller identification code is passed to a telephony server via a CTI communication link. The telephony server contains a mapped database of agent telephone extensions and PC workstation addresses. The telephony server obtains information from the PBX about the extension to which the call is being transferred and notifies the appropriate PC workstation that a call is coming. The agent PC is configured with a telephony middleware program - a software application that interfaces with the company's business application that is regularly used to look up caller records. The telephony middleware passes the caller identification code to the business application, which then looks up the caller record and has it "pop up" on the agent's PC just as the call is transferred to his or her extension.

Many different combinations of products can be used to achieve this type of CTI application -- different PBXs, voice response systems, CTI links, telephony servers, communication protocols and middleware products. A systems integrator and application developer can evaluate your needs and existing systems so you can choose a specific and cost-effective solution that is right for you.

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