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IVR Solution

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 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 System is just one of many DSC call center phone system features..

What is Interactive Voice Response?. 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.

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.

History of a business revolution at the end of a phone


CALL centres originated as a cost-cutting measure by US companies several decades ago, but they only really started to take off in the UK in the 1970s. The initial centres were in-house operations in larger organisations and they tended to share and be formed by the same basic assumptions and drivers.

The idea was that if you could cluster the majority of telephone based contacts with the customer in a single department you could have people focused just on call-related services.

Several advantages would follow. First, as a coherent department focused on telephone services, such a ‘centre’ could be managed more coherently. A second motive was that through careful management of the centre, you would inevitably get the benefit of having more calls handled by fewer people.

Steve Morrell, Managing Director at ContactBabel, an organisation that specialises in analysing the call centre market, points out that this early focus on ‘efficiency’ and cost cutting, in a sense, got the call centre industry started off on the wrong foot - at least in relation to current ‘best practice’

"It meant that the whole industry focused on measuring things such as call lengths, or time to resolution. The faster the operator could complete a call, the more efficient and effective the contact with the customer was deemed to be," he explains.

Divide the number of calls by the number of operators, and you could see at a glance how ‘efficiently’ your centre was operating. The bigger the number, the better. The shorter the call duration and the shorter the time to resolution, the better.

There were obvious problems with this approach. First, it led to a ‘sweat the agent’ attitude, since the pressure was on to set call centre agents more and more ‘stretching’ targets by way of calls per hour that they were supposed to complete. Second, it led to a high turnover in staff as people became burned out by the pressure cooker atmosphere.

Since the costs of training a call centre agent are not trivial (Morrell puts them at around £6,000 per agent on average), a high staff turnover leads to high costs.

A third issue, which took rather longer for companies to grasp, was that agents were not being given the opportunity to learn very much about the customer, or to add much value to the customer’s relationship with the organisation.

In fact in many instances an emphasis on keeping call times as brief as possible would actually cause the agent, at best, to sound impersonal and unsympathetic to the customer. At worst the experience would be decidedly unsatisfactory and would possibly do lasting damage to the company’s brand and reputation in the customer’s eyes.

Nevertheless, by comparison with not collecting all its telephone agents in one place and managing them as a unit, even this early approach to call centres generated very substantial efficiency and cost gains for companies.

Morrell points out that call centres were given a huge boost in the UK in the 1980s when telecoms deregulation led to a fall in the price of fixed line calls. Channelling contact to the customer through the telephone became an even more cost effective option for companies.

Since the UK led the way in telecoms deregulation in Europe, this was a major factor in the UK having more call centre seats than any country with the exception of the US. We currently have in excess of 800,000 call centre places across the UK, and the number is projected to go beyond 1,000,000 within the next three years.

Colin Mackay, a Director of the industry body, the Call Centre Managers Association (CCMA), points out that pioneering centres set up by Direct Line and then by First Direct, proved how powerful these centres could be for financial services organisations.

"It meant that they could reach large numbers of the public without the requirement for sales people on the street," he said.

As Mackay notes, about 80% of the questions that people have about financial services products, from mortgages to loans and insurance, can be answered over the phone, without the need for a face-to-face meeting.

Operations such as Direct Line were able to demonstrate considerable cost savings and efficiencies over conventional financial services product distribution strategies.

Scotland and the north-east of England did very well out of the first two decades of call centre operations in the UK. As Mackay explains, call centre operators tended to favour regions outside the expensive south-east of England, where building premises were far cheaper, and where there was a reasonably well-educated potential work force.

The fact that the north-east of England and Scotland had seen a massive decline in their heavy industries meant that there was also competitive pressure for jobs, so wages were more competitive too, than down south.

Scotland soon formulated a clear strategy for attracting call centre business to set up here. In recent years, however, it has become very clear that low grade call centre work is now under intense competitive pressure from low wage areas of the world, such as India and South Africa. China, too, is now pitching hard for call centre business.

At the same time, ‘smart’ automatic voice recognition and voice response systems (called IVR systems or interactive voice systems) are increasingly replacing human agents at the ‘commodity’ end of the scale.

Paying a gas bill or checking a credit card balance can now be a wholly automated process, for example.

The pressure on what one might call simple, commodity-style call centre business, is itself accelerating the transformation of the sector. This transformation focuses on the idea of skilled agents adding real value to the customer relationship.

This new approach requires a massive investment in infrastructure and technology, since agents have to have instant access to key facts about each customer that they deal with.

Companies have to deploy very sophisticated technology to enable this to happen. As Mackay says, there is still room for plenty of growth and development here. Scotland’s call centre operators will need to be prepared to invest heavily in premises, infrastructure and training to ensure that they remain competitive in global terms.

Contact DSC today. to learn more about our IVR services and IVR application development software.