Contact Center

Selecting a Platform for a Far-Seeing Contact Center: Modern Technological and Functional Requirements for the Contact-Center Software

The choice of a technological platform for support of a contact center is an important strategical decision, which must ensure stable business operations and provide support for both the company’s current and future requirements. It is obvious that future-proof platforms must be based on the most advanced but proven technologies, support modern business needs and provide tools for the future development.

To select a right technological platform for the business and ensure successful investment into the technology, a contact center should start by composing a full list of required functional capabilities and technological features. Usually, such requirements depend on the tasks of the future contact center, its capacity and setup (the number of premises, business processes, geographic distribution of agents, etc.) and surely take into account the budget limits. It is also important to analyze modern technological trends and find out which solutions will only cover the today’s needs and which will provide a reliable platform for future development and support of the tasks that may appear years ahead from the go-live.

The leaders in the list of the most important technological features will be support of modern functional capabilities, flexibility, independence from specific hardware, the ability to support emerging communication channels when they appear, the ability to integrate, the ability to support geographically distributed locations, and, most importantly, the ability to reduce the cost of each call though automation of simple operations, smart administration of service processes and advanced management of the workload. Let us look deeper at some of the key technological capabilities that should be supported by a future-proof platform.

Omni-Channel Digital Strategy

First and foremost, a contact-center platform should provide a broad range of tools for processing of inbound contacts received from both voice and digital channels. Despite of the overwhelming popularity of digital communication channels (online chats, social networks, messengers, etc.), they are still rarely used by today’s call centers, and their implementation is only a part of a long-term roadmap.

When selecting a technological platform, a far-seeing contact center will choose omni-channel systems that ensure inherent support for all modern channels, allow easily implementing emerging channels and support channel blending, i.e. the ability to start communication with a customer in one channel and easily switch to another one.

It is also important to remember of the difference between multi-channel and truly omni-channel enablement. The previous generation multi-channel systems were created incrementally, that is they represented a set of individual solutions for support of different channels that were integrated with each other to create a single system. Like any system created from different blocks based on different design principles and technologies, such solutions caused multiple maintenance issues. It was difficult to integrate them to create a single customer information environment, support analytics and maintain the history of customer communications. All of these drawbacks made contact centers turn towards integrated solutions based on a single technology and inherently supporting all modern channels – omni-channel systems.

In addition to multiple integration and maintenance strengths, omni-channel solutions allow tracking the whole history of customer communications via all available channels, i.e. an agent is always fully informed on every aspect of a customer’s contact.

Understanding the importance of this requirement, Noda created a truly omni-channel contact-center platform that supports all modern communication channels and allows easily adding new channels when they appear. The solution supports all traditional and emerging digital channels: phone, email, SMS texting, live web chat, video chat, IVR, messengers (Facebook, Viber, Telegram, VK), smart apps, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, VK), self-service / assisted self-service channels, WebRTC and others. It also ensures cross-channel interaction, channel blending, collaborative browsing and transition between channels during processing of customer contacts. It is important that digital channels were initially planned as part of the solution architecture and are delivered on an out-of-the-box basis, which allows the company to implement any new channels quicker than other vendors would do.

Transformation of the Agent’s Role

One of the key ways to improve efficiency of a contact center is to transform the agent’s role from a simple “talking machine” into an expert who will be capable of solving any customer task, even the most complicated and unstructured ones, with the help of modern powerful tools.

This approach is called the case-solving concept, which means the ability to propose a solution to a complex issue that does not have a definite solution. This approach can help to increase performance of a contact center by up to 20–30%, because due to improved efficiency of agents, a contact center will need less staff members to support the same number of customers.

This goal can be achieve through the use of agent scripting mechanisms and integration of multiple external knowledge warehouses directly into agent scripts.

Agent Scripts

Dialogue scripts allow the contact center to support the desired service quality in different projects and reduce the contact processing cost. Complex projects have higher requirements to scripts: agents can need to use more information of a customer and his/her history of contacts, they should be able to provide detailed information of any product or service from a broad list of the company’s offerings, scripts should allow selecting appropriate actions of agents depending on the customer’s response, etc. All of these features do not just improve efficiency of contact processing, they also speed up onboarding of new agents, reducing their training time and decreasing the overall cost of hiring new people.

Noda Contact Center provides a special module responsible for management of scripts. Its functional capabilities allow creating and modifying scripts without involvement of software developers and applying service scripts via any channels and in any projects.

A broad array of in-built integration tools of Noda solutions ensure flexible data exchange with external systems via SQL requests, web services or REST APIs. With these tools, the module allows effectively using all accumulated customer information and product/service details in scripts. Significantly, NODA provides a script builder – a convenient visual editor for graphical scripting without programming – as a part of its standard solution.

Usage of Bots

High level of automation is another requirement to the modern contact center. All routine operations must be automated. Bots can start dialogues with customers to obtain all required initial information, analyze the collected data and prepare appropriate responses or rout the call to the proper agent. A human will be involved at the last stage of pre-processing, when the problem is already clear and requires expert involvement.

Moreover, simple tasks can be solved without participation of live agents – by agent-free contact centers, which already exist in the market and will increase their share during the coming years. Such automated solutions can be used to collect meter readings or provide various reference information, such as details of a bank account or a delivery status.

Following the modern market requirements, Noda Contact Center is committed to development of its virtual assistant technology that is used to create customized text and voice robots (microservices). Due to rapid evolution of robots and natural language processing technologies, it is expected that such robotized services will fully replace today’s IVR menus or dramatically improve them. As opposed to standard IVR services, future virtual assistants will communicate with the customer in the natural language and adapt the response algorithm based on the customer’s responses.

Outbound Call Campaigns

Most contact centers need to process not only inbound calls, but also arrange outbound call campaigns by different customer lists. Automatic calls ensure efficiency of such campaigns and reduce the overall agent workload. Usually such calls are supported by a special component – a dialer. Its technological features define how effectively the contact center uses its resources in outbound campaigns.

For example, the auto dialer module of  Noda Contact Center allows arranging different types of call campaigns, supports dialing without agents (with the use of the predictive or progressive dialing mechanisms) and adapts campaigns to the required conditions (time zones, availability of phone numbers, etc.). When reaching a customer, the dialer routs a call either to an agent or to an IVR service, for example, to inform the customer on an outstanding bill and its amount. In the latter case, the call can either be handled without agents at all or use the blended mode, when a customer can request to connect with a live agent via the IVR menu.

Video Calls

With the development of communication channels, the use of the new video call service is spreading at a high speed. There are many cases when it is required to arrange a convenient video channel with a customer without installation of any special applications at the customer’s PC or mobile device. For example, this can be useful for remote assessment of damage by an insurance company and immediate receipt of information on future actions. This tool can help an agent to explain something with the use of diagrams and pictures and allows imitating real-live communication via a company’s office. It can also be accompanied by co-browsing the company’s web site to help customers to better understand its navigation and features.

To be convenient, such functions should be easily accessible with the use of a simple web link. In case of Noda, its modern all-in-one contact-center platform uses the WebRTC technology to ensure quality video calls via the customer browser.

Workforce Management and Optimization

Effective workforce management can be pivotal for large contact centers. The multi-awarded Noda WFM solution allows contact centers to flexibly manage agents and their workload. The system analyzes historical data and forecasts the future workload helping to define how many employees will be required during different periods and to smartly plan agent schedules. This involves allocation of agents from other projects during peak hours or festive seasons and reduces overstaffing during calm periods.

On the other hand, this function also significantly improves work conditions of agents and their satisfaction with their job. A special mobile application included into Noda’s WFM solution allows agents to select shifts and projects and exchange shifts with their co-workers via their mobile devices. When managing agent schedules, the solution observes all applicable regulatory requirements and internal policies and ensures effective support of contact-center operations.

Management of Customers, Partners, Customer Contacts

To be able to handle inbound and outbound call campaigns, a contact center needs a database that accumulates customer information, the history of customer interactions, partner details and all parameters of different call-center projects. An agent should have access to this database from its user workstation through a convenient interface. If customer details are maintained in some external system (CRM, Service Desk, Billing, etc.), a contact center platform should be integrated with this system, which often causes different compatibility issues. Noda Contact Center platform solves such issues, providing a pre-integrated fully functional system for management of project information and partner and customer details.

Broad Reporting Capabilities

Reports are widely used to analyze the performance of contact centers, evaluate their business processes, resource usage, quality of services and to define “bottle necks” in processes and the infrastructure. To ensure useful and informative reporting, a technological platform should be able to keep record of a broad range of events and their parameters associated with agent activities and the use of different platform components.

Noda Contact Center provides a variety of pre-integrated  reports, which can be customized to individual business requirements without programming. It supports consolidated reporting, which combines such performance indicators as AHT, AWT, CPA, Transferrate, FCR, etc. with customer details (category, region, theme of the contact) and business process stages (e.g., a change of the application status). All reports can be generated in the online mode and ensure report drilldown to different layers of data granularity. The system supports various popular report formats and allows automatically sending email notifications in case of violation of selected parameters.

Advanced Quality Management Tools

Quality assurance can be pivotal for customer loyalty. This is why contact center managers take special measures to evaluate the quality of calls using special criteria that must be covered by an agent during the call.

To ensure support of this important area, Noda Contact Center comprises an advanced Quality Management module. It allows managers to set up their own KPIs to measure the quality of agents’ communication with customers (adherence to scripts, results of communication, accurate entry of customer details, agent’s language, etc.) and monitor performance of separate agents, groups of agents, or specific projects.

The evaluation of the quality of calls can be done either manually or automatically. In the latter case, the system will automatically select calls that do not meet the chosen criteria and send their list to QA managers for further elaboration.

All reports can be exported into CSV or XLSX files. Any campaign member can access detailed reports based on his/her user rights. Significantly, there are special reports for agents that allow them tracking their KPI progress in the online mode and take timely measures to meet their performance criteria. Read more on agent performance in our article “Measuring Agents’ Performance. Reports, KPIs, Motivation”.

Recording of Calls

Voice recording tools are actively used by contact centers for the analysis of the quality of services and settlement of disputes. The most common functional requirements to such solutions include management of the archive of recorded calls, the ability to export recordings and manage user rights for access to the archive.

Besides standard functions, Noda Contact Center supports a special module for control of service quality. It is used for automatic assessment of all calls processed by each agent by pre-set parameters. The system automatically selects the calls that require more thorough analysis and sends them to the quality assurance service.

To ensure that your contact center meets the requirements of the new General Data Privacy Regulation when recording the customer contacts, read our post “Is your contact center ready for the GDPR?

Cost Effectiveness and ROI

Pricing is an important solution selection criterion for most customers. Nobody wants to wait for ROI for years. To ensure quick ROI, IT solutions should meet the following requirements:

  • Component-based architecture, which allows contact centers to implement separate solution components and integrate them into the existing infrastructure
  • Use of open APIs, which ensures easy integration with different services and independent digital channels, such as messengers or social networks
  • Support of the cloud-hosted deployment model and/or the pay-per-use principle, which reduces capital expenditures of the company, since the expenses for the solution can be referred to operational expenses.

Independence from Proprietary Hardware

Some years ago, it was normal that a contact center solution could require a specific costly hardware platform. Nowadays, this becomes a history. With an advent of many open-source technologies, cloud-based systems and modern virtualization technics, contact centers obtained numerous opportunities to save their hardware-related expenses.

Today’s contact center solutions do not depend on specific hardware or proprietary software. They use standard Intel-based servers and run on free system software and databases (such as Linuxand Postgre SQL) significantly reducing capital expenditures of the company. Moreover, a business can quickly increase performance of its contact center simply by adding more virtual resources to its landscape.

With the Noda Contac Center solution, a contact center can use popular budget-friendly Intel-based servers and ordinary PCs or notebooks to install the solution components, while contact center agents use USB headsets and USB telephones for communications. This helps contact centers save their budget and remain independent from any specific vendor or technician.

Use of Smart Software-Based Switching Solutions

A switch is responsible for receipt and distribution of voice calls and is considered a core of any contact center.

Today, there are two common approaches to automation of contact centers. In the first case, the customer selects a switch and then looks for a contact center platform that will be implemented as an add-on to the switch. With the second approach, the customer wants to deploy a platform that includes a soft switch as one of its components. The latter variant allows saving expenses for integration of the switch and the contact-center platform.

The most advanced technological companies, like Noda, provide their own software-based switch solutions (soft switch). Noda’s IP PBX ensures much higher performance and availability of its contact center systems than widely spread Asterisk-based solutions. Together with the ACD function and skilled-based routing, Noda’s contact centers are able to process larger amounts of calls during heavy hours and insure better efficiency of call processing.

Focus on Future-Proof Investment

To remain competitive in the highly saturated and mature market of contact centers, the market players should pay close attention to the technologies described above. The market requirements change every year, and companies that cannot support them, quickly find themselves at the outskirts of the industry.

Different contact center solutions have their own strengths and weaknesses. Some vendors tend to cover all possible customer needs with a single multi-functional solution; others deliver only the most common functions, offering other capabilities as additional components at additional cost. Some solutions were initially created to cater for modern technological and market requirements; others have a long-lasting history, but represent a combination of separate enhancements and purchased third-party modules that were added to cover emerging market trends. When selecting a platform for the business, contact center owners should keep in mind that all of these features define the TCO of the call center, its reliability and development capabilities. This means that focus on modern technologies can help to select a future-proof platform that will ensure successful business growth and development without significant investments.

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