Setting up a CTI-enabled call centre involves a great deal of investment: in hardware, software and people skills. However, to get the most out of all three elements, the choice of application builder software - the glue which holds all the pieces together - will perhaps be your most vital decision.
The range of options available in application building packages means that selecting the right solution for your needs may not be straightforward.
So how can you be sure that you make the right choice? Here are the key issues that the software must address if it is to enable you to build, enhance and manage your call centre applications now and in the future.
Make sure that the software is able to work with the widest possible choice of phone systems, for optimum flexibility. Obviously it should support your current system, but it should also work on the largest range of telephony platforms to ease any future migration to another switch.
Ask the supplier of the application builder which switches his software has been tested with. The more switches it supports, the wider your future choices.
It should support every major CT protocol, to give you the widest range of options for delivering integrated functionality. You may wish to integrate individual PCs at desktop level, or an entire network, so don't limit your capabilities or commit yourself to unnecessary expense with limited CT protocol support.
The solution you choose should support the widest range of software and databases, to fit with the way you work - and with the applications your agents know. A call centre is only as good as its agents, so that's what the call centre should be designed around. The display of information to the agents should be intuitive, and the agent must be familiar with the screens they see if they are to work effectively. A familiar user interface will also lower training costs and can help you overcome any skills shortage problems in recruitment.
Additionally, if your solution provides connectivity for existing databases, you avoid the duplication of data - speeding up implementation time and keeping overall project costs to a minimum.
Can you carry on building your applications after the call centre is up and running, or do you need a consultant to implement every change?
If you don't own the agent workpoint, you're locked into ongoing high programming costs.
Make sure that the application builder software lets you build applications yourself. This way, you can refine the call centre's processes according to need. Remember, the call centre is only as good as its agents, who, in turn, can only be as good as the information they're using.
If you do have ownership of the agent workpoint, you should also ensure the application builder gives you an intuitive method of building applications, using drag-and-drop techniques, without complex coding and programming.
The emphasis behind solutions such as SmartCall is to provide a system which businesses can fine-tune without the need to call in external help.
The software you select should provide an application-building interface simple enough for an experienced call centre sales team manager to generate new campaigns.
By observing these points, you can be sure you will have the basis for a flexible, cost-effective call centre solution that will let you work the way that you want to.
Alan Stilwell is the marketing director at consultancy, DTS Business Solutions.
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