Archive for March, 2011

Seven Ways to Make Number Translation Services a Success

Transforming non-geographical numbers to geographical numbers is more or less a commodity. So if you want to add value to your NTS, you will need more than just static call routing based on the call origin or the caller ID. Here are seven ideas for really innovative Number Translation Services:

  • Offer more than just one static call routing feature. Route calls based on origin/prefix, weekday or geographical region.
  • Offer dynamic call routing, i.e. routing on parameters that change. Examples are queue length, time of day, skill-based routing, or a percentage allocation.
  • Offer NTS as a scalable solution. Sell a basic feature set and offer your customers additional number translation features they can pick from according to their needs.
  • Offer self-service. Your contact center customers should be able to create and change routing plans themselves as well as the type of routing strategies they need. Here dynamic call routing is really helpful.
  • Offer web-service. Your customers should be able to work on their number translation over the browser of a PC just the way they handle all other network-based contact center settings.
  • Offer single-sign-on. With one log-in your customer should be able to access all your contact center features like NTS, Automatic Call Distribution or your IVR.
  • Enable complex routing scenarios with callflows by integrating IVR functionalities. You can play a prompt while the call is routed to the desired destination, place calls in a queue, communicate with external interfaces (http, SOAP, databases) to collect information during the call (e.g. in customer care scenarios), and use speech recognition as well as text-to-speech. You should be able to set up, change and administer these callflows in real-time over your browser.

Do you have more ideas on how to add some juice to the, admittedly, rather dry subject of number translation, or do you maybe disagree with my points? Then share your thoughts with me.

Network-Based Automatic Call Distribution

Every contact center needs an ACD and every contact center has one. However, in terms of customer experience, automatic call distribution could have a better reputation. Very often, customers get stuck in long queues and have to wait for what feels like ages until they reach the proper agent.

One of the reasons for that is a complicated call distribution process that comes with premise-based equipment. The carrier routes the calls made to a service number to the contact center’s ACD. There, the service number is ‘translated’ into a physical number and sent to the next available agent’s extension. In some cases, the call is routed to yet another location along the way. Until then, the caller has to wait in the queue. That’s not only inconvenient for the person calling the contact center, for the center itself it is expensive if the call has to be routed to various destinations.

But lo and behold, help comes out of the cloud. The first advantage worth mentioning is certainly the fact that a cloud-based ACD replaces the expensive ACD equipment located on the contact center’s premises. There is no purchasing; there is no hardware and software that needs to be maintained. Instead, contact centers can get agent seats on demand at an almost unlimited capacity. This reduces the queue length and leads to higher customer satisfaction.

Secondly, there is the technological advantage. With a solution from the cloud, you set up unified queuing for all your contact center locations. The call is no longer routed to an ACD and from there to another contact center and from there to an agent or to a skill group. Instead, the hosted solution routes the call made to the service number directly to the next available agent, regardless of their location. The step in between, where the call is sent to the contact center’s premises and from there to the agent, is no longer necessary.

Apart from equipment expenses, the cloud ACD enhances the customer experience because it shortens the queue and the caller has to spend less time until he reaches an agent. The contact center saves additional money because calls don’t have to be routed to other destinations from the in-house ACD.

So where’s the advantage for the carrier? Well, as a carrier you can offer Automatic Call Distribution at a better price and with enhanced customer experience. Suppliers of enterprise equipment can’t give you that.

Plus, you get an additional source of revenue. You don’t only charge for the service number but also for the ACD service. In other words, a network-based ACD is beneficial for contact centers, customers and carriers.

What’s your experience with ACD from the cloud? Has it made the customer experience cheaper, faster and better for your clients?

How to achieve free of charge queuing

Hi, my name is Walter Rott and I’m the CTO here at ECT. Usually I post on our corporate blog but here is something that will interest those, who follow the contact center discourse:

What happens when you call a service number or any other phone number? As soon as the called party picks up the phone, the call is billed, regardless of whether you talk to a real person or end up in a call queue. However, German lawmakers plan to pass a bill which would mean that queuing has to be free of charge.

So far, this is only planned for Germany, but I can well imagine that regulations for free call queues could also be made in other European countries sooner or later, so carriers and service providers in other countries should also be prepared.

In Germany, the industry is not very happy with this legal endeavor because it is very difficult to accomplish technically. The draft regulation proposes that free queues have to be available for calls from fixed and mobile phones, pre- and post-paid.

For off-line calls this is not so much of a challenge. You take the call data records and deduct the time spent in the queue.

However, pretty much every call that you make is an online call. It can be routed through multiple queues, even outside the public network and each has to be free of charge. I can think of two ways around this issue.

The first is to play a ring back tone or corporate ring back instead of connecting the call to a queue. This tone could tell the caller to stay in the line until the next agent is available. Only when the agent actually takes the call, it is connected and can be billed. The disadvantage: you can only do this for two minutes. After that the call is disconnected.

The second way is the implementation of a network-based waiting queue with off-line billing. This is a solution which ECT offers. If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What are the trends in Voice and Value-added Services?

Hi, my name is Metin Sezer and I am the new Product Manager for the ECT effECTive® Network-Based Contact Center suite. I would like to introduce myself to you as in the future I will share my thoughts with you on the wide world of network-based contact centers, Interactive Voice Response, Automatic Call Distribution, service numbers and service creation.

I say new, but that’s not really true; after all I’ve been with ECT for quite a few years now. Previously, I worked on the development of voice services and also did project management here at ECT.

So why don’t we begin with the current voice and telco trends? I say, the answer comes from the IT world. There, we have been experiencing a huge step towards virtualization. Everybody uses the term “cloud”. Data centers, storage, even some desktop applications are moving away from enterprise systems and into the virtual world.

It’s the same with telecommunications and value-added services. Of course, the tendency to move away from premise-based equipment to hosted solutions has been evident during the past couple of years but I believe that this trend is going to increase. Why? Because companies and contact centers continuously demand better and more flexible solutions in their business and they have to keep an eye on their costs. At the same time, their business environment gets more challenging. Investing in expensive premise-based equipment that limits their flexibility and comes with high-priced service contracts will no longer be an option.

Additionally, security is a huge issue in the whole cloud debate. The IT and telco media are full of it. How secure is our data in the cloud? This is a database issue and raises the question, how good databases are protected. After all, in a contact center environment, there are tons of customer data and losing or damaging them … do I have to elaborate?

And there is the topic of desktop virtualization. That’s where, we at ECT are a forerunner with our effECTive® Visual Call Flow Builder and the Icon Development Kit. These are browser –based applications that look very much like a desktop application, with the big difference that they actually run in your browser. No additional installation whatsoever is required.

Last but not least there is social media. I witnessed myself that social media is gaining momentum in the contact center industry at a webinar I attended recently. Companies employ new ways to interact with their customers and consumers have found a new way to talk about companies. No small wonder that contact centers have to embrace this new form of customer relations. More and more contact center solutions will have social media capabilities and interface with Facebook or Twitter.

All this is good news for carriers, MVNOs and service providers because they will be able to augment their product range and increase their margins while keeping their investment low. It is also good news for their customers because they will be able to obtain flexible solutions at a decent price.

But what’s your opinion? What’s moving the telco world and which voice trends have you seen?