The Must-Have Contact Center Technologies

A contact center, which is normally referred to as the e-contact or customer-interaction center is the nerve of your business communication or customer interaction. It is the central point in any given enterprise from where all the business’ customer contacts are managed.

An enterprise’s contact center typically comprises of one or more virtual call hubs. They may however include other forms of customer contact details as well. These details may include email newsletters, Web site chats and inquiries, postal mail directories and a collection of customer information put together during in-store purchasing. Normally, this center makes part of the general customer relationship management (CRM) of an enterprise. Regardless of the nature of your business, here are some technologies that make your contact center live to its task.

The Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)

An automatic call distributor (ACD) or dialer is something that every call center should have. It will help manage all incoming calls to the call center and route them out to the right party basing on some handling instructions that are pre-established in the system. Most of these ACDs or dialers have skill-based routing technology which directs calls to the appropriate agent at the call center based on their skillset.

Email response management software

Emails are an important and common means through which every organization communicates with not just the customers but all stakeholders as well. The email response management software will automatically handle the enterprise’s emails based on user-defined rules. This email software is currently used by different call centers to manage enormous volumes of mails. The software can track and record the status of every email message and even a follow-up message. Email response management software is often used also to provide automated responses to different incoming mails guided by similar email responses from the past.

Campaign Management

This contact management technology is used in the call center to let the dialer know who is supposed to be contacted. With that information, it produces a list of telephone numbers or enables the dialer to create a list of email contacts. If you have a more advanced campaign management solution then it will also show you the response activities for each customer.

Call recording solution

The call recording is often required in the call center industry to keep a record of call interactions for use in the future should need arise for the same. Call records can always be required for legal matters or as evidence of interaction that has taken place before. The needs for call recording may differ from agency to agency or with circumstances. The technology will capture all interactions that can later be replayed if necessary. These call recording solutions may capture only the call, or may add in other related screens along.

The IVR

At times you may not require a live agent for communication interactions regardless of the business or industry being served. These are common interactions requiring certain specific responses, and that is where the interactive voice response solution comes in. In addition, the contemporary increasingly mobile consumer is more interested in the ability to handle their own interactions, which makes the IVR an indispensable solution. The interactive voice response (IVR) technology enables self-service and lessens the organization’s cost of operation.

Quality Management Solution

This solution provides the management with the needed insight into performance and interactions that involve service to the customers. Organizations must be so concerned with the way they (their staff) interact with customers since that will determine the overall performance of the organization and the image the public will attach to them. Call center agents are supposed to adhere to particular procedures and policies within the organization and the quality management solution makes this much effective.

The News – Alert (CTI)

With the Computer telephony integration or news alert, the call agents no longer have to spend time looking through customer directory for customer information. Neither do the customers have to provide pertinent information any more at multiple stages of the call. This advanced call center technology links up the ACD and the CMS app to deliver a screen pop up with the basic needed detail.

Is Your Business Systemized?

It’s critical to have some type of soft-interface to communicate with your virtual team. We use a software called Sales Stream specifically for telecom, there are many other systemized tools out there, Salesforce, Infusionsoft, TeamPM, the functionalities of the systems will vary and should depend upon what your specific needs are. The important thing is to develop a system of communication with your team, or have someone help you implement one if you don’t have one already.

We use a variety of tools: video cameras on our phone system, PCs and in the offices. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and project management tools, we use Infusionsoft in our office. We have many tools and systems in place because it helps keep everything accounted for and organized.

In the case of redundancy, make sure that you have emergency plans in place. If there is a failure, backup capacity allows you to continue operating. Even if production is at 50 percent, it’s 100 times better than being completely down.

We have multiple redundancy pathways in place, yet there are still times we get caught flat-footed. The unthinkable takes place and there you are. Make sure that you have other suppliers in place to handle extra work that you can offload to until you get back to 100 percent. The last thing you want to happen is for any disorganization to filter into your clientele business or lifestyle, depending upon the clientele you serve.

Nothing will cost your business faster than an inability to supply your customers with what you promised. This can be a hard, expensive lesson to learn. Be proactive and look at all the systems you have in place and ask yourself, What is the cost to build a system that won’t work?

Start with making a list of similar businesses that you can offload work to on a short-term basis while you work on your own infrastructure. Are there multiple pathways into your building if you lose Internet connectivity? If your building floods, is there a system in place to send people home and work as efficiently as they do in their offices? These are a few contingency plans that should be put into place.

Let’s take a look at other steps and aspects of building a virtual team.

First and foremost, if you walk away with one thing after you’ve read this, it should be the importance of changing your job title. Examine the way that are currently doing business, if you have a failure is there a contingency plan in place. Furthermore if that contingency plan fails is there a redundant contingency plan in place. A well-designed plan should have a minimum of two consecutive failures and still be able to maintain operations. The old adage applies here of Murphy’s Law, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” And I think is most of us can attest to, system failures often do create other failures. That’s why it’s critical word ever possible to have multiple redundancy plans in place.

Creating the Entrepreneurial Virtual Workforce

Twentieth century small American businesses didn’t have as many options to look for competitive market resources. As a result, they relied on relatively cheap labor.

However in the 21st century, “virtual teams” have made it possible for entrepreneurs to take full advantage of labor resources around the globe.

To take it a step further, the quest of cheap labor is mandatory for a successful business whether it is located in emerging markets or first-world countries.

Here is the underlying truth for all businesses: paying the lowest cost for labor will boost the overall top-line and bottom line growth. In our contemporary era, this is called outsourcing, or creating virtual teams.

There is nothing futuristic today about what is now a basic commodity — the Internet.  It is a gateway that has fully opened up the world in the last 20 years more than Christopher Columbus could have ever imagined when he discovered a new realm.

Business is no longer limited to the free trade concept. It is now a labor trade concept. Everyone who engages in and interacts with the outsourcing market gives themselves originality and the ability to compete for jobs, money and security on a level that was not even dreamed of 20 or 30 years ago.

Because of the Internet, companies around the world can grow rapidly. CEOs and managers will  pay less for labor without the worry of over-hiring or over-paying someone to sit in their office for a simple job that someone on  the other side of the world can do just as well for half or less of the paycheck.

Outsourcing gives companies financial freedom and reduces the cost of hiring a permanent employee. It gives employers freedom to peruse and browse a broader pool of qualified workers who will do the same task for less money — especially quarterly or annually. It allows for a greater top and bottom line number.

In this contemporary, networkable, computer-age working environment, people are no longer restricted by geographic location. Businesses are located anywhere. Entrepreneurs can simply search for and find staff anywhere via outsourcing. Necessary tasks can be given to anyone, anywhere who has a computer or tablet and access to an Internet connection.

If you’re not taking advantage of this new way of doing business by hiring outsourced work, why? Do you consider yourself ahead of the curve or behind it?

In my opinion, the clear answer is that you are behind the curve.

 

Franchising Versus Starting Your Own Entity

My personal opinion is that unless you are an expert in the field you’re going to be entering and you really know this industry well, starting a franchise is a far more productive venture with a higher rate of success. The failure rate among small business owners is extremely high within the first two years of operations, while proportionately franchises are the inverted opposite.

Some things a franchise experience will give you are: management expertise in your industry, name recognition, marketing, and a host of other things the average small business just can’t afford. The biggest thing they will give you is a system. Just take a look at how well McDonald’s runs. They have systems in place for everything. While McDonald’s is a restaurant, they are designed so that a high school student can cook all of the meals they offer on their menu, unlike most restaurants that require highly specialized chefs and cooks. Since McDonald’s is well systemized, they achieve predicable results from millions of employees at thousands of restaurants worldwide.

The restaurant industry has the highest failure rates among small business. A common mistake people make when opening a restaurant is that they have never worked in one. To me it’s unbelievable someone would get involved in the business without at least first operating a similar business. Yet, I have friends who have made this mistake more than once. They open a restaurant, having never worked in a restaurant, don’t know how to cook, and really don’t know the first thing about the business. And then six months later, they’re shocked that their businesses failed. This is why my personal opinion is if you’re going to start a new business, having never been involved in a similar business, then you should buy a franchise.  Pay the premium upfront.  You will have long-term success.

Obviously, there is a premium you have to pay for getting involved in this franchise organization. The numbers really speak for themselves, as somewhere around 90% of all restaurants fail in the first two years of operations, compared to franchise restaurants having a 90% success rate. Not to mention an exit strategy if at sometime in the future, you want to sell your franchise.

The drawbacks to franchises are the significant upfront cost involved, and revenue sharing. If you’re doing this in a transitional stage of your life you may not want to put at risk several hundred thousand dollars for your business venture. There is however, an alternative to the franchise model, which also lends itself to many systems. That is the agency model, most commonly use is in the insurance, and real estate industry. There are many industries that lend themselves to this model. My first business venture with Hertz was an agency setting, I got all the name recognition and many of the upfront costs were covered by the Corporation. My responsibilities were scaled down from typical franchise. The upfront costs were minimal, and I was able to take advantage of the systems that were in place.

In this alternative you could look to the leader in the industry that you’re interested in getting involved and check to see if you could sell their product. If they have an agency model already in place or if you could implement a hybrid of working as an affiliate, this will allow you to take advantage of the systemized procedures that they’ve already done. Learn more about the industry. Of course there are disadvantages to franchising and agencies.  The disadvantages would probably primarily be in the amount of control you have over your operations, the corporate office will dictate what your office looks like, the products or services that you’re able to offer, and to some extent how much money you’ll be able to make. Alternatively, going out on your own, or starting a franchise. Especially if you’ve never endeavored into an entrepreneurial venture is a great way to get your feet wet, while the same time having systems and security in place.

Transition From an Entrepreneur to A CEO

It goes without saying that the business industry of today survives on entrepreneurs. With the consumer market expanding, world becoming a global village, more and more individuals are coming up with unique ideas, that make them call themselves Entrepreneur.

No denying the fact that the title of Entrepreneur is synonymous with Brilliance, however, to run a business the title as well as the person needs to be transformed from Entrepreneur to CEO. If Entrepreneurship is all about brilliance, then CEO-ship is all about effective management, which is one point where most of the entrepreneurs lose the grip.

Before moving on to how an entrepreneur can make the transition to CEO smooth and simple, the first thing to do is find out the things a CEO has to perform well in order to do justice with the title.

  • Firstly, a CEO needs to set milestones and directions. A CEO must have an attitude that says no to all kinds of distraction and always remains focused at the end goals and objectives.
  • Second comes the proper allocation of resources, which includes both human and financial resources.
  • Thirdly, one of the most challenging tasks for a CEO is the hiring and firing of the top management, which could either, set the business on the right course, or totally derail it.

Transiting from Entrepreneur to CEO:

The primary functions of CEO would seem simple and easy to do to any Entrepreneur. However, the fact of the matter is that these are one of the most difficult tasks a manager could face. A CEO needs to know a bit about every process of the business, he needs to be the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and chief of almost everything.

The lines below give an insight to how an Entrepreneur can make the transition to CEO simple and easy.

  1. The first thing is to keep record of the time you spend in performing the above mentioned tasks. CEO needs to be chief of everything, therefore, an Entrepreneur must learn about every process, have a thorough understanding of it, and give every task its due share of time.
  2. The second thing an Entrepreneur must do is to realize that he cannot be an expert in any of the tasks. Therefore, the right way of pursuing all the tasks is by keeping it simple and steady, instead of spending all the time in mastering a simple task.
  3. The third thing for an Entrepreneur to do is to decide between the ‘context’ and ‘core’ of the business. Core is what a business has to do in-house or on-shore, and context is everything else, which can be and must be outsourced to become an effective CEO.
  4. Hiring and outsourcing company is another thing that represents the transition from Entrepreneur to CEO. If you cannot manage the clients, or don’t have the time to manage them effectively, then the right thing to do would be to hire a virtual agent, or an employee on shore who can share the burden while you emphasis on the strategic matters.
  5. Not getting out of the comfort zone is another mistake which most of the Entrepreneurs make in this transition phase. A CEO needs to be agile and must know everything related to the venture and not merely about his areas of expertise only.

Bottom Line:

In a nutshell, the transition phase from an Entrepreneur to a CEO is very delicate and demanding. Even a single mistake can mar whole of the fruits of the unique idea. Therefore, an Entrepreneur needs to be a master of all, an agile person, and a good manager to become a CEO.

Differentiate Business from Hobby

There is a thin line differentiating a hobby from a business. Some times it is difficult to label the activities which you undertake. It is important that you must know the difference between the two, so that you can give them the importance they deserve. Whether you don’t know in which category your activities fall, yet they still take time of your life and you are spending a bit of money on them as well. In this peace of writing we shall discuss some of the major factors which help in classifying your activities as business or hobby.

Is there a Monetary Value Attached? The obvious difference between a hobby and a business is the monetary value attached. If you incur a certain amount of cost and expect to have some return over it, then most probably you are running a business. And if you invest and don’t give a dime about the return; then the activity can be classified as a hobby. And it is solely an activity you do in your leisure time.

Is there some Objective to the activity? You have to ask yourself that what is the objective of the activity you are performing? Is it just for pleasure or there is some commercial aspect attached to it? Take the example of blogging, if you are blogging just for the purpose of sharing your feelings and communicating with other people then it can be considered as a hobby. But if a friend asks you to share your feelings and experiences for his web site, then there is a whole new commercial aspect attached to your blogging hobby. So now it can be considered as a business, because by the end it generates or assists in generating profit for your friend’s website.

Do you frequently perform the Activity? The other thing you need to observe is that how frequently you are performing the activity? Whether you have a specific time assigned to it, or you do it on daily basis and sometimes you just perform it abruptly? If you undertake some activity and do it any time of the day and have no specific hours devoted to it; and perform it when ever you wish of doing so, then this activity can be your hobby. Because you are not committed to it; and perform it just for the sake of pleasure. While on the other hand when you perform the activity in specific hour of the day and perform it frequently without any postponement then this activity has the prospects of a business.

Do you put emphasis on the way Activity should be carried on? Another way to differentiate between a hobby and a business is the emphasis you put on its management functions like planning and organizing. If you properly plan and organize an activity, like the time its going to consume, the resources required, distribution and prioritizing of tasks involved in the activity, in what manner the resources will be utilized and how presentable your activity should look; then the chances are the activity you are under taking is surely a business. While on the other hand you neither plan nor organize any of the factors affecting your activity then it must be considered as a hobby.

If your answer to any to two of the above factor is YES then it would be realistic to presume that you are running a business. And if the answer is NO, then it is merely an activity to amuse you in your leisure time.