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.

 

Why Business Fails…!

A Chauffer driven limo, the red carpet and theworld at your fingers, you gotta be kidding me, Right?

How many of us have had dreams like this as a kid, becoming the professional athlete, movie star, the big-time executive business tycoon. Most of us have had dreams in our lives but the bitter reality is, they are just dreams.

Probably most of you have tried starting your own business. Maybe, joining your friends’ multilevel marketing, with the ambition someday, somehow, you would be the one up on stage,collecting the notoriety for all the hard work that you had done.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 25 years, with an MBA, and completed half of the doctorate in business administrationand entrepreneurial studies at the dissertation topic.

The shocking reality is the part of running a successful business and really making it succeed is stacked against all of us. Whereas, 96% of all businesses do not see their 10th anniversary and out of those 80% will close within the first two years of operations. Stop and think in recent years some of the iconic businesses that failed, Kodak, Circuit City, Woolworth’s, just to name a few of the many enterprise companies that have been left in the boneyard business. Two American icons that are currently on life support are Best Buy and Sears.These statistics do not just apply to small businesses but you have to think about that for a moment lesson then 4% of all businesses can see their 10th anniversary.

The ability to adapt and have a clear vision of what your goals are is a critical part of any business success. Here’s a list of the top 10 reasons businesses fail, if you can understand this properly adapt to tenfold your ability to succeed.

  1. The math just doesn’t work.
  2. An owner who can’t get out of their old way.
  3. Out-of-control growth
  4. Poor Accounting
  5. Underfunded
  6. Operational Mediocrity
  7. Operational inefficiencies
  8. Dysfunctional management
  9. Lack of a succession plan
  10. A declining market share or shift in the marketplace

Over the next few days I’m going to dive deeper into a few of the common causes many businesses fall into the comedown trap of failure. Understanding these aspects of business is just as simple as standing success syndromes. The success syndrome is the why and how businesses succeed. Often times, luck and timing are given too much credit for business success. There are commonalities among most business success stories. We will be reviewing these concepts and ideas as well.

Sincerely,

Robert Fox

The advantages and cost of Virtual Employee

No question about it, we’ve entered the era of the virtual workplace. While companies have talked for years about the concept of enabling workers to work from anywhere, 2004 marks a milestone in actually achieving that goal. Nemertes Research recently quantified a nine-fold increase in “virtual workers”- those who reside in separate locations from their managers – over the past five years. That means more salespeople out in the field with prospects and customers; more geographically independent contact centers; and more knowledge workers working at home.

But this geographic independence has its price – one with which network managers might be well aware. Up to 40% of an organization’s telecom costs can be linked to supporting these remote workers. Cellular services, digital wireless offerings, and remote-office Internet and VPN access can cost a company nearly as much as its traditional frame relay and voice services.

Moreover, it’s tougher to provide IT services to remote workers. Employees in main offices have access to extensive IT support, but employees in remote or home offices often have limited options when it comes to PC meltdowns or network problems.

While software is available to enable remote teams to collaborate effectively, it too has its price. Audioconferencing, videoconferencing, Web conferencing and presence capabilities can cost an organization hundreds of dollars per employee to deploy. And for these tools to be effective, every employee – not just remote workers – needs to have them.

So if having virtual workers increases a company’s network, support and collaboration costs, does it make sense for companies to move in this direction at all? Actually, yes. There are several major advantages to actively promoting a virtual workforce, including:

Dramatically lower facilities costs. It costs between $10,000 and $20,000 per year to house an employee in an office in a major metropolitan area, and between $6,000 and $10,000 to do so in a smaller city. Moving employees out of headquarters and into remote or home offices can save companies millions of dollars per year. And keep in mind, these numbers dwarf the cost of IT support for these employees.

Increased agility. Minimizing the impact of geography lets employees be closer to customers and prospects and eliminates the need to relocate key employees in response to organizational changes. (Just because you now report to someone in Miami doesn’t mean you have to move there.)

Increased employee retention. I’ve spoken to large organizations that have effectively stopped requiring employees to move to be closer to their bosses. A side advantage is that employees stay longer, and their institutional knowledge is maintained.

The biggest challenges to managing virtual workers are cultural. Some employees “go Dilbert” – they stop working when they’re out of eyesight of their managers. For others, losing the structure and protection of a workday that actually starts and ends means they’ll work 24/7 until they hit burnout. Managers need to know how to cope with both types: Real-time collaboration tools can help there, too.

 

Improving your bottom line by outsourcing Call Center

Whether you are a small business or a big corporate, call center is one of the crucial departments of your organization.It can help you generate sales as well as provide after sales services.The trend prevailing with call center is to outsource it.Outsourcing call center has many benefits, especially when it comes to improving your bottom line.A few of the ways in which call center can improve your bottom line are discussed as under:

Low Cost : The ultimate objective of outsourcing is to reduce your cost.When you outsource your call centre to a location half way the globe from shore,you want to make sure that the cost is minimum.Also specifically in case of SMB , which run on a tight budget; they cannot  afford to setup a call center on their own. So by outsourcing their call center service,they don’t have to incur additional cost for the setup of call center.Thereby they can save the cost and ultimately improve profit.

Competitive Professional Expertise: The vendors dealing in call center outsourcing , contain the professional expertise to perform the job with optimum efficiency and effectiveness.Adding to that, there is a significant difference in the cost of a CSR in India,Philipines compared to what is offered onshore in US. An experienced CSR knows how to tackle a customer, and once a customer is satisfied then evidently the business will boom and prosper. So when you have professional expertise accompanied with minimum cost ,then your bottom line is surely to improve.

Focus on your Core Business: Once you outsource your call center, it is no more a head ache for your business.The professionals off shore are capable enough to handle it on their own.Which means that you have one less thing to worry about,so now you can focus all your energy in divising other ways to improve your productivity.You can divert your energy towards, finding new market, building up strategies so that the business can find ways to increase its profit.

Save Resources: Outsourcing a call center helps you save resources.Whether these resources be in the form infrastructure or the cost incurred in the form of training and development.Which means that the cost which a business is supposed to spend on building infrastructure for call center department; and more over on training and development of its CSRs, it  will end up being the savings rather than a cost.Hence these savings can be invested in other departments of the business to achieve productivity and consequently increase profit.

All in all , outsourcing your call center can surely help you improve your bottom lines and bridge the gap between profit and cost.Outsourcing call centers comes with the benefits of low cost,saving resources and most importantly; you have a satisfied customer due to the high level of services provided by the experienced personnel.So if you are an SMB looking to increase your business,or a running business looking to retain and satisfy your customers; then outsourcing your call center is the best option that could provide solution to all these problems and along with that increase your bottom line.

Ethnocentric Approach in SMB Management

Ethnocentric Approach is usually associated with Multinational organizations which operate globally. But in recent times the Ethnocentric management approach has been found to be equally effective for small and medium businesses, keeping in view the factor of outsourcing. From a Multi National Company(MNC) point of view, an ethnocentric approach is one in which; the higher management and all the key positions are held by home country while global subsidiaries follow the resource management practices of the home country. Applying the same definition to SMB, all resources other than the key management positions are outsourced.

In the lines below we shall discuss some of the advantages of an Ethnocentric approach from the point of view of an SMB:

Represents Local Decision Making: As per the approach entails, all the decision making positions are held by locals. So whatever decision they make; it is made under the constraints and limitations of the local environment. It’s only the processes that are outsourced, while the strategy development function still lies with the home country. The benefit of having this function in the domestic environment is that the foreign staff is not familiar with the  needs and wants of the target customer, so the personnel involved in the decision making process must be familiar with the trends of local environment in order to ensure optimal customer satisfaction.

Acceptance by the Domestic Community: A customer can live with a CSR speaking from India.He can use the products manufactured in China. But what a loyal customer cannot live with, are the decisions made around his behavior on a foreign soil . So if an SMB outsources its processes, but keeps the top management positions on shore; then the customer feels a sense of relation with the business. He can relate to them as one of his own, and ultimately trust on the goods or services delivered by the business. Because no matter the product was assembled somewhere else in the globe ,its planning was done in customers home country.

Minimal Labor Cost: The ultimate objective of a business is to increase its profit, and one of the ways of doing so is by reducing cost. By outsourcing your processes you minimize your labor cost, therefore you can spend that cost on your higher management to keep them motivated. The organizations to which you outsource have high level of expertise, and what adds to it is the minimal cost. So instead of hiring clerical staff to do your book keeping, it definitely is a good idea to outsource it. Hence your profit increases by virtue of low labor cost.

Control and Coordination: When an SMB outsources its processes via ethnocentric approach, it ensures that control and monitoring of processes still remain on shore. Because it’s the SMB that strives in the domestic market, so the higher management knows the current market trends and where they stand in the market. By having the authority at their disposal, they can easily monitor and amend the processes off shore.

All in all it is the inevitable future of SMB to adopt ethnocentric approach. If a business tends to take competitive edge and explore new horizons of growth, it must outsource its non-priority functions. So that all the intellect and energy can be focused on the primary issues of the business like strategy development and planning, while all the other non primary processes remain outsourced.

Virtual Office

The notion that business office is actually a specified place where our professional lives occur might be getting less universal, and less important. These times numerous knowledge workers can certainly be productive anywhere, many thanks to better, much more numerous portable devices, faster network access, and a increasing number of on-line collaboration methods. Telecommuting is no longer simply something which a phone company is trying to sell . In addition to wherever the office may be, wider plus far better use of social networks, data analytic, as well as smart technologies such as voice recognition might be poised to increase productivity dramatically-meaning both real along with virtual offices may have much less people with in .

However whilst the actual workplace is transforming, certain connotations of the term “office” are not. We can consider of minimum 2 -”hierarchical organization” along with “place for human interaction”-and there is certainly no indication that these are becoming less important. Also the most progressive high-tech companies retain many of the organizational trappings associated with their industrial-age forerunners: managers, organizational charts, job descriptions, and so on. Not to mention since humans remain social animals, conventional gathering places will continue to be important in business. These spaces-whether they be typical offices, non permanent ones, or even conference facilities-must end up being made favorable to collaboration. They must even become physically healthy places in order to spend hours, due to the fact that non-active work seems to have surfaced as a potential health threat.

As the office stretches beyond its typical limits, crucial issues must be met, like the personal privacy and security issues posed from a diversified global workforce of individuals that work digitally and use multiple devices. New methods like cloud-based office productivity apps must be made not merely user-friendly and yet resistant to attacks and data loss. And even personnel will certainly require far better tools-including improved voice-recognition software, e-mail-organizing technologies, and smart agents who help manage complicated tasks once reserved for specialists-to streamline work processes, make sense of the overwhelming volumes of data besieging them, and improve productivity.

To date, IT-driven productivity gains within the office have been somewhat modest, at least compared with those seen in manufacturing. In 1989 the U.S. manufacturing sector employed 18 million people; by 2009 that figure had declined to 11.8 million. But though the workforce shrank 34 percent, the value added by U.S. manufacturers-that is, the value of their output minus the cost of raw materials purchased-surged 75 percent, to $1.78 trillion. We’ve definitely observed white-collar productivity improvement as well, especially since the mid-1990s, but it hasn’t been as big.

That may soon change. Consider that people already routinely deal with computers rather than office workers when they make an airline reservation, buy products and arrange for delivery, or troubleshoot a problem with a product they own. If a task involves simple and predictable forms of communication without much nuance or emotion, computers can do just fine, leaving humans to handle an ever-dwindling number of exceptions to the usual procedures or questions.

More far-out advances in artificial intelligence could push productivity even further. Voice recognition, speech synthesis, and automatic translation have improved significantly. And we’ve seen that computers can now accurately understand and reply to questions: IBM’s Watson supercomputer beat human competitors at Jeopardy! earlier this year. Skeptics will point out that futurists have been promising an AI-driven revolution in knowledge work for decades. But by now even the skeptics are finding phone numbers with the help of computer-based operators. When the productivity enhancements from these innovations are tallied, we can predict that they will be striking.

On top of this, software and social tools may boost the efficiency of the remaining human office workers. For example, a CSR who deals with technical questions can work along with just one customer at a time on the telephone, but it’s easy to deal with two or more customers concurrently if the channel is instant messaging. Whole office-based industries may come to be vastly more efficient; the legal profession, for one, may be in the early stages of a deep transformation, especially since the prices clients are willing to pay are going through the floor. A new breed of legal outsourcing offers much cheaper ways to accomplish certain tasks: contract lawyers and digital tools scan documents during discovery processes, for example. Intelligent software will only get better at finding associations in those documents and mining meaning from it all.

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.

General Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur

When it comes to business the world, the word ‘entrepreneur’ needs no introduction. The word has a French origin meaning “go-getter”. In recent times many myths have surrounded the whole concept of entrepreneurship and the factors involved in its success. A successful entrepreneur is not the one who comes up with a break through idea or has a unique personality trait. But it mainly is subjected to perfect execution of the idea and persistent hard work. The main traits and characteristics required for an entrepreneur to be successful are discussed under:

Passion and a sense of achievement: An entrepreneur must comprise the crucial characteristics of passion and sense of achievement. Passion is what makes an entrepreneur superior to all other fellows. You must be willing to sacrifice a large part of your daily life to your objective; and never let a specific sense of achievement diminish in your attitude. A passionate entrepreneur is the kind of leader that inspires the whole team and once the team is passionate the ultimate result is a satisfied and loyal customer.

Agility: An entrepreneur must be agile. You must be flexible and adaptable. If you are agile then it is just a matter of time that you get hold of an idea, which is overlooked by other mainly due to their fragility. You must be always observing and always open to the changes taking place. As change is the only constant and if you don’t keep up with it your venture can never be successful.

A Leader: An entrepreneur must possess great leader ship qualities. Because you can come up with an idea or frame work of it; but you need a team to execute it. And a team always looks to a leader for inspiration. You must be a great convincer so that team could believe on the prospects of the venture and be inspired to achieve it.

Perseverance: An entrepreneur needs to be persistent both in terms of dedication and hard work. No entrepreneurial success is overnight, instead it involves days and days of hard work. So you must keep your eye on the goal and never loose hope, and continue your journey with utmost hard work and dedication no matter come what may.

Focus: No matter you have a unique idea, but if it is not executed successfully its another waste of time and resources. An Entrepreneur should never leave focus. You should keep the ground realities in front of you and then try to develop strategies accordingly rather then merely relying on the exclusiveness of your idea.

Ethics: You must not let go ethics out of your hand. Ethics may include but is not limited to honesty, integrity, sincerity, courtesy and trustworthiness. You can have a temporary success by adopting unethical and immoral means but the secret to long lasting success is being moral and ethical.

Experience counts: Experience though not a prerequisite but is the factors that gives great potential to your business and increases its prospects. If you or your team has some past experience it surely will come handy at one point or another.

Be Rewarding: And last but not the least be rewarding because at the end it’s a team effort. You need to share the fruit of your success with those who have contributed in its becoming a reality. This sense of sharing keeps the team motivated and more involved in the whole effort. If you are not being sharing; the ultimate result would be the team loosing its interest, subsequently serving as a hindrance in future success.

Summarizing above we can conclude that a successful entrepreneur must posses the qualities of a great leader along with constant determination and a never flinching faith on his/her venture and team.