|Telephone call center|
|Friday, 08 December 2006|
A telephone call center utilizes a telecommunications system that may be as simple as a single telephone manned by a single individual, or it may range from a group of agents manning a bank of telephones to an entire department or company having banks of telephones networked through private branch exchange (PBX) equipment dedicated to handling hundreds or thousands of calls. Call centers can be in many different forms, from large operator service systems (OSS) under the control of telephone companies to smaller private ones such as corporate customer service centers and telemarketing groups. An important function of a call center is to provide efficient service to all customers, including timely and satisfactory handling of all received calls. A call center management system monitors and manages the call center activities, resources and overall performance and provides a call center manager with call center statistics. Typically, the telephone calls handled by a call center are incoming calls from present or potential customers of the organization. The incoming calls are generally distributed among a number of agents within the call center who are each trained to handle certain types of incoming calls. A call center will normally be capable of handling many different types of calls coming into the organization. A call center may include the capability to route a received call based on the call's attributes, such as information carried by the call, information submitted by the caller before the call is routed, and information regarding the caller stored in the call center's database or otherwise available to the call center. The call center may include the capability to prioritize handling and disposition of the call based on these attributes. Modern call centers typically perform skills-based matching between calls and agents. This involves having a record of individual agents' skills, determining individual call's needs, and then matching agents with calls based on which agent's skills best match a call's needs. A call center has the ability to handle a considerable volume of calls at the same time, to screen calls and forward them to someone qualified to handle them, and to log calls. As calls are directed to the organization from the public switch telephone network (PSTN), the communications system directs the calls to its call center agents based upon some algorithm. For example, a communications system such as an automatic call distributor (ACD), a public branch exchange (PBX), or a central office exchange service may recognize a call target based upon an identity of an incoming trunk line and route the call accordingly. Call centers distribute calls and other types of communications to available call-handling service agents in accordance with various predetermined criteria. In existing systems, the criteria for handling a call are often programmable by the operator of the system via a capability known as call vectoring. When the system detects that an agent has become available to handle a call, the system identifies the call-handling skills of the agent, usually in some order of priority. A customer call center includes a number of agents that stand by and provide support on behalf of the organization. The customer call center receives incoming telephone calls, and queues the calls to one or more groups of agents in the order of receipt and priority using, for example, information about the customer. The agents in the group to which the calls are assigned are presented with the calls, answering them in the order of priority.
A typical call center is a complicated technological amalgam of hardware and software that may reside on a telecommunications network. Although call centers, vary in size and complexity, many call centers generally include an automatic call distributor, a number of operator workstations, and a number of voice response units. A network communication-routing system, also referred to as a call router, controls the routing of incoming communications to a call center. The network call-routing system routes each individual call to the call center in the network which presently offers the shortest call-answer waiting time. An automatic call distributor (ACD) is a device that receives incoming calls, answers with a taped announcement, holds the calls with background music or a message, then automatically assigns the call on a first come first serve basis to the next available call agent. The automatic call distribution is generally implemented in software that executes in a switching system, such as a private branch exchange, that connects customer calls to agent telephones. The distribution has been carried out either via the call center's own telephone network or via the public telephone network, when the agents are located at different points. The ACD allows routing of calls received via a switch to a plurality of different agents, depending on the predetermined standards defined by the call center system. An ACD distributes incoming calls from callers to agents of an organization to enable the callers to speak directly with the agents. In operation, an ACD recognizes and answers an incoming call from a caller, looks in a database for instructions on what to do with the call, based on the instructions the ACD sends the call to a recording, and then transfers the caller to an agent for the caller to speak directly with the agent. The ACD may take information from the caller and pass this information to the agent to speed the communication between the caller and the agent. The ACD may also select an agent for the caller based on the information submitted by the caller to ensure that the appropriate agent communicates with the caller. An interactive voice response (IVR) automates telephone based "self help" tasks by giving a caller access to information and by receiving information from the caller. Interactive voice response units are used to allow callers to select certain preferences using their touch-tone phones or speech recognition to enable ACD to route the call to the appropriate departments. By automating the retrieval and processing of information for a caller having access to a telephone or personal computer (PC) an IVR gives data a voice and adds intelligence to a telephone call from the caller. An IVR uses recordings of human or computerized voice to communicate to callers on behalf of an organization. The ACD allows routing of calls received via a switch to a plurality of different agents, depending on the predetermined standards defined by the call center system. Examples of these standards include routing based on DNIS or ANI. Some call center systems also have skills based routing on a limited scale. The dialed number identification service (DNIS) delivers the number dialed by the customer to the call center. This allows the call center to route the call based on the specific number dialed by the customer and also allows agents to identify the nature of the incoming call based on the number dialed. For example, separate numbers may be provided for new orders, existing orders, and returns. Automatic number identification (ANI) is provided to call center representatives which allow customer data to be delivered from the database to the representative's desktop along with the call. A workforce management (WFM) component is often employed by a call center to schedule and manage agent staffing and call center capacity.
Advances in computer technology, telephony equipment, and infrastructure have provided many opportunities for improving telephone service in publicly switched and private telephone intelligent networks. Most of the improvements involve integrating the telephones and switching systems in such call centers with computer hardware and software adapted for better routing of telephone calls, faster delivery of telephone calls and associated information, and improved service with regard to client satisfaction. More recently, computer-telephony integration (CTI) has been widely employed in call centers. Computer-telephony integration (CTI) refers to the use of computers in managing the calls. In a typical call center, a computer-telephony integration component conveys telephony information, such as the telephone number of the calling party and the identity of the agent to whom the call is connected, from the ACD switching system to other components of the call center system. The other components of the call center system typically use this information to send relevant database information, such as the account file of the calling party, across a local area network (LAN) or other communications network to a data terminal of the agent to whom the call is connected. CTI implementations of various design and purpose are implemented both within individual call-centers and, in some cases, at the telephone network level. For example, processors running CTI software applications may be linked to telephone switches, service control points (SCP), and network entry points within a public or private telephone network. At the call-center level, CTI-enhanced processors, data servers, transaction servers, and the like, are linked to telephone switches and to similar CTI hardware at the network level, often by a dedicated digital link. CTI processors and other hardware within a call-center are commonly referred to as customer premises equipment (CPE). In a CTI-enhanced call center, telephones at agent stations are connected to a central telephony switching apparatus, such as an automatic call distributor (ACD) switch or a private branch exchange (PBX). The agent stations are usually equipped with computer terminals such as personal computer/video display units (PC/VDU) so that agents manning such stations may have access to stored data as well as being linked to incoming callers by telephone equipment. Development of the Internet, together with advances in computer hardware and software has led to a new multimedia telephone system known in the art by several names. In this new systemology, telephone calls are simulated by multimedia computer equipment, and data is transmitted over data networks as discrete data packets. In this system a broad term used to describe such computer-simulated telephony is data network telephony (DNT). A multimedia communications center may be a combination CTI and DNT center, or may be a DNT center capable of receiving connection-oriented switched telephony (COST) calls and converting them to a digital DNT format for management within the communication center environment.