Businesses today have a choice of a growing range of solutions that offer computer telephony integration (CTI), but these are often dependent upon the type and age of their existing telephony systems.
This has been further complicated by the development of IP telephony systems, now seen in many areas as the only way forward for any business seeking to roll out a 'world class' contact centre.
By bringing all of these pieces of the telephony puzzle onto one managed platform then the issues of management and integration are immediately marginalised.
However, simply providing a tightly integrated CTI solution may not be enough, because the customer interaction does not just stop when the call arrives at the agent's desk.
In fact, it is here that the real value is generated, when the agent opens up the appropriate business application to provide the service that the caller is seeking.
It is the integration between the multimedia contact centre platform and the business application that creates true value for both the caller looking for a fast, effective resolution to their problem, and the business manager who is looking to increase the volume of callers.
The answer is to ensure that the customer contacting the vendor by whatever means (phone, email or web) is immediately identified and directed to the appropriate customer service agent.
Because the telephony system is integrated to the business application, the agent will be presented with all of the appropriate customer details and any historical data relating to their issue and current status.
Such solutions effectively re-enfranchise the telephony system within the organisation. They can be considered to be a part of an IT infrastructure that is delivering real value, rather than being seen as just the grey box in the corner that makes the phones ring.
Everyone benefits. End-users gain from having their enquiries dealt with quickly and efficiently, via the channel that suits them best. Companies also gain in flexibility by, say, supporting home working through the creation of virtual contact centres.
And, as it is a software-based solution, maintenance charges are reduced to no more than 20 per cent of the licence cost.
Phillips Infotech predicts that 46 per cent of call-centre agent seats will be based on multi-platform technology by the end of the year. This is no surprise as more companies recognise that investment in channels of customer interaction is the way to improve loyalty and retention.
After all, when times are tough, it is vital that we do everything possible to improve the customer's experience when dealing with us.
Steve Feeney is sales director at FrontRange Solutions.
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