xi
Preface
Over the last several years, corporate cultures around the world have
changed to place increasing emphasis on customer relations and to establish
policies and procedures to enhance these relationships. Where there are
hundreds of thousands or even millions of customers, as is the case in the
financial, communications, automotive, travel, and insurance sectors, for
example, the task of establishing a one-to-one relationship with each cus-
tomer is extremely challenging. Success in achieving the highest level of
customer relationships requires a number of components to be integrated
into the changed corporate culture, including human resources and tech-
nology, and the effective management of these resources.
The need to establish and manage highly productive relationships with
large numbers of customers has led to the development of technologies spe-
cifically designed or adapted to assist organizations to manage, analyze, and
respond to the challenges posed by large customer databases and the need
to communicate effectively and productively with each customer. Many
organizations have established a central department that uses these technol-
ogies to manage customer relationships. These departments respond to
inbound customer communication of all types and are proactive in communi-
cating with customers as well. This facility or department, generally referred
to as a call center, customer interaction center,or contact center, has gained
considerable prominence over the last several years. The total number of
call centers of all sizes, internal and external, in North America alone is esti-
mated to be well over 100,000. Today, in many organizations, the call cen-
ter is a central focus of all customer-oriented activity—the eyes and ears of
the organization.
The call center, the term that will be used most often in this book, may
be internal to a corporation or it may be an external, outsourced function.
xii Preface
Those organizations that have outsourced their call center operations, for
lack of financial or human resources, have been able to take advantage of
the experience offered by large, often multinational call center operations.
These firms specialize in providing customer-related communications ser-
vices using sophisticated software and communications technology and
skilled customer service representatives.
The foundation for automation in call centers has been the integration
of computers and telephony (CTI). CTI is not a new concept—it was
first implemented in the mid-1980s in large corporate call centers. Since
that time, advances in public telephone network technology and comput-
ing make CTI a powerful tool for businesses of any size, and reduced
hardware costs make the combined technologies affordable for smaller
organizations.
Effective management, use, and distribution of information have become
increasingly important business considerations in today’s fast-paced business
environment. In particular, the adoption of appropriate technologies to
accomplish these objectives can provide and sustain competitive advantage.
Technology by itself cannot attain business goals—how people use the
technology makes the difference in effecting improvements in communica-
tions and operational processes. CTI, the integration of computer and tele-
phone technologies, has the capability to liberate human and system
resources and to maximize the benefits of both technologies for the user
community.
This book describes the evolution of the call center, analyzes the tech-
nologies that have contributed to its growth, and describes the technology
tools available. It also provides guidelines for the development and imple-
mentation of a call center as well as the management of the facility, and it
strongly emphasizes the human factors that can make a call center a success-
ful operation. This book also describes how call centers benefit businesses,
how closely these facilities are related to the corporation’s overall CRM
strategy, and how technology and changing business trends are reshaping
the workplace. These trends have resulted in more horizontal organizations,
high-performance workgroups, empowered employees, and, in general, the
ability of staff members to do more with less.
Many sources have been consulted and used in preparing this book, and
I am indebted to those authors whose works have contributed to the text;
these are referenced in Appendix C. I am particularly indebted to Janet
Sutherland, senior consultant with Bell Canada Contact Centre Solutions,
for contributions to Chapter 4, ‘‘Selecting and Training Call Center Staff,”
Preface xiii
Preface
for reviewing the manuscript; and for providing valuable knowledge and
insight on call center operations in general.
Duane E. Sharp, P. Eng.
Mississauga, Ontario
Canada
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