Call centre keeps in touch

The days of having its customers endure extended length, bossanova versions of I Just Called to Say I Love You while on hold are over at Crystal Decisions Inc.

Crystal Decisions, a Vancouver-based software development company that fields upwards of 1,000 calls and e-mails at its customer support centre every day, discovered that with its former system, the company was making its customers wait on hold for up to an hour in some cases. After installing Apropos Technology’s Multi-Channel Interaction Management solution, the hold time has been cut down to 45 seconds.

According to Gino Morena, worldwide manager of applications and technical support at Crystal Decisions, 11 pre-call operators were formerly used to place calls into the proper call queue. Once the Apropos system was implemented, these employees were deployed into roles that allowed them to answer customer questions rather than simply assign calls to agents.

The Apropos solution works by managing all types of customer interaction, including voice, e-mail, Web chat, Web call-back and fax. Tied in with Crystal Decisions’ existing CRM database, the solution enables a screen pop up of the calling customer’s data, allowing the company’s agents to provide consistent support for every customer.

Jody Wacker, senior vice-president at Apropos Technology in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., said the improvement in customer service is invaluable for a company dealing with so many daily inquiries.

“It really improves the level of service and effectiveness of customer call centres,” she said. “It’s also valuable for customers to know how many calls are in a queue.”

The solution follows a process involving prioritization, escalation and delivery. The call of a high-level customer will be pushed to the front of a queue based on CRM metrics and will be delivered to the most appropriate agent in a timely manner. It also provides supervisors with up-to-the-minute, real-time reports on service being conducted through the centre, and archives all transactions.

“It helps you make changes to your business philosophy,” Wacker said.

Crystal Decisions has recently expanded its solution to provide 24×7 worldwide support from one virtual contact centre. Located in Vancouver, the centre supports locations in Florida, Texas, Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Before we had a separate server in the London office and one in our Vancouver office. It was a real pain to combine databases to try and get metrics, but now they’re in one single database. If a call from Canada falls into a queue and nobody in the Vancouver office is available to take the call, someone from London or Sydney or Florida can take it,” Morena said.

Because of the time zones covered by the various centre locations, there are enough overlaps to make the service continuous.

Another benefit to this solution, according to Morena, is that redundancy has been provided.

“If Vancouver – where our main router is – disappeared, we could bring up all of our information in London and continue to support our customer base. It’s a cost-effective solution,” he said.

Richard Costello, a research director at analyst firm Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn., said while the Apropos solution is not appropriate for large call centres, it has found its niche in a fairly untargeted market.

“It’s really targeted at an area that typically needs somebody. Traditional players in this space like Nortel and Avaya have pretty much stuck to targeting large call centres, but Apropos provides good functionality for a good price for the small- to medium-sized centres,” he said.