Call centres will become Web-based, says analyst

There will be a shift by call centres to a Web-based medium in the future predicts one IT analyst.

Anthony Mulieri, a communication and information technology analyst with San Antonio-based Frost & Sullivan, said the shift towards Web-based technologies will be generated by two things: the need for centres to reduce costs, and by customer demand.

“Labour cost is probably the number one cost, for contact centres, outside of their equipment,” Mulieiri said. “There is a tremendous turnover rate.”

Like traffic air controllers call centre staff find their work demanding, stressful and their pay low. Worse still often the training is not there, said Mulieri.

With Web-based technologies, such as e-mail with automated response, call centres can reduce their labour costs and actually improve their customer service, Mulieri said. Nor would the transition from traditional call centre delivery methods to Web-based ones necessarily result in simply making the training problem even worse, he added.

“What Web-based does is allow you to answer more inquiries per agent and allows you to take more money to better train your staff,” Mulieri said.

The emphasis on the “skills based routing” method – similar to a tier approach or the IT department’s helpdesk – where more complicated transactions get moved up in priority to those centre agents who are better trained to handle that particular transaction will also ensure customer service will be retained, Mulieri said.

Nor will the emphasis on Web-based services necessarily mean that customers who require some form of interaction will not be able to do so, Mulieri added.

While some people still want to talk on the telephone there will also be text and voice chat that provide human interaction, he added.

Frost & Sullivan recently undertook a survey of 100 call centre executives and learned that e-mail response and speech recognition topped the list of technologies that the executives were looking for.

A good example of the Web-based service that Mulieir is talking about is the “One-Click Calling” service announced last week by Dialpad and Telus.

Karlie de Vries, business development manager with Telus, said the new service is an excellent example of combining the traditional 1-800 service with an Internet service.

While the service is not aimed at call centres in particular, de Vries said,it would appeal to any organization that has a Web site with any kind of technical assistance or online ordering. Instead of the contact us using e-mail or providing a 1-800 number site visitors can just click the One-Click calling icon and be connected by a toll-free 1-800 number.

The user clicks on the icon, downloads a java applet and a window pops up that connects them directly to the company’s operator.

However, users will need a microphone, speakers and speech technology software on their PC. de Vries said the technology is very accessible and easy for Web site visitors to use as most PCs are now being sold with speech technology and laptops come with microphones built in. she added it doesn’t matter what kind of connection the user has as the service can accommodate even 56-K modems.

More importantly the service doesn’t interfere with the users’ normal Internet connection and allows them to navigate through the organization’s Web site while simultaneously talking with a company representative.

The technology behind the service developed by VoIP (voice over IP) solutions provider Dialpad involves a gateway that once the user clicks the call icon transfers the Internet call into a normal toll call. The merchant pays the toll charges so the call is free for the end-user. By using the Click-Call a company can actually save money on their international toll calls, de Vries said.

The quality of the transmission is extremely good, de Vries, and while not as good as traditional voice this is not meant to replace the phone call but it does reduce the number of steps an online user has to take to deal with a company.

In Canada Frost & Sullivan has an office in Toronto and can be reached at Telus Corp., in Burnaby B.C., is at Dialpad, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at