Contact centres becoming multimedia powerhouses

If contact centres are to survive in today’s competitive landscape they must adopt advanced communications technologies.

That was the message delivered by Dave Chalk, director and founder of Chalk Media, at a Telus Corp.-sponsored event in Toronto last month entitled “Contact centres on the verge of change.” Toronto and Vancouver-based Chalk Media produces online training and marketing solutions, network television and in-flight programming.

“High tech contact centres are here and are multi-media powerhouses that [aren’t] going away,” said Chalk.

According to Chalk, advanced technologies used in these “powerhouses” include interactive voice response and skills-based routing.

Industry observers say the trend today is towards multi-channel communication with contact centres. People want to communicate with in several different ways: by phone, fax, e-mail and online chat. In the past, they note, communication has mostly been through voice.

“Business as usual isn’t good enough anymore. It is time to change,” said Henry Dortmans, president of Oakville, Ont.-based Angus Dortmans Associates Inc. that advises end-user organizations on the use of telecommunications systems and on contact centre planning and management.

Yet, while telecom and IP technologies have advanced rapidly, contact centres have been slow to adapt. Dortmans said there are three main reasons why.

First, he said, the legacy systems in place today work and do their job. As well, when IP technology was first introduced in the 90s, contact centres felt it was too risky to adopt. The last reason, he added, is dwindling budgets over the years meant contact centres couldn’t afford some of the new technologies.

However, modernizing outdated call centres won’t be simple.

At the front lines, contact centre managers have told Dortmans one of the challenges has been the tightening of budgets.

“[We need to] justify to senior management why we need more money to buy the appropriate technologies to run contact centres efficiently and effectively,” Dortmans said.

To embrace the change that is happening, Dortmans suggests contact centres stop the ‘business as usual’ mode and grab the opportunities to meet changing expectations for contact centres. Technology is one of those opportunities, he said.

“New [technology] is here and it’s no longer a barrier. Its features provide real benefits.”

Such benefits include more flexibility, simpler management and implementation as well as better scalability and business continuity.

Dortmans said new contact centre technologies have also provided better information and simplified call queuing and routing infrastructures.

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