Contact centres learn to adapt

If contact centres want 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 recent Telus Corp.-sponsored event entitled “Contact centres on the verge of change.” The Toronto and Vancouver-based Chalk Media produces online training and marketing solutions, network television and in-flight programming.

However, modernizing outdated call centres won’t be simple.

Until recently, it was only a dream for the Canadian Red Cross to have advanced communications technologies for its Lower Mainland region’s contact centre.

The organization’s 22-seat contact centre was comprised mainly of folding tables, chairs and telephones with no headsets. There were no computers and volunteers who manned the centre received all their information in a binder.

“We didn’t have the funding to go out and buy new equipment. The donations we get for disaster relief are designated for the victims and we are not allowed to keep part of that donation to use it here,” said Susan Borthwick, regional director of the Lower Mainland area for the Canadian Red Cross.

Now, thanks to a five-year sponsorship agreement with Telus, the telecom company will upgrade all of the Red Cross’s furniture and equipment such as phones with headsets, computers with multi-screen capabilities and the ability to grow to a 44-seat contact centre.

Tight budgets are one of the reasons why contact centres like the Canadian Red Cross have lagged in the technology arena.

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

Aside from financial constraints, Dortmans said there are other reasons why contact centres have been slow to adopt.

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.

“Business as usual isn’t good enough anymore. It is time to change,” said Dortmans.

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.”

In the past, communication has mostly been through voice. Today, observers have said people want to communicate with contact centres in a multitude of ways such as phone, fax, e-mail and online chat.

The Lower Mainland Red Cross’s contact centre will be able to do that once it implements CallCentreAnywhere, a managed and hosted solution from Telus.

Benefits of contact centre solutions like CallCentreAnywhere 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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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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