Over the years of being involved in the Contact Center industry I have discovered Contact Center managers and operators are commonly in the dark about the very technology they rely on so critically to meet service levels. The reliance on their respective IT departments, vendors and resident “technical gurus” to advice on this crucial area of operations is usually to the point of critical dependence.

Here, I have compiled a list of Q&A’s on some of the more common queries on Contact Center technology.

Q1: What is a PABX and what does it do?

Private Automatic Branch eXchange is a private telephone exchange where all extensions in the company are connected to it through the phone line leased from a Telco. It is expensive to connect every extension to individual phone lines and since a lot of calls are likely to be made between people in the building a PABX provides value (because less external lines are required) and also a variety of value added facilities such as: Call forwarding, Short code dialing, Group pickup, Hunting lines/groups etc.

Q2: What exactly is an ACD?

The Automatic Call Distribution system enables calls taken by the contact center to be routed or escalated efficiently to the proper resource for resolution E.g. skills-based routing. ACD’s are capable of managing calls at a rate far beyond the abilities of human beings. The ACD stores information about every phone call & historical information, including: Customer Wait Time, Agent Talk Time, After Call Work Time, Average Customer Wait Time, Total Inbound Call Volume. More importantly, the ACD provides you with measures for organization and agent performance for trending and improvement planning.

Note: There are PC-based ACD systems, PBX’s with ACD functions, stand-alone ACD systems, ACD’s that integrate with other call center technology, nationwide networks of ACD’s that act as a single switch, etc.

Q3: What exactly is an Auto Dialer / Automated dialing?

Auto Dialers are telephony devices having auto dialing or speed dialing capabilities. These are devices, which are capable of dialing a large number of people automatically through a database or are capable of randomly or sequentially dialing telephone numbers to deliver a unified message or messages. The term Auto Dialer is applicable to a wide range of products available in the market, such as auto dialer telephony computer, predictive dialer, voice-mail system and speed-dial system.

Auto dialers are designed to make outbound calls. They utilize controlled voice activation to record answers to questions. This provides the prospect with a normal conversational environment or interactive environment whereby one can speak in a normal fashion without bothering about pressing buttons on the keypad. Auto dialers are meant to be creating qualified sales lead generation and finding pre-qualified prospects for your business.

Q4: What kind of outbound dialing can our Automated Call Center make?

There are different outbound calling scenarios you can have the dialer handle:

Simply deliver a message

  • Deliver an introductory message, wait for a key to be pressed and then proceed to deliver the main message.
  • Deliver a message, and then wait to get a response/ keypress to the message.
  • Deliver an introductory message, then asks questions, each to answer with either a voice or touch-tone response.
  • Deliver a message, and then wait for response/ keypress before transferring the call to a live person.
  • Deliver a message, then automatically transfers the call to a live person.

Q5: What are Predictive Dialers?

Predictive Dialers are devices, which are designed to make sales people more efficient by eliminating down time between calls. For example, the job of a predictive dialer in a company that sells insurance, with 10 sales people and 20 telephone lines would be able to transfer calls to the next available sales person with the data. In other words, predictive dialing is a system that automatically dials the telephone for your telemarketers connecting only live voice contacts to them every 7 – 9 seconds (variable set by you). A system typically does this by ‘listening’ and filtering out the answering machines, fax machines, busy signals, operator intercepts, and other types of nonfunctional calls. This process therefore, can potentially increase your telemarketing productivity by doubling the amount of contacts your telemarketers can make everyday

Q6: What are IVR’s?

IVR or Interactive Voice Response systems are devices which are used by organizations with the database at the backend and used to provide information which is dynamically changing over the phone automatically. The perfect example of use would be Banks using IVR’s to provide customer’s account information over the phone automatically after validating each transaction

Most IVR systems are built into the phone system or are self contained programs running on a separate system, allowing limited access to outside applications.

Q7: What is a CTI?

CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) is the link which integrates computers with telephony equipment. It allows you to automatically deliver a customer’s phone call along with their data file to an agent’s screen. CTI’s save both phone charges and agent time with efficient data delivered to the right person at the right time. Customer data “pops” up as the agent takes the call, reducing the agents need to ask a lot of basic information. Thus calls are shorter and agents can solve problems faster. In addition, if the agent needs to forward a caller to another support rep, the updated customer screens can be accessed with the call.

Ken Ng
CEO/Senior Managing Consultant