A call or contact centre is responsible for managing customer interaction – be that via telephone, email, webchat, social media, etc. in a methodical, organised and controlled manner.
Your #1 goal should be to provide a stellar customer experience. That means being available on your customer’s preferred communication channel and connecting them with a resource with the relevant interaction history, who has the right skills and tools to handle calls professionally, effectively and efficiently, with the goal of first call resolution.
Where in the past people may have stood in line for a variety of financial and other products, now they complete these transactions through a single call to a call or contact centre. So, keep in mind that improvements in productivity, reduced operating costs, and increased profitability should always be a consideration. Find cost-effective call centre outsourcing services in South Africa and companies that deliver turnkey cloud-based contact centre operations in South Africa. Our team of experts can guide you through the process of choosing a call and contact centre solution for your business.
A call centre serves customers via the telephone and where the call centre software would report on performance based on telephone interactions only. With call centre outsourcing solutions in South Africa, you can gain access to highly skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced virtual call centre agents in the best prices in the market.
Call centres can be simple or smart – they can integrate with back-office applications, serve customers with an intelligent greeting and automated routing engines and more.
In essence, they would seldom have the capabilities to add other communications channels you will find in a Contact Centre solution.
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A contact centre serves customers in the channel of their choice, which may span across voice, text, email, WhatsApp, social media, etc. Easily, quickly and affordably let your new or existing customers reach you 24/7 on desktop, mobile or tablet with cloud contact centre solutions in South Africa. Communicate with your customers in a more effective way with professional contact centre services.
It is also common for contact centre’s to have deep levels of integration with CRM and ERP systems, offer workforce management, intelligent Chatbots and more.
As the world strives to become more digitized, you will find many contact centre solutions in operation as these systems are proven to be the perfect foundation for a winning customer experience (CX).
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Distributing calls in a methodical, organized and controlled manner is the basis for any call or contact centre.
The process of intelligent call distribution involves getting a conversation to an agent with the appropriate skillset in the shortest amount of time.
Advanced platforms allow for priority routing based on the number calling in, number dialed, time of day, or even status in a back office platform such as CRM.
Reporting and analytics help agents to understand more about their customers, and supervisors to learn more about the agents performance.
The data never lies, and extrapolating the value you stand to gain through the reporting and analytics can ultimately shape and define best practice standards to streamline operations.
Recording conversations has proven to improve customer service, upgrade employee performance, retrieve missed details, prevent litigation, and better understand one’s customers.
Interactive Voice Response, or IVR allow you to answer and route calls intelligently based on variables which you specify.
This can be routing calls based on the number being dialled, the time of day, the caller’s phone number, or even identification provided by the caller.
Advanced systems will allow authentication by referencing client detail to an internal system, and providing self-help capabilities such as real-time balances, ordering of new services, etc.
Automated diallers can be used to maximise productivity by having a system automatically dial numbers from your database, and only once the call has been connected, pass that call over to an agent.
Just imaging the time saved by rather having a system send active calls to an agent, as opposed to having them dial out to a customer.
You get different types of Diallers which offer different levels of functionality so it is best to engage with your provider and understand which one is best for you.
Although Dialler technology is historically quite expensive to implement, the return on investment period is very short – especially for larger or busier environments.
If you’ve been dialling numbers manually then you stand to greatly benefit from a Dialler.
Caller pop is a function of integration with internal back office systems, and essentially serve a window or dialog box to an agent’s screen with each call, displaying information of the caller – such as their name, call history, who they last spoke to, etc.
Having this information on hand has proven to improve the customer experience.
Flexibility in the workplace is a growing priority, especially with so many people working from home now, including call or contact centre agents. With smartphone/app integration, agents can work from home with nothing more than their phone, the necessary app and a good internet connection.
Speech analytics is often associated with call recording technology, whereby a processing engine will analyse a conversation and flag a supervisor based on any specific rulesets, such as the mention of competitor keywords or foul language.
Speech analytics engines can also identify the sentiment of a caller by, for example, their pitch or volume of the person speaking which may indicate frustration.
Sentiment analysis allows you to gain essential insights into the customer’s perception of your company or the interaction, by looking at a number of factors for the conversation, such as the tone used, the repetition of certain keywords, or even the pitch and volume of the callers voice. This helps understand where possible inefficiencies are in your process which cause customer frustration.
Modern call and contact centre platforms incorporate targeted surveys through voice, email, or mobile to understand more about their experience with your call centre, which helps you to make educated decisions on where to optimise and streamline your processes.
Workforce management systems not only offer capabilities to predict the required resources to achieve certain SLAs in your call centre, but extends to automatically creating rosters based on the right skills, and also consider the cost of resources which helps you to manage the budget of bringing in the right resources at the right time. Agents are also able to trade shifts if they are allowed to do so.
In today’s world, it’s all about leveraging open architectures and having the ability to have different systems speaking to each other.
Having a single view into the customer is the ultimate goal – in reality, this data sits in many places, often in different systems.
APIs and integration services allow you to get these systems to work together, to share information, and to intelligently determine outcomes based on data received from other systems, such as verifying a caller’s identity through pin code, voice recognition, etc.
It ultimately comes down to how your business serves your customers. This determines the direction you need to follow, and should align with to goals you have for your business in creating an effective customer experience.
Call & Contact Centres are beneficial for all stakeholders; from the customer to the agents, supervisors and the business itself. The depth of analytics and integration is more than sufficient to understand the current customer experience, which is a great base to work from.
Take time to write down all the functionality your business uses and requires in a new system.
Depending on complexity or importance, you may even want to consider developing a formal Request For Proposal (RFP) specification or appointing a consultant to develop and manage this process for you.
Having a well-defined list of your short-long term business goals and objectives, the current systems and channels used in your business, and agreeing on how you want to buy/pay for the solution are important factors to understand before you embark on your journey.
Defining your requirements is very much a consultative process, and understanding who you are serving, what resources you have available, and what your internal processes and strategy is, now and in the future, may define where you invest your money.
Understand that there are very few providers who offer absolutely everything in a single solution – rather, in some cases, the provider may know where they need specific expertise, and partner with a company who specialises in that specific function. That partnership would usually come with interoperability testing and a defined SLA and support structure between parties.
What this may mean to you, the buyer, is that this will be priced separately, and that support in some cases may be different to what you get from your primary solution. Some may even offer separate SLAs on those specific functions given how they operate, or how important that function is to your operation.
This is especially important when running a remote agent environment, but you need to ask your provider how much bandwidth you need per agent, considering the channels being used. It is not uncommon for agents to need a few Mbps which can add up when you reach higher volumes, and will certainly have a substantial impact to the internet service you use to provide the connectivity between your agent and the platform.
You decide where you choose to invest – either locally or internationally. There are ample local and international solutions, and hybrid offers where specific expertise are not readily available in-country.
If you do end up buying from an international company, you accept that what you are quoted will have a validity date, and that any variable fees during the term of your agreement may never be static since they will be based on the exchange rate at the time.
Buying internationally will have other considerations such as support, understanding the local market dynamics, speed of development, and so on.
Investing in a new contact centre is never a stand-alone project – there are usually other elements which form part of the contact centre technology piece. Examples include current technology, custom developed middleware, phone lines, connecting applications and system. All of these come together to deliver a complete contact centre solution.
With that in mind, pull out your old contracts – look at the agreement terms, early settlement penalties or cancellation fees which may be applicable as you will need to cater for that in your investment analysis.
Chances are you’re moving phone line providers as you move call centre systems. This usually comes with phone numbers your business is dependent on to continue serving your customers.
Keep in mind that not all SA phone numbers can be moved or ported between providers, and usually there is a cost to port each number between networks.
Make a complete list of all the phone numbers your business uses, and share this with your provider who will advise how they can retain these numbers. And if you have a number which cannot be ported, you’ll want to understand how the current and future service will work together, as well as the costs involved so that you do not sit with unexpected extra forwarding fees.
Ask how your new provider will ensure a smooth transition, allowing you to optimise your existing telephony equipment while modernising or upgrading your system. For example, you could continue to use your existing phone sets while getting access to your new provider’s systems and features.
If you intend to move away from traditional PSTN fixed lines (analogue or ISDN) over to VoIP, you’ll need to assess the impact that adding the additional bandwidth will have on your internet line and service.
In addition to this, if you’re like most other businesses, you probably intend sharing the same line you use for internet, email and so on, and not install a dedicated internet line for VoIP. Therefore, you need to carefully plan how to set up your internet line so that voice takes priority over other traffic, and that the bandwidth required for voice is consistent.
Anything that is based on the internet (IP) has a deep reliance on an internal and external internet network. Therefore, buying a new phone system and VoIP phones is not quite as simple as just plugging everything in and walking away.
Connecting internal networks (local area networks or LAN) may require internal reconfiguration to prioritise voice traffic over other network traffic. Additionally, any firewalls need to be made aware of voice traffic, and your cabling and power infrastructure needs to be complaint.
When working with your phone system provider, ask for a detailed rundown of the prerequisites and best practice for running VoIP and IP telephony. Ask this before you sign up to avoid unexpected investments to upgrade your network and other elements thereof.
Work with your chosen provider to understand all the FIXED and VARIABLE costs involved in receiving the service for your business.
Fixed Costs – are usually made up of line rentals, subscriptions, hardware and service level agreements.
Variable Costs – are made up from usage-based services or ad hoc services, including any out-of-bundle charges.
Ask what costs there are at the different stages of your partnership too.
Start-up Costs – these could be costs related to any service activation, installation and provisioning, training and hardware required for the service.
Note: If there are no setup or hardware costs, make sure that you understand whether you are liable for any of these costs at any stage of the partnership.
Subscription Costs – these are the anticipated costs for use of the services. Be sure to understand what other costs may come into play and ensure that you agree to those costs upfront.
Conclusion and Exit Costs – at the end of the agreement term, ask what happens. Is there a cancellation notice period, is there an automatic renewal? What happens to the hardware, and are there any fees for removal of the equipment or infrastructure?
Having clarity and complete transparency on all costs will help you to do an apples for apples comparison between providers, and ensure that you don’t sit with any unexpected surprises.
The question of whether to host locally or in a cloud environment very much depends on your business.
There are reasons why you may need equipment on-site, such as needing to connect to any PSTN lines, where there is insufficient internet infrastructure or capacity, or your specific industry regulation or legislation requires all data to remain on-site.
The best thing to do would be to understand where you need to start, and what the upgrade path is. It is not uncommon for contact centres to have on-premises hardware, full cloud or a mix of the two, hybrid cloud.
Have you understood your company buying policy? Have you looked at the total cost of ownership and run the numbers, risks and considerations of all the options so that you can identify which is most favourable to your company, and which best aligns with your business?
Under the current regulations, not all numbers can be ported. You may only port geographic numbers such as 010, 011, 021, 031, etc.
If your business uses non-geographic numbers like 087, 0800, 0860, etc. then you may be forced to keep your existing lines so that these numbers remain in service.
Find out about the costs and conditions to move your phone numbers, and if your provider has a “work-around” for moving numbers which cannot be ported, be sure that you understand how that service works, and what costs are involved – you do not want to land up with possible call forwarding costs which will leave you paying for both incoming and outgoing calls for your business.
Knowing how long the product is proven to last is vital in understanding what future costs you may be in for.
On the one side, you may be expected to subscribe to an additional programme for annual software upgrades and support, whereas in other cases all costs are included in their subscription fee.
If you do have purchased hardware, find out what the past failure rates are, what the warranty is, and what is included and excluded. We all know that hardware has a lifespan, so understand what happens when the manufacturer decides to stop making your device – what is the upgrade path, how long will your hardware still be supported, and up until what point with the manufacturer have spares, if needed.
GOOD TO KNOW: Usually you’ll need to include your telecoms equipment under your office insurance!
Although one assumes that you’re already aware of all the costs involved in using another phone system, it goes back to the understanding of what functionality your business needs now, and in the future.
Have a clear understanding of what features and functionality you get with your package or platform, and what is an optional extra.
With optional extras, find out what impacts the pricing? (such as additional integration fees, SLAs or fees impacted by the exchange rate).
It is always advisable to read and understand the full service terms and conditions which will state the contract duration, renewal and cancellation terms.
You may want to place particular focus on notice periods, automatic renewal clauses, and fees associated with renewals and cancellation – especially when new equipment was provided at no direct cost to you at the start of your agreement.
Most of the time everything should work as expected, but when it doesn’t, the real difference between providers can be realised.
Each service should be accompanied by a service level agreement which will give a clear understanding of how you can expect to be supported.
Questions you may want to ask you provider include:
This is where it becomes extremely important to research the various providers before you make your decision! Read past customer reviews, see what their other customers have to say about them online, and don’t be shy to ask for references which you can personally contact!
Network uptime and guarantees
Make sure you understand more about the network your service provider has built or manages. Ask what network redundancy and resiliency is in place, and what uptime guarantees there are? If these are important to you, then they will be important to the service provider too.
Network and device monitoring
Find out whether your chosen provider monitors your connection and the hardware required. Will they know about connectivity issues before you do? And what happens in the case of faulty hardware? What will it take to restore services and at whose cost for collection, delivery and provisioning?
Your security should be your number one priority. All the information shared between the agents and your customers must be secure and not leaked to a third party. Let the provider you are considering show you which protective measures they use to protect your data.
Although this might not be a consideration for every business, if you operate in a specialised field, it is extremely important that all providers and agents linked to your business understand, at least to some degree, how your market operates. This is especially true for businesses in the medical or legal fields.
We are committed to helping you to make an educated buying decision, and to find the best telecoms partner for your business.