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The dawn of a new age is here, an age of the Internet,

an age of customer service, an age where people

communicate via any media (voice, e-mail/WEB, fax,

video).  Welcome to the 21stcentury, an age that

embraces all media all around us, with an absolute

obsession for customer service, to serve the

customer first, and for doing “whatever it takes”

to win the customer’s business.

What is a significant area that will impact this

obsession for customer service?  Multiple Contact

Management Systems (MCMS) for call centers.  Terms like e -commerce, e-business, have created an exciting picture of selling anything, anywhere, 24 x 7.  Some dot.com models have not yet realized that, without a real live person on the other end of the transaction for handling issues other than “standard” orders, the dot.com will not succeed; a call center is needed to facilitate orders and customer service issues.  It is here where the MCMS-based call center comes into play.

 MCMS provides a means to embrace voice calls, e-mail/WEB forms, fax, and video into one cohesive component, treating an e-mail or any other media as if it were a voice call, and tracking it for later review.


Why MCMS Is Needed Today


Imagine this: You are a call center manager or director and given corporate direction that your company is moving to an e-business model, and you must begin to transform a traditional call center model to an e-business model.  You’ve already deployed skills-based routing and CTI into the call center and have helped proven to management the value of call center tools to improve call flow, to improve the bottom line for your organization.

Now it’s time for the next transformation – to evolve your call canter toward an e-business model, an e-business solution. 



The Vision Is Simple, Execution More Complex


The vision is simple, the execution, though, is more complex:

  • The vision: to accommodate and measure any call type entering the call center, including voice calls, e-mail/WEB, fax , and video – period; to embrace every media type to provide the highest levels of customer service possible.

  • The execution: the execution is a bit more complex, as it involves multiple tools and integration of multiple media types.  Think about it, queuing and intelligent routing of calls is now available for voice calls, e-mail, faxed messages, and even text chat and WEB callbacks.

Take for example e-mail and how this alone is transformed using Multiple Contact Management Systems.  E-mail can be:

  • Generated directly from the Web site (for example, customer responses to “write to us now” links created for specific Web pages and routed to skilled agents),

  • Sent to a specific address (such as directly to the call center) and routed based on a corresponding skill set, application, or other criteria,

  • Faxes forwarded to an “electronic mailbox” and stored in a POP-3 compliant mail server.

Commonly, a customer will send an e-mail to the call center, either through an e-mail or by filling out a form on the Web site. The message travels over the Net to the call center mail server. The multimedia call center creates a “virtual message” call through the call center switch in conjunction with the mail server, treating it like an ordinary voice call, and queued and routed according to criteria established within the call center, by skills set specified by the application.  When an agent becomes available, the e-mail “call” is delivered to the agent’s voice terminal and a screen “pop” of the e -mail is delivered to the agent’s browser. For the duration of the message call, the agent’s busy status is noted.

 The real-time application includes several built-in message -handling tools, including the ability for the agent to create an e-mail response, add common phrases or questions, place the message on hold to consult with other agents within the call center, or forward/transfer the message for handling by another specialized agent via e-mail.  Notice that this process is quite similar to the traditional voice environment, with the exception that this entire process has taken place via e-mail and the written word.

 Customers using e-mail as a means of communication via the WEB typically wait long periods of time (hours to days to even weeks) before receiving responses, leading to customer dissatisfaction. The MCMS call center provides e-mail (and other media) customers with real-time access to call centers, ensuring a guaranteed response time.

 Service observance for e-mail and WEB-based transactions is also provided by most vendors to maintain a high quality of service and assist and train agents. 

MCMS call centers differ from traditional call centers and call management systems in that they extend the capabilities of the call center to multiple media.  Now multiple components, voice, e-mail/WEB, fax, and video need to be tracked as in a traditional voice call, ideally on a real-time and integrated basis.



What MCMS Needs To Do

Multiple Contact Management Systems need to perform the following functions, including:

  • Handle and track traditional voice calls into the call center, using advanced techniques such as skills-based and rules-based routing and CTI applications,

  • Integrate e-mail responses as part of the basic environment as if they are a voice call, with the ability to respond back within a certain expected service level, or ideally as close to real-time as possible, with the ability to track such just like any other call,

  • Incorporate WEB-based applications, such as live text chat, WEB callback services, and real-time viewing of same WEB pages (customer and Customer Service Rep) to facilitate a real-time walk-thru of the order issue over the Net.

  • Offer real-time video to fulfill the real-time face to face multimedia call.

 The drawing below indicates the components involved with an MCMS call center.


As the above drawing depicts, a Multiple Contact Management System involves integrating multiple components, from circuit switched voice calls and IVR to Internet-based e-mail and WEB-based applications to work as one cohesive system, fulfilling and tracking all media types.

In this environment the agent skill sets are different, are more comprehensive, as written skill sets and computer-related skill sets are added into the picture.  This statement alone creates a fundamental shift in the call center requiring new skill sets, additional skill sets, and more specialists.


What’s Available In The Market


Fortunately for the enterprise community, most major call center manufacturers offer some form of Multiple Contact Management Systems.  Many specialized vendors have also written applications across multiple manufacturers, so there are choices available for most enterprise call center managers and directors.

When considering the migration to an MCMS-based call center, first and foremost, identify your MCMS goals.  Is the goal collaboration of multiple media?  Is it enhanced selling, reduced call times, improved customer satisfaction or worker environment enhancements?  Is it demonstrating leadership through new tools and technologies?

Once your business and technology goals are established, consider the following next steps:

  • Needs Analysis - Study the major aspects of your business, and relate this to what is available in the MCMS market.  Identify your present and future business needs.  Develop budgetary requirements for management approvals and document. Understand the capacities and software releases and support issues with the incumbent call center.  Identify any legacy systems requirements.  Identify current and planned-for network infrastructure, and server hardware/software requirements.  Identify databases for integration purposes.

  • Procurement – Develop new specifications and a Request For Proposal in line with your short and longer term business and technology goals for bid and evaluation purposes; include incumbent systems that are able to grow with you.

  • Project Implementation – Once chosen, develop an implementation plan for the MCMS components involved and realistic time frames.  As stated earlier, the vision is simple, the execution is more complex.  As such, training in new skill sets may be required and migration to new systems will be executed.  So be patient, and allow for enough time to properly execute the implementation successfully.

  • Documentation – Be sure to document you enhanced MCMS call center, as this will be your baseline for ongoing vendor support and troubleshooting.


Strategies For Transforming Your Call Center


Consider the following strategies when looking to deploy the MCMS call center:

  • Look to every form of media to accommodate the customer .   Look for every media possible to fulfill the customers’ needs and track it.

  • Use basic call center strategies as your baseline for transforming your call center.  Don’t forget that multiple media customers will eventually “expect” the same level of service the enterprise community has come to already expect from the voice-only call center.  Customers will, in the end, never compromise a lower quality of service over what they are used to, unless it offers a benefit that far exceeds the “less-than” quality issue.

  • Use technology as a means to an end, as a new way of making the customer happy, of responding to their needs.  Technology should never be the front-end driver, instead, customer obsession and using technology to satisfy that obsession should be first and foremost.

  • Marry technology to your already successful business models.  Understand that it is much easier to marry technology to a successful business model than it is to change the business process to accommodate the technology.  Fortune magazine quoted that less than 10% of strategies formulated are effectively executed.

  • Build into your multimedia call centers feedback mechanisms, for tracking and improving your MCMS call center. 

  • Understand that new models take time to deploy and assimilate into your call center.

  • You will never have enough bandwidth in today’s marketplace – build enough bandwidth within reason to ensure that your voice, data, and video bandwidth models are enough to fulfill your customer service goals.

  • Information is key. Give your customers (and your customer service representatives) alike every means possible to gain and maintain loyalty to your company, using knowledge bases and multimedia tools to satisfy the customer.

  • Remember, if you think obsessive with pleasing your customers you will be obsessive.  This state of mind and business practice will enhance your business practices, customer service experience, and customer loyalties.  Remember that keeping customers is always a whole a lot easier than getting new ones.

  • Remember that the written word (e-mail) is a different mode of communication from the spoken word. Written skill sets must be part of the customer service representatives’ requirements or education in addition to their verbal skill sets.  Tools that add phrases to e-mail responses are an excellent way of to facilitate this.

  • Use the integrated MCMS call center to enhance the entire customer service experience, not just a way to provide a means to give them another way to fulfill the order.


Summary And Conclusions


Today all companies should have an e-business strategy, and thus a Multiple Contact Management System call center strategy for migrating the traditional call center to the multimedia call center The migration to a Multiple Contact Management System call center is inevitable, and planning for one NOW is vital to most companies’ growth and even survival.


Remember, the MCMS call center is an integrated service channel enabling and empowering the customer service representative toward serving the customer by every means possible, 24 x 7, anywhere, anytime. Global competition and customer satisfaction IS really here in a world that knows no geographical boundaries, the Internet. Although multiple channel integration appears to be a technical issue, it is a management issue. The success of the individual parts must be defined in sync with the overall system.  It is a long term trend that will take more time that most people realize.  So be patient as you deploy the MCMS concept into your call center.