Thursday, June 15, 2006

Computer Telephony Integration for the Business

If you are a Business Leader, and the last one to get embroiled in complex technical terms like Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), then you better read the rest of this article to get your EUREKA!! (or A-HA, whichever you prefer)

The three words in CTI look so formidable - reeking of techical aspects. What have you got to do with Computers, Telephony or Integration (of the two)? You have the task cut out for you - run a successful business, which is profitable, and keep it growing - isn't it?

Till I was a mere technologist, I too believed that CTI is a reserved domain for technology people - out of bounds for you business folks. What would you understand anyway?

But as my outlook matured, I started getting involved in Call Center Operations discussions; and through those, eventually tried to understand your business needs. I started thinking like a Technocrat.

The first revelation that came to me - as I moved up the maturity curve - was the eternal untruth contained in the popular notion "CTI = Screen Pop". Ask 100 people in the call center industry - "what is CTI", and you will hear 90 of them laboring under the above misconception (that is if you are lucky. I have heard of unfortunate inquirers encountering 110 confused people when they asked 100).

As a matter of fact Screen Pop is the least intelligent thing that CTI does. It is capable of adding far higher "business value" to your call center. But then its a bit too much to expect technical folks to know the business needs - whilst the business folks are avoiding CTI like plague - and that is where CTI finds much of its undoing.

CTI (in addition to Screen Pop.. alright you techies, I heard you...) can:-
- route calls more intelligently using customer segmentation information
- enable diverse information to be put together (e.g: How frequently the customer called you, as well as sent you emails)
- do context sensitive routing (e.g: if a customer sent an email on a subject and called up within a given time window, then route the call to subject matter expert)
- enable your cross-sell / up-sell initiatives triggered in appropriate context
- allow appropriate scripts to make the agents more effective
- and much more... imagination is usually the limit, and unfounded fear of deployment costs normally deters the decision makers

So let me walk you business folks through a scenario. It is customary for businesses to send out tremendous amount of print mail, which you like to call as Direct Mailers. I will bet you that most of this paper finds the waste-basket sooner than you can say 'Jack Nicholson'.
The busier I am, the less likely is that I will even open one of those glossy papers floating about on my desk. And on the other hand, you are spending umpteen thousand dollars to create the flashy pieces, employ people or agencies to wrap them up, look up databases & print labels, stick them on, and bear the postage charges to mail them across. ...whoosh..

And when the intended audience is calling you day-in and day-out; you don't even spend one moment to catch their attention to tell them what you want to tell them...whoosh again..
Whoosh again... even if you are blasting out emails.. Instead of consigning it to my waste-basket, I will bury it in the "Trash Folder" if you are lucky (I might mark it as Spam if you are not), faster than you can say, . .. whatever..

Do the math yourself - does it work out for the 2-3-4% kind of response rates on the hundreds of thousands of dollars you spend on the expensive missives? A good CTI solution doing ALL of the above tasks I mentioned (and some more) will still probably cost lower, will be yours forever, be far quicker to roll out and operationalize, and will generate far greater than 2-3-4% kind of response rates. After all, the customers called you themselves didn't they? So there should be no problem 'catching their attention', should there be?

The above unfrequented business process - the uncharted territory - will not be a cake walk. It will take some thinking through, some technology investment, and professional help to develop and deploy the innovative solutions. But thats what consultants are for, to help you understand and conquer these issues.

Think about it! Smarter business leaders have figured out the art and science of it all.
And they are enjoying the immense returns - by considering the Contact Center as an integral part of the Business, not just a dump where complaining customers land up.

When are you deciding to make your Contact Center (and CTI) a part of your business?


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