PC-PBX And PC-ACD Integration For A Cutting-Edge Call Center
BY VINCE CORNING, PICAZO COMMUNICATIONS, INC.
Optimum customer satisfaction depends on a call center's ability to process calls
quickly and effectively. The introduction of the next-generation PC-based PBXs, combined
with integrated ACD technology, has brought high-end, cutting-edge telecom technology to
the mainstream. At greatly reduced cost and complexity, this new-wave solution has enabled
enhanced services and increased opportunity to small and medium-sized call centers. By
providing the resources previously available only to the Fortune 500 set, the PC-based PBX
is able to handle customer calls quickly and effectively at a fraction of the price of
traditional, proprietary PBXs.
In particular, ACD technology has played an important role in the enhancement of call
center solutions because of its ability to answer, organize, prioritize and route incoming
calls automatically to the next available representative, allowing companies to use
resources more efficiently. With multiple ACDs, different representatives can handle
different requests and still back up one another something that was not possible
before. Until recently, the lack of phone system flexibility and the costs involved with
incorporating ACD technology into proprietary phone systems has kept ACD technology from
achieving its full potential.
The solution? Open platform technology, which is revolutionizing the integration
between PC-PBXs and ACD functionality, enabling seamless interoperability between
previously disparate systems. By integrating PC-PBX and PC-ACD systems, call centers are
able to fully maximize call processing efficiency by bringing the power of a
standards-based desktop platform together with the effectiveness of integrated intelligent
call management features in one box.
Why consider a next-generation phone system? Costly proprietary phone systems, by their
very nature, do not allow for integration. Each system has its own user interfaces,
configuration and maintenance requirements. When possible, the introduction of new and
different vendor hardware and software can be extremely time-consuming, unreliable and
expensive. Integrating proprietary systems requires extensive training and learning
curves. And with multiple wiring systems, troubleshooting becomes more complicated and
time-consuming. Furthermore, proprietary systems are not "aware" of each other,
and therefore lack interoperability and the ability to leverage one another's
With integrated standards-based systems, installation and configuration are ultimately
made easier because there is a common look and logic. Integrated diagnostics make
troubleshooting easier and reduce downtime. Also, users need only be trained on one system
since what is learned in one environment easily translates to the other, thus decreasing
the learning curve. Integrating systems also allows for customized volume control and
better sound quality, as there is less analog to digital conversion. Additionally,
integrated systems are more graphical and user friendly because they were designed to take
advantage of standards-based networking technology.
PC-PBX/PC-ACD integration creates a feature-rich solution that can be implemented in a
variety of scenarios that enhance day-to-day call center activities. For example, users
can create call flow reports, which help track the number of customers waiting in queue,
wait times and abandons. Integrated CTI applications enable departments to use pop-up
screens displaying customer historical information from a database. For instant customer
handling, other features include auto-attendants that ask the caller to press numbers to
route them directly to agents serving their specific needs. Other menu levels break down
calls into different services and all menu choices are logged. End users can quickly and
easily reschedule call flows, modify prompts online or remotely, and modify or rerecord
voice messages for daytime, nights and holidays. Furthermore, end users exercise full
control over changing extension assignments and warning thresholds based on queue lengths
and hold times, so if calls "pile up," an announcement can be sent directly
through the company's overhead paging system.
To boost efficiency further, many noncustomer and nonsales calls can now be handled by
voice mail and automated attendants, which answer and route incoming calls without the
need for a dedicated attendant. Automated attendants ensure that sales representatives
handle sales calls while other inquiries go to the appropriate customer service or
administrative staff members.
As the number of mobile workers and telecommuters increases, integrated PC-PBX/PC-ACD
solutions immediately provide features that make their off-site jobs much easier. For
example, a caller can be connected to a mobile worker's home phone, cell phone or even
hotel phone, and advanced messaging features can alert telecommuters of voice mail or
faxes through e-mail. With the capability to log on to the system from almost any remote
location, employees are able to stay well connected. Integrated PBX/ACD systems enable
both inbound and outbound marketing efforts, as well as customer service activities, to be
handled by employees working from home or at the office.
Ultimately, integration allows the ACD to leverage the PBX capabilities and vice versa,
creating a complete solution that helps increase call center responsiveness to customer
demands and improve the overall customer experience.
Following are some important factors and buying tips to consider when evaluating
integrated PBX/ACD solutions.
- Conduct a cost comparison. If a phone system is already in place, determine the
cost to upgrade to a solution that encompasses ACD functionality, then consider the cost
of a next-generation PC-PBX phone system with ACD integration. Integrated systems are
priced considerably lower than the cost to upgrade an existing proprietary system.
- Be sure the PC-PBX and ACD share a centralized database. A centralized database
allows users to easily add, move and change system functions. This not only reduces costs,
but also the time spent learning system capabilities.
- Consider call reporting features. With many proprietary phone systems, call
reports are difficult to obtain and in most cases require an expensive third-party call
reporting package. Integrated systems usually have a reporting package that easily tracks
call activity information including call time, date, extension, busy signals, volume, call
length, etc. Call reporting features help system administrators make decisions about
issues before they become problems.
- Understand the importance of CTI stations. Integrated solutions should have CTI
stations capable of database lookups based on caller I.D. information and also should
display ACD status information for immediate customer response time.
- Check the auto-attendant. Be sure auto-attendants are able to reliably
front-end the system, seamlessly routing each call to the ACD queue.
Typically, an integrated system is priced at about $500 to $1,000 per seat, which is
significantly lower than installing two separate phone systems. Integrated systems usually
provide a quick return on investment due to the ease of management, reduced training
costs, simplified maintenance and increased productivity.
Substantive technology changes in the computer-telephony arena can quickly enhance
customer satisfaction and your business's bottom line. Employing cutting-edge,
standards-based technology gives businesses, their call centers and their customers access
to flexible, feature-rich capabilities. The PC-PBX, combined with ACD technology, provides
an application-intelligent, interoperable and cost-effective platform upon which a
business can grow.
Vince Corning is the product marketing manager for open-application and Windows
2000-based products at Picazo Communications, Inc. Picazo designs, develops and markets
business communications solutions, including telephony application software and integrated
server-based telephony systems, specializing in integrated standards-based solutions.