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Call Center/CRM Management Scope
August 2004

I Run A Contact Center. I Need Wallboards, Right?

By Chris Capo, Spectrum Corp.

Display Technologies (Then)
For many years, the de facto leader in real-time display technology was the LED wallboard, a.k.a. the 'reader board.' For most people, it would be ludicrous to even think of running a contact center without wallboards strategically hung about the center. The technology is stable, is durable and has a usable life of well over 10 years, if maintained properly. Thus, many call center agents and managers became accustomed to looking up at the wallboard to review how many calls were in the queues and whether or not their group's average speed of answer was up to par. Quite frankly, this technology was a vast improvement from writing on a whiteboard, but it had limited ability based on the position of the boards, the geography of the center and the availability of the serially connected interface. The technology was typically run by very basic software (if any) and had extremely limited alarming capabilities.

Over time, the wallboards became more capable, with the addition of smarter software applications, TCP/IP interfaces and an infusion of technology. Basically, the wallboards didn't really change ' pretty colors were added, and audible beeps became the norm. Of course, the accountants loved this technology as it was so reliable and lasted many years. The wallboards themselves became more compact, and the technology matured. There began to appear lesser quality, though similar-appearing, reader boards from companies abroad, and the market became saturated. Ask anyone what a wallboard or reader board is and you'll hear that he or she has probably seen one in a call center, customer service station, airport or sales environment. The technology was proven and had wide appeal to many dynamic industries.

Display Technologies (Now)
Move forward to the present, and call centers have evolved into multimedia contact centers. Responsibilities have changed, and we've begun to see a desire to do more with less. It's not only voice traffic and handling more calls in a more efficient manner, but it's e-mail, integrated voice response, Web chat sessions, trouble-ticket solutions, etc. Today's contact center agents and managers need to be able to view information in unique ways while maintaining control over their work environments. Because the amount and variety of data have increased exponentially, we need ways to meaningfully display those data. Using display technologies such as desktop clients or soft reader boards, flat panel monitors (i.e., plasma, TFT, LCD) and Web-based displays became the norm. Although the need for more information was apparent, the traditional LED wall display still plays a substantial role in the efficient management of the contact center.

So, we now have the tried-and-true reliability and functionality of the LED display, coupled with the latest in software and hardware, for ease-of-use and better graphics delivery. What combination of technologies fits your center? And how will you make the most of your budget and workforce?
Looking to tomorrow, you can envision other display technologies replacing or enhancing the reader board environment. Flat panel TV monitors will only become more inexpensive as the demand grows. Also, other non-traditional technologies will flourish based on flexible crystal screens and other 'flat' technologies. What will the contact center look like in 10 years? No one can predict for sure, but you can be certain display technology is here to stay and the days of monitoring only voice-traffic are gone for good.

Chris Capo is director, Global Alliances, for Houston-based Spectrum Corp.

Did You Know?

  • In 1911, Pennsylvania inventor Everett Bickley invented an electric sign he called a motograph (not to be confused with Thomas Edison's motograph receiver, invented in 1872) that spelled out moving messages with a series of light bulbs. The invention first appeared at the Columbian Theater in Detroit.

  • The Times Square reader board first appeared on November 6, 1928. On Times Tower, the Motograph News Bulletin, better known as 'The Zipper,' began flashing its 14,800 light bulbs. The first news item was election results: Herbert Hoover defeats Al Smith.

  • Inventor Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented the LED (light emitting diode) in 1962. Holonyak is also credited with inventing the dimmer switch. He still teaches at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the College of Engineering of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Currently, the tallest reader board in the world is on the Reuter's building in Times Square. Its vertical component is about 250 feet high; its horizontal component is 148 feet long. It boasts over 7,000 square feet of display.

  • Regular users of reader boards include casinos, highway safety departments, sports stadiums, gas stations, race tracks, call centers, help desks, hotels, restaurant kitchens, stock trading floors, news organizations, network operations centers, airports, train and bus stations, movie theaters and manufacturing plants.

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