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Call routing is something most people (except those in charge of keeping the calls flowing) take for granted. The phone rings, you pick it up, and that’s it. That, however, is not “it.” The invention of the ACD, an event which launched the modern call center, is a topic that is spoken about with reverence today in call center circles. Some elements of the first ACD have almost passed into legend. To get some perspective on the topic and give it the respect it certainly deserves, I thought an interview with Aspect Software was in order. I got a chance to speak with Alan Burnstine, Senior Product Manager at Aspect Software

TS: First, can you provide readers with a little bit of background about Rockwell and the first ACD?

AB: Rockwell created the first intelligent automatic call distributor (ACD), the Galaxy, in 1973 — a monumental contribution to business technology and forever changed the way companies interacted with their customers.

Today, there are not many businesses or government organizations that do not have at least one ACD. At its most basic level, an ACD distributes calls in an equitable pattern to a group of customer service agents, and monitors the performance of the system through reporting and administrative tools. This may sound simple, but in 1973, it required an awesome technological leap. Prior to this creation, ACDs required large hardware installations that were too complex and costly to be of much practical use.

TS: Is it really true that AT&T declined to develop a similar product because they thought there was no market for such a thing?

AB: AT&T said it would take them roughly seven to eight years to develop a new ACD system (a proposed delivery date of 1980). As a result, the airlines — who were requesting the technology to help them with reservations — sought out other vendors who might be able to deliver the solution more quickly. Collins Radio (which would shortly be acquired by Rockwell) answered the call and delivered a solution —The Galaxy — one year after the initial request.

TS: What issues are affecting call routing today and what is being done to meet these changing needs?

AB: The rise in IP contact centers and remote agents is really driving companies to look at ACD technology that can run on a session initiation protocol (SIP)-based voice over IP (VoIP) platform, as well as traditional TDM architectures. Advanced routing technology also allows contact centers to balance call loads among sites and achieve true simultaneous multisite queuing. This enables enterprises to manage large call volumes and route calls to the right agent regardless of location, anywhere in the world.

TS: What are truly cutting-edge call centers doing in terms of call routing today?

AB: Leading contact centers are recognizing the value in skills-based routing to get customers to the right agent with the right knowledge to resolve the call. This approach can involve a number of steps such as training the agents more effectively to ensure they are knowledgeable about products and services, or segmenting customers by region, type of inquiry, or spending value so that their inquiries could be routed to a specialized agent. Cutting-edge contact centers are also looking at the benefits of a unified communications strategy that includes the contact center.

Unified communications for the contact center streamlines and enhances customer-facing business processes with complete visibility and control, and enables businesses to seamlessly extend those processes beyond the contact center. Implementing a unified solution that can interoperate with presence engines can enable agents to identify knowledge workers in the enterprise and easily route customer calls to that expert, increasing first-call resolution.

TS: How can the right call routing solution help call centers to more easily achieve the goal of first-call resolution?

AB: Skills-based routing is critical to transfer calls to the right resource, quickly and efficiently. With an ACD platform managing IP-based and PSTN-based agents, skilled workers can be located regardless of location and multiple sites, making it easier to respond to customer inquiries and resolve any issues on the first call. Also, ACD capabilities coupled with a unified solution with presence interoperability will help contact centers route calls to knowledge workers outside the contact center, to lower customer call-backs and increase first call resolution.

TS: What sort of announcements should we expect to see from Aspect in the near future?

AB: On March 10, Aspect Software announced a corporate strategy to educate the market on the critical role the contact center must play in the development of an organization’s overall unified communications strategy. The company’s all-in-one, IT-ready Aspect Unified IP and PerformanceEdge solutions will help power unified communications for the contact center. Aspect will announce subsequent product releases later this year in order to provide seamless interoperability between Aspect Software solutions and unified communications applications, such as presence engines to support this strategy.

Editor’s note: For some TMCnet columnist perspectives on Aspect’s unified communications announcement, read Rich Tehrani’s article, “Aspect Brings Unified Communications to the Contact Center” at www.tmcnet.com/1759.1 or my article, “Why Unified Communications in the Call Center?” at www.tmcnet.com/1758.1.


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