Moving to an IP call centre entails huge process changes

Frequently the emphasis is on the pros and cons of various vendors’ solutions and the technical issues surrounding their implementation. However, this approach puts the cart before the horse. Furthermore, unless you have a burning need to replace old equipment or to implement functionality provided only by IP, there is little urgency to implement a solution. On the other hand, there is some urgency to conduct some planning before you are forced eventually to adopt IP.While many IT projects do not warrant significant attention from senior management, implementing an IP call centre is definitely one that does.
It is not possible to consider IP call centre plans in isolation, which in itself may create significant accountability issues within some organizations. One solution does not fit all. Small enterprises might choose a turnkey solution from a single vendor, but many medium and large enterprises are more likely to choose best-of-breed elements. Regardless of the approach, the plans for IP telephony and the plans for IP call centres must be aligned. Territorial issues should be faced up front. For example, do not waste time on issues specific to one product or vendor. Disagreements of this nature are often a manifestation of competing departments supporting different vendor-solutions, partially for territorial reasons.
The second reason for requiring senior management’s attention is that planning for an IP call centre requires a review of call centre strategy. New or improved capabilities offered by IP provide opportunities to change the way a call centre operates. You cannot decide what you want it to do until you understand what it is capable of doing. IP will raise many questions sooner or later, and some of them will be uncomfortable to various players in the enterprise. However, it is much better to address them before implementation than after. Let’s consider some of the possible issues.

easier to use external agents

Shared-sourcing will become more practicable due to an improved ability to link internal and external operations. This would permit more flexible mixing of internal and external agents. Hosted call centre infrastructure services will become attractive to some enterprises. Presence technology will enable tighter coupling between call centre agents and subject matter experts within the enterprise. This would improve customer service, but might change the roles and responsibilities of those experts, and eventually might blur the definition of an agent. Geographic distribution of agents, including the use of home-based agents, will become more manageable. This would improve efficiency and effectiveness; however, it might also start to challenge the use of the word “centre” in such an environment.
The foregoing examples should be sufficient to demonstrate that implementing IP in the call centre needs much more consideration than the choice of products. It will most likely involve significant changes to business processes. Accordingly, analysis and planning are made more complex, and they must focus on call centre strategy before focusing on the implementation of the new technology.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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