Twenty years ago, when I began consulting in the contact center industry, building a call center was a hard, resource-consuming task. Just to begin handling calls required purchasing lots of proprietary equipment, such as PBXs and automatic call distributors (ACDs), as well as software for computer/telephony integration (CTI) and business applications such as case management and CRM – and then spending a lot of time and effort integrating them. Lots of tasks were managed using spreadsheets, and if you wanted anything more than the basic reports available from your PBX/ACD supplier, you would have to budget a great deal more money. Right from those early days, call center managers focused on efficiency and relied on basic metrics such as queue lengths, average call-handling time, hold times and call transfers.
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Creating the technology architecture for a modern contact center is no easy task. To do so, companies typically have to integrate lots of technology: systems to manage their communication channels (voice, e-mail, postal mail, mobile, Web, IM, etc.), systems to route interactions to the best available resource to handle the interaction, be it human or automated (routing, IVR, CTI, etc.), applications to manage the workforce that is handling interactions (quality monitoring, workforce management, training, coaching, etc.), applications to manage business transactions resulting from the interactions (CRM, ERP, billing, etc.), and performance management systems (operational, business, speech, text, social media, desktop analytics). In my recent blog about the contact center technology revolution in 2011, I alluded to the fact that some vendors are making this task easier by making many of these systems available in the cloud and pre-integrating them.