Friday, August 17, 2007

Local Call Center Agents On The Way Out - Perhaps Not.

As the New York Times recently reported, Booz Allen Hamilton, a management-consulting firm, and Duke University studied 600 companies last year and found a continued increase not just in outsourcing, but also offshoring, in which call centers are moved overseas.

One company bucking the trend is Netflix. They are fighting Blockbuster for DVD sales by mail. They have set up their call center in the greater Portland area because of the genial attitude on the part of most service workers. Michael Osier, vice president for information technology operations and customer service, said he rejected cities like Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, which are known as call-center capitals, because of their high employee turnover rates. Matt Mani, a senior associate at Booz Allen said, “This is a unique strategy for Netflix. There’s so much more competition, this is something they’ve done to get closer to the customer, because without that, there’s really no connection a customer has to Netflix.”

Netflix’s decision to greet anxious consumers with a human voice is now unusual in corporate customer service. It also represents a high cost choice. It you hire too few human agents then callers must wait interminably for one to come free. To ensure a rapid response, there must be enough call agents to answer calls within a short time delay. The hiring, training and scheduling of sufficient call agents are quite a challenge.

Rather than relying solely on human call agents, a better and more economic solution is to combine Natural Speech IVR agents with human agents. Simpler caller requests can be handled by the IVR agents. More complex calls or those where the caller wishes to speak to a human agent can be rapidly transferred to a well-trained and welcoming agent. Such a combined system gives greater flexibility to deliver better caller experiences with optimal use of the available human agents. Such ongoing optimization is an integral part of a Crimsonet IVR project.

Since a combined system like this delivers greater caller satisfaction and good economics, it will ensure that local call-center agents are with us for a long time to come.

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