Cover page INDIAN CALL CENTER University of Mumbai Academic Year: 2008-2009
Submitted By SHANTI NANDLAL TIWARI T.Y.B.M.S. (Semester-5th)
Under The Guidance Of Prof. KSHAMA KADAM
GOKHALE EDUCATION SOCIETY’S Shri Bhausaheb Vartak Arts, Commerce & Science College & Sheth K. V. Parekh Arts, Com. Jr. Collage Gokhale Mahavidalay Road, Borivali (W), Mumbai-400 091 NACC B-I-
GOKHALE EDUCATION SOCIETY’S SHRI BHAUSAHEB VARTAK ARTS, COMMERCE & SCIENCE COLLEGE BORIVALI (W), MUMBAI-400 091.
PROJECT REPORT ON:INDIAN CALL CENTER
SHANTI NANDLAL TIWARI. T.Y.B.M.S. (SEMESTER-5TH)
UNIVERSITY OF MUMBAI ACADEMIC YEAR: 2008-2009
UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF PROF. KSHAMA KADAM.
I Shanti Nandlal Tiwari student of University Of Mumbai BMS course of Shri Bhausaheb Vartak College of Arts, Commerce & Science hereby submit my project entitled as Indian Call Center in the academic year 2008-2009. The subject matter contain in this project is research & most of the work carried out in this project is original and was done under the guidance prof. kshama kadam. However this material has been picked up, has been used to enhance the clarity of the hypothesis and has been used for the academic purpose only. Also no part of this project may be used and reproduce by other, either accidentally or commercial without the written consent of author &his/her guide.
Signature of the student Date: Place:
I would like to thank my project guide prof. kshama kadam for helping me at every stage of this project, for inspiring, for motivating and giving me access to such valuable information, without which my project would be incomplete.
I am highly obliged to acknowledge our principal Mrs. S. V. SANT and our BMS coordinator, prof. KSHAMA KADAM for giving me an opportunity to conduct a detail study and analysis of topic relevant to my project.
(BPO & call center in India)
Commonly the BPO service providers are called call centers. Call center is a part Of BPO industry. It is also known as Contact Centers. Origins of the Call Center Industry
Around 30 years ago in the USA, the travel and hospitality industry began to centralize their reservation centers into what we would recognize now as huge call centers. This happened at around the time the first large-scale high-volume premise-based telephone switches became available. Banks have also used them since the 1970s at least, and later in that decade, with the rise of the catalogue shopping movement and outbound telemarketing, call centers became a staple within many industries. Each industry, however, had its own way of operating centers, its own standards for quality, and its own preferred technologies. This trend persisted until early in the 1990s, when call center managers became more recognized as having a consistent set of skills and an operational knowledge. Technologically speaking, call centers have advanced in the last ten years. Earlier, it was just a labour intensive department trying to handle some customer queries. Now, it is supposed to be a vital link in the entire process of marketing and improving customer interaction. Unlike an airline reservation where the queries are generally simple and easy to handle, requirements of a technology customer support are different and need technical knowledge. A pre requisite for any call handling person is extremely good customer relationship skills and command over language accent. India has woken up to the call of Business Process outsourcing and is fast paving its way to become the largest hub of call centers in the world. Taking leverage from this growing phenomenon, Call Centers in India has devised a clear and competent business strategy wherein you post in your query and we act as an intermediary, forwarding your requirements to our concerned call-center-service providers. In this manner, our motive of providing complete support to our customers in terms of answering any of their queries remains fulfilled. Call Centers in India is a leading Indian customer care organization, having alliances with leading BPOs in India who ensure fast and prompt service. We offer a range of blended customer care services including inbound and outbound voice services, E-mail management, telemarketing services, data conversion, claim processing, real-time web-based chat services to global clientele and the like. A call center is traditionally defined as a physical location where calls are placed or received in high volume. This may be for the purpose of sales, marketing, customer service, telemarketing, technical support, or other specialized business activities.
A call center is a physical place where customer and other telephone calls are handled by an organization, usually with some amount of computer automation. Typically, a call center has the ability to handle a considerable volume of calls at the same time, to screen calls and forward those to someone qualified to handle them, and to log calls. Call centers are used by mail-order catalog organizations, telemarketing companies, computer product help desks, and any large organization that uses the telephone to sell or service products and services. Two related terms are virtual call center and contact center. Call center is a centralized office of a company that answers incoming telephone calls from customers or makes outgoing telephone calls to customers. They can handle a considerable volume of calls at the same time and can also log calls. It is the focal point of customer service for most companies today. Using a variety of technologies including computer automation, call centers connect the customer and the organization to meet customer’s need in real time. Centers have application in many industries offering customer service. Many organizations use call centers to solicit clients or customers for new sales or donations and contributions. They can also be used to accomplish surveys of customer satisfaction or public opinion. Call centers also known as contact centers. Call centers can be any of the following:
Huge telemarketing centers Fund-raising and collection organization Help desks, both internal and external Outsourcers (better known as service bureaus) that use their large lots of companies Reservation centers for airlines and hotels capacity to serve
Catalogue retailers "E-tailing" centers and e-commerce transaction centers that don't handle calls so much as automated customer interactions
BPO [Business Process Outsourcing]
BPO has been the latest mantra in India today. As the current sources of revenue face slower growth, software companies are trying new ways to increase their revenues. BPO is top on their list today. IT services companies are making a quick entry into the BPO space on the strength of their existing set of clients. We hope to address all issues related to BPO in India on this portal. Business process outsourcing is the fastest growing segment in the outsourcing market as of now and involves outsourcing back office operations and other business processes like customer relationship management, customer call centers, telemarketing, Payroll maintenance, finance/accounting management among others to offshore destinations. By outsourcing their business processes the companies can increase their productivity, cut operational costs, provide better customer service, beat competition and in turn concentrate on their main operations by shifting their back office operations to offshore destinations. These are the reasons that companies no matter how big or small they are prefer to outsource their operations and in a frantic pace they have turned this normal phenomena in to a major hype. The Business process outsourcing industry is opening up and people are beginning to realize that outsourcing is a win-win situation for everyone and a trend that is as unavoidable as globalization itself. 1. The basic or traditional type of outsourcing services. It is to curtail direct costs, such as hardware and software maintenance and operation costs. 2. Outsourcing helps lower "indirect" costs and achieve efficiencies in areas related to business processes this is termed Business Process Outsourcing. 3. The Business Transformation Outsourcing. In today’s world BPO has changed from definition to buzzword. BPO today directly means to the second type of outsource that is outsourcing the 'lower indirect costs.' Now-a-days companies prefer to outsource these services. It is a new concept. "Call Centers" are the BPOs that outsource only the customer care. In simple language the BPO or Business Process Outsourcing is the delegation of one or more business processes to an external service provider who in turn provides services for the selected process based on certain defined and measurable performance criteria specified by an organization. This generally involves an organization's non-core processes. BPO companies are the companies who extend the services to the outsourcing companies. Companies believe assigning lower cost business processes to the BPOs will provide superior service more responsively at lower cost. As customer care is a low cost and clumsy
business process, companies prefer to assign it to outsource to the Business Process Outsourcing companies. Business process outsourcing (BPO) contains the transmission of processes along with the associated operational activities and responsibilities, to a third party with at least a guaranteed equal service level and where the client contains a firm grip over the (activities of the) vendor for mutual long term success. BPO is positively related to the search for more efficient organizational designs, cost reduction, productivity growth and innovative capabilities. Hence, it is a source for strategic advantage. Traditionally, BPO is undertaken by manufacturing firms. For instance Coca Cola, where almost the entire supply chain is outsourced and the company is essentially becoming a marketing organization. However, BPO is nowadays rapidly conquering the service oriented firms as well. A well-known example is provided by the Bank of America, who outsourced their entire HR function to Exult, one of the leading Human Resources BPO vendors. BPO is often divided into two categories: BACK OFFICE OUTSOURCING - it includes internal business functions such as billing or purchasing FRONT OFFICE OUTSOURCING – it includes customer-related services such as marketing or tech support
The endless opportunities IT provides, stimulates (cross-border) BPO activities. BPO that is contracted outside a company's own country is sometimes called offshore outsourcing. BPO that is contracted to a company's neighboring country is sometimes called near shore outsourcing. Use of a BPO as opposed to an application service provider (ASP) usually also means that a certain amount of risk is transferred to the company that is running the process elements on behalf of the outsourcer. BPO includes the software, the process management, and the people to operate the service, while a typical ASP model includes only the provision of access to functionalities and features provided or 'served up' through the use of software, usually via web browser to the customer. BPO is a part of the outsourcing industry. It is dependent on information technology; hence it is also referred to as information technology enabled services or ITES. Knowledge process outsourcing and legal process outsourcing are some of the subsets of business process outsourcing. Companies are moving their non-core business processes to outsource provider’s i.e. call center. If a bank shifts work of a 1000 people from US to India it can save about $18 million a year due to lower costs in India.
BPO saves precious management time and resources and allows focus while building upon core competencies. The list of functions being outsourced is getting longer by the day. Call centers apart, functions outsourced span purchasing and disbursement, order entry, billing and collection, human resources administration, cash and investment management, tax compliance, internal audit, pay roll...the list gets longer every day. In view of the accounting scandals in 2002 [Enron, WorldCom, Xerox etc], more and more companies are keen on keeping their investors happy. Hence, it is important for them to increase their profits. BPO is one way of increasing their profits. If done well, BPO results in increasing shareholder value.
KPO (KNOWLEDGE PROCESS OUTSOURCING)
KPO, Knowledge Processing Outsourcing It is essentially an offshoot of BPO. It is the high end activity of the BPO industry and is estimated to have a magnificent growth in the coming years. It is a wave that has lashed the Indian shores and aims to tap the Indian talent in the fields that require expertise and enhanced knowledge. In short, KPO involves off shoring of knowledge intensive business processes that require specialized domain expertise. India's Intellectual Potential
India's intellectual potential is the key factor for India being the favored destination for KPO industry. India has a large pool of knowledge workers in various sectors and their talent is being discovered and tapped by leading businesses across the globe. Cost savings, operational efficiencies, access to a highly talented workforce and improved quality are all underlying expectations in off shoring high-end processes to India. KPO Services Outsourced to India
India is a good outsourcing location. There are several services that can be outsourced to India:
Research & Development Business and Technical Analysis Learning Solutions Animation & Design Business & Market Research Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Medical Services Writing & Content Development Legal Services Intellectual Property (IP) Research Data Analytics Network Management Training & Consultancy
Challenges in KPO
KPO is an outsourcing industry that delivers high value to organizations in terms of domain based processes and business expertise. The industry demands advanced analytical and specialized skill of knowledge workers and therefore faces several challenges. The major challenges faced by KPO are:
Maintaining higher quality standards Investment in infrastructure Requirement of higher level of control Lack of talent pool Enhanced risk management
TYPES OF CALL CENTER
Call Center may be divided into various types according to their functions and areas of operation. Most commonly call centers are divided into inbound call center and outbound call center. In an inbound call center, agents receive calls from customers who need to obtain information or report a mal function. In an outbound call center, agents initiate a call to a customer mostly to sell a product or a service. Types of call center 1. CRM Call Center 2. Inbound Call Center 3. Interactive Call Center 4. Outbound Call Center 5. Phone Call Center 6. Tele-Marketing Call Center 7. Virtual Call Center 8. Web Enabled Call Center
CRM Call Center
The CRM software integrates all the forms of customer contact into a central history database where they can be retrieved or viewed together. Using CRM software, a customer issue can be tracked from the original point of contact through to resolution. CRM call centers help companies realign their entire organization around customers. And thus, is a strategic business initiative. Sales, Marketing and Service as well as other groups are connected and coordinated through the CRM applications. Before a call is made to the customer, all recent activity for that customer should be reviewed to be informed of recent events. Then a sales strategy needs to plan based upon observed opportunities. The use of CRM software in the call center allows the assignment of a value to each customer if the culture supports that philosophy. With that feature, one can choose how to interact with that customer. CRM helps the company identify most valuable customers and understanding their lifetime values. Using CRM, the call centers design the organization systems and service to best meet the needs of customers and maximize their value. CRM is intended for long-term relationship building. Besides capturing the different forms of customer interaction, CRM allows you to capture and store all available customer information in the central history database. This allows
agents the ability to pull up a customer's entire history while the two interact. Communication and service are more effective and efficient. Most CRM products also track trends in purchasing and customer feedback.
Inbound Call Center
An inbound centre is one that handles calls coming in from outside, most often through toll free numbers. These calls are primarily service and support calls, and inbound sales. The services of inbound call centers are designed to handle catalog orders, help desk queries, dealer locations and more. They offer customized services that are designed to meet the requirements of all kinds of businesses. The inbound call centre professionals process calls and integrate Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and/or Internet services to sell additional products and offer services in a dedicated environment. They also integrate customer care services, predict customer behavior and take action, while the customers are still on the line. The inbound call center employ a dedicated team of live operators, account representatives and program managers. Offering 24/7 operator availability for the customers, these call centers provide round-the-clock account management. The teams of qualified and trained operators understand the business, products and services and perform to deliver their best. Using advanced telephone service technology and programming, these call centers lay great emphasis on attention to detail in messaging and reporting of all inbound calls. Inbound call centers offer communication services specifically designed to maximize the efficiency of direct marketing efforts or to be a part of the technical support team of the clients. They work together with you as a partner building a strong, successful long-lasting relationship with customers. Inbound Call Center offer
Skilled, professional, customer support and technical service representatives Improved market coverage Faster ramp-up, launch, and roll-out of new campaigns Experience with programs similar to yours Rapid response to market conditions Account management expertise Enhanced reporting capabilities Market testing capabilities
Interactive Call Center
Interactive call center is a central point in an enterprise from which all customer contacts are managed. These include one or more online call centers. More companies are turning to interactive providers to outsource everything from lead generation and survey calls to order processing. They provide great opportunity to improve customer service levels, increase productivity and save money. The only secret behind interactive call centers is a technology known as interactive voice response (IVR) that automates interaction with telephone callers. Customers require high levels of availability and interactivity and IVR is one of the most essential way of providing 24 hours service.
Provide 24x7 custom, friendly services, cost-efficiently. Offer nationwide customer "self service" with optional redirect to live agents. Automate routine and complex transactions that traditionally required processing by an agent. Eliminate the cost of staffing for unpredictable peaks and valleys of incoming calls. Avoid the expense of training agents and installing cutting-edge call center equipment. Provide high-response capability for weekends and off hours
Outbound Call Centre
The success of the Outbound Call Centers depends on the extensive experience, technological solutions, quality assurance programs and commitment to customer service excellence that further ensures maximum results from the direct marketing efforts. The integrated call management systems in the outbound call centre facilities use, systematic calls to consumers and transfer successful connections to a designated marketing representative (MR) who is dedicated and has been trained for the specific client application. As a call is presented to the MR, the consumer's name, address, and other available information are simultaneously presented on the MR's workstation along with a client's customized script.
Services of Outbound Call Centers:
Database Selling Direct Mail Follow-up Lead Generation \ Qualification \ Management Seminar Population Product Promotion Debt Collection Information and Literature Fulfillment Appointment Scheduling Decision Maker Contacts Up Sell/Cross Sell Campaigns Surveys Customer Satisfaction
Phone Call Center
The phone call centers offer flexible call routing, superior IVR capacity and predictive dialing systems. Utilizing advanced telephony and Internet technology; the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) in the phone call centers provide accurate and timely information for the most complex inbound or outbound programs. The phone call centers offer personalized call management by a team of professional operators who know about the client and his business. The phone call centers provide 24/7 answering and business services that help keep the customers satisfied. This is essential as the call centers could be losing customers because of not answering the phone when they called and also as they expect answers to questions immediately. The customers expect the call centers to work around their busy schedules. The call centers are equipped with top-of-the-line communications technology.
Telemarketing Call Center
Telemarketing refers to the business or practice of marketing goods or services by telephone. It is the act of selling, promoting or soliciting a product over the telephone. Reliable telemarketing is an essential part of the organization's working to enhance sales and increase profits. Combining the best of personnel, processes and progressive technologies, telemarketing call center serve as highly reliable specialist resource for organizations seeking outstanding performance and results. The telemarketing call centers provide customized telephone services that reveal the valued techniques used by successful telephone sales and support professionals. The fully automated, state-of-the-art call center equipments and custom software enables the call centers to field thousands of calls daily for each client with a high degree of professionalism and customization. The clients receive superior quality, experience and courteous service, coupled with the advanced technical capabilities. The call centers are staffed 24x7 and 365 days and they totally concentrate on using the tactical skills and effective processes during inbound/outbound call process.
Virtual Call Center
Virtual call center is a call center in which the organization's representatives are geographically dispersed. These people are not situated at work stations; they rather work from their homes or in small number of groups. People in small groups may open small centers to work. It provides the ability to extend the CSR desktop and telephony support to any place on the planet.
Virtual call center is simply defined as an approach to enterprise wide call center management that treats several geographically dispersed call centers as one. These call centers are largely inbound in function and are gaining popularity as companies look for alternatives to running a traditional, in-house call center or using an offshore outsourcer.
Web Enabled Call Center
A web enabled call center improves the e-commerce initiatives by offering high quality customer service. Various features offered by web enabled call centers are:
Web Pop that automatically provides CSRs with a pop-up screen of client's website, intranet or web script. Web Callback that helps the visitors of the client's website request a callback from the CSRs by simply clicking and entering their name, telephone information and time for call.
Web Chat that assists visitors engaged in a live, two-way text chat directly from client's site to a trained agent. They can obtain answers to questions or resolve customer service issues without having to disconnect from the Internet or use a phone. Web Push allows CSRs to assist client's website visitor to find out information through guided "browsing." Email Management this manages high-volume email inquiries directed to client's mailbox or produced via a Website. The incoming messages are tracked and provided an appropriate auto reply message to the customers letting them know that their email has been received.
CALL CENTER TECHNOLOGY & MANAGEMENT
Call Center Technology 1. Answering Service Software • Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) • Call Center PBX • Call Recording and Call Monitoring Solution • Call Track Software • Communication Software • Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) • Contact Management Software • CRM Solutions • Digital Call Recording • E-CRM • Emergency Alert Systems • Help Desk Software
2. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
• Open IVR Software • Phone System Auto Dialers • Predictive Dialing • Programmable / Soft Switches • Remote Access Software • Soft Phone • Telecommuting Software • Text to Speech (TTS) Software • Voice Messaging • Voice Recognition • VOIP • Windows Over Web
Answering Service Software Answering service software is software that provides answering service systems to
Telephone Answering Service Applications includes
Account Status Locator Services IVR Outsourcing Services Shipment Tracking Employee Testing/Studies Customer Surveys & Loyalty Programs Market Research Payroll Services 800 Service Voice Mail Claims Reporting Emergency Notification Credit Collections Mortgage Marketing Charitable Contributions
ACD (Automated Call Distribution)
ACD facilitates controlling the distribution of telephone calls coming into the department. ACD systems are call routing utilities for incoming calls and can be even used to route calls originated by the predictive dialer to the next available agent. The staff log in/out of the ACD system as they are available, and the system answers the calls and distributes them. When staff are unavailable, the ACD systems holds a call in queue and then forwards it to the first available staff member. Automatic call distribution is ideal for areas where multiple staff answers a high volume of calls e.g.
Appointment scheduling Message taking
Properly managing calls can be key in providing excellent customer service, and the ACD system provides the tools needed to optimally manage incoming calls.
Some of the tools an ACD systems offers are: • Call Type Priority
The organization can customize the way its staff answers calls using several variables, including the caller’s location (on-campus or off-campus, local or long distance) or the purpose of the call (help assistance, appointment scheduling).
• Customizable Queue
The organization can record Custom Announcements that callers hear when their call is answered or while they are waiting in the queue. It can also add the Music on Hold feature.
• Training Supervision
Supervisors can monitor calls to support employees and evaluate performance.
• Call Metrics
The system can capture call statistics (e.g., call volume, length of calls, time in queue, etc.) on a scheduled or an ad hoc basis, allowing further managing the staffing and calling flow. Almost any business can benefit from an ACD system but they are particularly useful to customer service centers, inbound service bureaus (that may be handling infomercials or direct marketing campaigns) and government agencies.
Call Center PBX
PBX is an acronym for polymer bonded explosives. It is also called private branch exchange. It is a small telephone system within a call center that switches calls between call center agents on local lines allowing all users to share a certain number of external phone lines. The main purpose of the PBX system is to save the cost of requiring the number of telephone lines used in an enterprise.
Telephone trunk (multiple phone) lines that terminate at the PBX A computer with memory that manages the switching of the calls within the PBX and in and out of it The network of lines within the PBX
Usually a console or switchboard for a human operator
Features of PBX
Even load distribution Skill based call routing Self managed agent presence Queue optimization Overflow queues Protected queues Call waiting signals Custom on hold information Real time monitoring Queue logs
Functions of PBX
PBX performs three main functions:
Establishing connections (circuits) between the telephone sets of two users. Maintaining such connections as long as the users require them. Providing information for accounting purposes
Call Recording & Call Monitoring Solutions
Call recording and monitoring solutions help to train the agents and improve customer service. They are designed to be a complete call center solution including Predictive Dialing, ACD, IVR, and Digital Voice Recording. Call recording plays a significant role in the call centers and help monitor agent performance while performing quality assurance tasks. Order entry verification and confirmation can be easily accomplished when the calls are recorded. Call centers can thus, record and retrieve phone conversations in real time. The recording can be customized to meet virtually any set of business rules. The call recording and monitoring systems are very scalable and flexible Windows-based voice recorders live monitoring and archiving systems. Besides being fully prepared for all current and future needs, they offer superior voice recording quality and huge recording capacity by effectively using this software system the organizations can manage:
Complete contact management
Call history Order entry Literature fulfillment
The features of call recording and call monitoring can also be added to the Computer Telephony (CTI) Soft phone and API library, allowing application programmers to embed call recording and retrieval features in existing PC, Linux/Unix, or Web applications. Call recording can thus, be a standard feature within any existing application that requires a phone interface.
Features of Call Recording and Monitoring Solutions
Call Center recording, logging and monitoring Quality and service assurance Verbal transaction recording: agent training and efficiency improvements follow up information Financial and stock dealing Telephone order applications Superior voice recording quality Encrypted and access secured voice file storage and playback Fully configurable recording parameters Built in phone book with import facility for your relational database Local and/or LAN/WAN call playback and monitoring Advanced user, application and security / access management Automatic multiple hard disk content and capacity management Extensive search, filter and storage marking capabilities
Call Track Software
Call Tracking Software is software that automates the process of receiving and responding to customer phone calls.
Benefits of Call Tracking Software
Effectively eliminate calls from falling through the cracks and reduce the number of unresolved calls Log calls easily through a Windows interface or Web interface. Increase service levels by resolving calls faster. Decrease the number of calls received by your call center. Provide 24/7 customer support. Automatically escalate issues or notify agents of important changes or details. Provide faster response time to customer calls.
Communication Software Communication software is software that makes it possible to send and receive data. It is
also called AT Command Set. It is a powerful software infrastructure solution that offers end to end communication needs. It coordinates the information flow between interconnected components in the multitude of networks that are ubiquitous in life: the Internet, the telephone network, wireless systems and pagers, banking networks, distributed databases, etc. It also allows call center agents to operate efficiently through convenient and reliable Internet access to the information and applications they need.
Communication Software includes:
Instant messaging is the act of instantly communicating between two or more people
over a network such as the Internet. Electronic mail, abbreviated e-mail or email, is a method of composing, sending, and receiving messages over electronic communication systems.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is the advanced technology that serves as the focal point of the working of modern call centers. It integrates the organization's computer and telephone systems and the facilitates effective applications to make every phone call, inbound and outbound.
Features of CTI Software
Launch PC/WEB applications - Specific PC, Unix or Web applications can be automatically launched using the telephony software based upon data provided by your phone system. Caller Identification (Caller ID or ANI) - Information from the existing caller database appears on-screen when the telephone rings and remains on the screen during the call. Called Number Identification (DNIS) - With each call, special campaign information can be displayed from the application based upon the number dialed by the caller. Vital information collected by the phone system from the caller can be passed to the application. The computer telephony integration software manages this process and free agents to be more productive. Any phone number can be pointed or clicked in the computer database or Soft phone. The telephone then dials the call - a must for maximizing the productivity of outbound telemarketing or call center service desks.
CTI software system allows to generate real time reports and graphs. This important measuring system helps you observe and control the performance of call center and phone system with clear and meaningful displays. Graphs and charts of operational statistics let you measure the effectiveness of each user and campaign. Reports and graphs include both inbound and outbound statistics.
Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is the advanced technology that serves as the focal point of the working of modern call centers. It integrates the organization's computer and telephone systems and the facilitates effective applications to make every phone call, inbound and outbound.
Features of CTI Software
Launch PC/WEB applications - Specific PC, Unix or Web applications can be automatically launched using the telephony software based upon data provided by your phone system. Caller Identification (Caller ID or ANI) - Information from the existing caller database appears on-screen when the telephone rings and remains on the screen during the call. Called Number Identification (DNIS) - With each call, special campaign information can be displayed from the application based upon the number dialed by the caller. Vital information collected by the phone system from the caller can be passed to the application. The computer telephony integration software manages this process and free agents to be more productive. Any phone number can be pointed or clicked in the computer database or Softphone. The telephone then dials the call - a must for maximizing the productivity of outbound telemarketing or call center service desks. CTI software system allows to generate real time reports and graphs. This important measuring system helps you observe and control the performance of call center and phone system with clear and meaningful displays. Graphs and charts of operational statistics let you measure the effectiveness of each user and campaign. Reports and graphs include both inbound and outbound statistics.
Contact Management Software
Contact Management Software is software that manages all sorts of contact. The software is integrated with Microsoft Outlook, e-mail programs and has the capability to import contacts from other programs. It is also called Address Book Software.
Benefits of Contact Management Software
Manage an unlimited number of contacts in an easy-to-use list
Profile your customers by industry, budget, size, or other criteria by configuring the unique User-Defined Fields. Store all contact details, including multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Ensure complete customer information by setting mandatory fields and maintain accurate customer lists with duplicate record checking. Manage project sales and sales forecasting. Capturing high-volume customer orders or inquiries for rapid processing. Integrate with 3rd party applications like manufacturing, EDI or EpoS, locally and/or over the Internet
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions facilitate firms to create the customer relationship needed to uncover new business opportunities and enhance client service.
Advantages of CRM Solutions
Customer Service and Care Screen pop with DNIS and ANI Predictive dialing/auto dialing Remote agent support Customization and integration Literature fulfillment Development toolkit Follow-up date call backs Multiple blended campaigns Online Surveys Call history Contact management System and agent monitoring Data import/export Appointment scheduling Help Desk Application
E CRM , an acronym used for electronic customer relationship management, is an enhancement of CRM. It is an integrated online sale, marketing and service strategy that is used to identify, attract and retain an organization's customers. It is a wonderful way of enhancing customer interaction through innovative technology. E CRM is critical for any enterprise that plans to realize profitability through acquisition of new customers and retention of existing customers. This helps to give customer service 24 hours a
day and seven days a week. With the advent of E CRM customer relationships have become more dynamic and interactive. In turn, this increases the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness of customer services.
Benefits of E-CRM:
Deliver consistent and improved customer response Decreasing costs by focusing on retaining customers and using interactive service tools to sell additional products Enhanced productivity Automatic customer tracking and detection helps to ensure inquiries are met and issues are managed. Increase customer loyalty and satisfaction Conduct market targeting more cost-effectively Integrate customer services through the web
Help Desk Software Help desk software is an integrated internal solution that acts as a centralized system. It
specialize in providing internal service and support solutions that automate the help desk and service desk function. Typical functionality includes call management, call tracking, knowledge management, problem resolution, remote control, and self-help capabilities. It provides a valuable and easy to use customer service system for companies and organizations.
Benefits of Help Desk Software
Increase customer satisfaction Reduce customer downtime Reduce support call numbers Improve efficiency Improve communications Identify problem areas in your products or service
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Technology
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Systems are designed to provide easy to configure automated call handling systems that can be tailored to individual needs. This comprehensive system leads to distribution of routing information with the help of FAX or pre-recorded voice messages. It includes services like:
Speech recognition Self-service
Fax management capabilities
It is also very handy in reducing fatigue, increasing efficiency and decreasing time spent by agents in imparting information. The IVR Systems offer the following:
Click to Run Sample Reports IVR Service Bureau Voice Broadcasting Services IVR Outsourcing Services Campaign Development and Design Implementation Hosting Custom Reporting IVR Software and Database Integration Text To Speech Software Applications Professional Voice Recordings Quality Transcription Services Maintenance
Open IVR Software
Most IVR systems are built into the phone systems or are self contained programs running on a separate system, allowing limited access to outside applications but an open IVR system allows to access all the information available on existing database programs. It is the power of choice-a personalized solution returning maximum competitive advantages with minimum development investment and maximum flexibility.
Benefits of Open IVR
Automated speech recognition- Gives your customers the convenience of spoken
responses rather than manual input using the telephone keypad.
Interactive fax, fax-on-demand, and fax broadcasting- Interactive fax
provides the caller with a faxed confirmation or record of the IVR transaction. Text-to-speech conversion- The ability to convert a text file into speech allows you to offer dynamic services to your customers. Multilingual support- OPEN IVR allows you to easily create applications that support multiple languages.
Phone System Auto Dialers
Auto dialers are designed to automate the process of making and receiving telephone calls. It
is a system that calls numbers from a list or database when an agent in the pool is available. It in turn calls the targeted numbers and after detecting the answering machine it leaves the perfect message. They are also used to survey customers, notify emergency personnel of crisis situation and so on.
Types of Auto dialers
There are basically two types of auto dialers.
Outbound Dialers: Provide an efficient and effective venue for reaching a large
audience in a short span of time. Inbound Dialers: Accept calls from the outside and distribute them in an intelligent fashion to service agents.
Key Features of Auto Dialer
Smart, Easy to use, reliable, and affordable auto dialing. Automatic dialing with a single click. Touch tone response. Speech command response. Voice message for any response. Record and voice broadcast in your own voice. Detect human pick up and answering machine. Automatic retry for busy line or no answer. Set or schedule broadcast time, auto reschedule. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly recurring broadcast.
Predictive-dialer is a computer based dialogic predictive dialing system that handles inbound and outbound phone calls for small to large call centers. It brings about cost savings, improved control, maximized productivity and efficient use of resources.
The Predictive Dialer is extensively used for:
Outbound telemarketing Debt collection Market research Customer service Follow-ups
Features of Predictive Dialing
Preview, Progressive, Predictive Dialer Software Comprehensive List Manager with Data Import Automatic Call Distribution (ACD systems) with ANI and DNIS recognition
Interactive Voice Response (IVR systems) Voice Recording System Comprehensive Supervisor Command and Control System Agent Monitoring and Control Remote Agent (work at home employees) Fully integrated with our CRM application TELEMATION Soft phone integration to CTI enable your existing applications Report and graphical presentation of historical phone data
Programmable switches operate seamlessly within traditional network infrastructure and provide a path for transmission between two communication devices and the routing of information between them. Programmable switches serve as flexible solutions for network operators. They are the MultiProtocol-Application for intelligent networks and are applicable as gateway and for conversion of protocols. With these switches, customization can be done on an application-by-application basis, thereby giving service providers the ability to differentiate their service from the competition quickly and cost effectively. Through openness and configurability, programmable switches have the versatility to provide a platform for multi-service applications. They offer a superior return on investment owing to their excellent price performance and enable more capacity. Thus, a service provider can support larger subscriber population-and consequently, receive greater revenue per configuration. These soft switches are flexible and adaptable and thus deliver a greater versatility of function per system.
The soft phone functions on the Local Area Network (LAN) over the Internet, enabling the employees to work either in corporate offices, satellite remote offices or from the convenience of home. The soft phone system can be used to generate real time reports and graphs is important measuring system helps Serve and control the performance call center and phone system with clear and meaningful displays graphs and charts of operational statistics help to measure the effectiveness of each user campaign. Reports and graphs include both inbound and outbound statistics. Soft Phone includes features like:
Transfer Hold Conferencing Voice mail capability
Features of Soft phone
Supports a number of PBX and PC based phone systems Add computer telephony integration software to Unix and Linux applications Ability to make and receive phone calls manually Standard features such as call on hold, transfer and redirect are available Direct link to individual voice mail IVR interface with text to speech software Screen pops appear on the employee desktop when the soft phone is configured with an inbound call campaign Internet enabled, allowing employees to work from home Complete administrative control of each soft phone user System administration including reports, graphs, user grouping, and call campaign control
Telecommuting often called telework occurs when employees work away from their standard place of work. Telecommuting software is a phone system for telecommuting and work from home call centers and remote agents. This also answers customer inquiries on its own and can even contact customers or prospects with announcements or alerts.
Benefits of Telecommuting
Less office space and resource requirement. More productive and efficient telecommuter workforce. Increased energy conservation. More motivated and content work at home employees. Broader telework force recruiting base. Increased worker retention. Remote office interoperability. Less impact from weather conditions. Reduced telecommuter sick leave. Easier peak business workforce management Decreased environmental impact.
Text to Speech Software
The text to speech software reads text words with different voices that can be chosen. The text words may be on the screen, in the clipboard, from a text file or other source. The technology synthesizes natural sounding speech from ordinary text. The text can just be copied to the clipboard or imported from text files. The software then reads the text to the user or converts the text to mp3 or wav file. It also allows the conversion of text into a MP3/WAV audio file that can be listened later. The text to speech converter has the capability to extract variable information from a database (or from the Web) that is later converted into audible speech. The applications of the software include:
Providing callers with account information Weather updates Sports scores Stored text messages
Call centers in particular can become instantly more productive by letting the phone system provide the caller with information and by determining the best service representative to handle other requests.
Applications of Text to Speech Software:
Customer Satisfaction Surveys Market Research Surveys Message and Recording Services Literature Fulfillment Employee Testing and Evaluation Order Entry Credit Card Processing Voice Mail Inventory Confirmation Account Status Lead Generation & Capture Professional Voice Recording
Voice messaging is a voicemail system that provides an efficient and economical way for businesses of any size to capture and manage voice messages. Using voice messaging one can broadcast hundreds and thousands of phone messages and announcements at once. Pre-recorded
messages are played to provide various information to customers.
Benefits of Voice Messaging
Providing high volume contacts and notifications Delivering voice mail messages efficiently Expanding hours of operation with telemessaging services Automating routine calls thereby freeing employees to concentrate on more complex duties Speeding response times to message recipients Expanding call capacity faster and at a lower cost Providing multi-lingual support Reducing the cost of employee or call center agent turnover
Enhanced voice-recognition functionality promises lower call-center costs facilitates the callcenter agents to handle only those calls that require human intervention. There are multiple types of voice recognition such as:
Discrete numeric Continuous numeric Alphanumeric Speaker dependent Custom
It makes a voiceprint of customers' voices and enables the call center to automatically recognize customers each time they call. This is done once the call center has programmed the voices into the system. Instead of pressing prompts on a telephone keypad, the customer can speak requests and the system can automate them, lessening the burden on call-center representatives. An administrator sets tolerance thresholds that will alert a call-center agent should a person fall below the threshold of probability, adding another layer of security to customer accounts. Voice recognition systems help machines understand a caller's voice and extract meaning from the words. Callers do not have to say specific words such as 'collect' or 'refund' for the technology to understand the meaning of the caller's request. The machine gets a transcription of the text of the customer's request and attempts to classify the request. Depending on the caller's need, help could be provided by a human agent or an interactive voice response system.
VOIP VOIP is an acronym used for voice over Internet Protocol. It is a technology that enables
people to use the Internet as the transmission medium for telephone calls. It can turn a standard
Internet connection into a way to place free phone calls. It is a revolutionary technology that has the potential to completely rework the world's phone system. It is also called IP Telephony,
Digital Phone and Internet Telephony. VOIP Calling
There are three different ways by which VOIP calling can be done.
ATA - The simplest and most common way is through the use of a device called an
ATA (analog telephone adaptor). The ATA allows to connect a standard phone to computer or Internet connection for use with VoIP. IP Phones - These specialized phones look just like normal phones with a handset, cradle and buttons. Computer-to-computer - This is certainly the easiest way to use VoIP.
Advantages of VOIP
It is digital and offer features and services that are not available with a traditional phone. One need not maintain and pay the additional cost for a phone line. Talk for maximum time period with much reduced cost. Talk with many people at the same time without any additional cost. Call center agents using VoIP phones can easily work from anywhere with a good Internet
Disadvantages of VOIP
Some VOIP services don't work during power outages and the service provider may not offer backup power. Not all VOIP services connect directly to emergency services through 9-1-1. VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance/white page listings. Another issue associated with VOIP is having a phone system dependant on individual PCs of varying specifications and power. A call can be affected by processor drain. VOIP is susceptible to worms, viruses and hacking The nature of IP makes it difficult to geographically locate network users. Emergency calls, therefore, cannot easily be routed to a nearby call center, and are impossible on some VOIP systems
Windows over Web
Windows over Web (WOW) or the thin client technology brings to the front, a new approach to program and application development. The technology is known as "thin client" technology as it reduces the software resources and computer hardware needed at each individual desktop.
WOW technology greatly helps remote agents and home based support centers. With secure applications, employees can work from remote offices and from the convenience of their homes using the same applications that are running in the office. Thin client technology helps enterprises:
Reduce costs Increase security Achieve quick deployment Improve manageability
Features of WOW/Thin Client Technology
Web applications can be developed without a browser Traditional programming techniques can be used with thin client software Server based computing toolkit for defining PC Windows Server applications written in C, Cobol, or other compile language WOW Software can communicate with one or more server applications Separate windows client running on each user PC. Thin client software does not need to be updated when server application changes Server based computing API set of functions to control the display of Windows Thin client software functions with Linux windows software Thin client software functions with Unix windows software Full graphics and multi-media support
CALL CENTER MANAGEMENT Call center management is an increasingly important skill as the use of call centers
becomes a popular method of centralizing information services, streamlining order taking and proving valuable customer support. These skills require managing everything from staff recruitment and personnel management to technical understanding and other important customer relationship management. As call centers become more complex, the importance of "having the right staff and supporting resources in the right places at the right times" becomes ever more crucial to success. Several steps have been taken in order to improve the performance of any call center.
There is several software’s made in order to improve performance in a call center:
Workforce Management Software: Workforce management software automates
scheduling in the contact center by evaluating call volume patterns, setting employee shifts and tracking customer service reps' performance. Call Center Management Software: It is software designed to improve understanding and addressing all key issues of a call center. It provides an outstanding framework for the management.
Benefits of Call Center Management
Improve planning Enhance performance Streamline Tasks Integrate data
Quality Standards at Contact Centers
Certification is a useful way to advance the contact center career or evaluate how a particular center stacks up against its peers. There are several certifications applicable to the BPO / Contact Centre world. Here it is divided into two broad categories: Individual (for employee) and Organizational (for employer) Certifications.
Organizational Certifications 1. ISO 9000:
International Stands Organization (ISO) 9000 series, a European standard, is an international set of documents on quality assurance, written by members of a worldwide delegation known as the ISO/Technical Committee 176. The ISO 9000 series consists of five documents; three core quality system documents, that are models of quality assurance, namely ISO 9001 - model for quality assurance in design / development, production, installation and servicing; ISO 9002 - model for quality production and installation; ISO 9003 - model for quality assurance in final inspection and test; and two supporting guidelines documents, namely ISO 9000 and ISO 9004.
2. COPC 2000:
It stands for Customer Operations Performance Centre. The COPC-2000® Standard was written in 1995 by a core group of users of contact center services and associated distribution fulfillment operations, including representatives from American Express, Dell Computer Corp., Microsoft, Novell, L.L.Bean. COPC is the world's leading authority on customer contact centre operations. COPC is used to improve customer service. In India it can cost anywhere from Rs 20 to Rs 25 lakhs [about $50,000] and about a year to get the COPC certification. The adoption rate for COPC is much faster in India than other countries, which is a very good sign. The (COPCSM) mission is to develop and drive initiatives that support superior performance in customer-touch intensive environments, as measured by the criteria of customer service, customer satisfaction, and operation efficiency. These initiatives are developed and implemented in collaborative, consortium environment, which includes practitioners from both external and
internal Customer Service Providers (CSPs), Outsourcers, industry suppliers, and other industry experts. Today, COPC audits organizations for compliance to the COPC2000® Standard; conducts benchmark reviews of contact centers and fulfillment centers, using the Standard as the organizing methodology for the data collected during the course of the review; consults with contact centers and fulfillment centers on operational performance improvement; consults with purchasers of contact center and fulfillment services on strategic alternatives for outsourcing, including how best to select and manage suppliers; provides industry-wide forums, such as conferences, workshops, and facilitated user groups, to foster an atmosphere supportive of high levels of customer service.
3. eSCM: (e Services Capability Model)
It is the World's first capacity model to cater the unique requirements of ITES / BPO services. The model focuses on assisting customers to measure the capability of service providers on assisting customers to measure the capability of service providers to establish and manage continually improving outsourcing relationships. It initiates and guides service providers through the process of continuous improvement by specifying practices to be implemented and institutionalized. It aims to become the preferred resource for best practices and appraisal of BPO capabilities. The eSCM will assess the capabilities of service providers to service customers in the IT enabled BPO business sector.
4. BS7799 / BS 7799 Security Standard:
BS7799 is the most widely recognized security standard in the world. Although it was originally published in the mid-nineties, it was the re-vision of May 1999, which really put it on to the world stage, Ultimately, it evolved into BS EN 15017799 in December 2000. BS 7799 (ISO 17799) is comprehensive in its coverage of security issues, containing a significant number of control requirements. Compliance with it is consequently a far from trivial task, even for the most security conscious of organizations. This web site is intended to help address this issue. It will introduce the main sections of the standard, as well as a number of methods and resources to help you tackle it more efficiency. Achieving compliance with BS 7799 is a substantial task. Assessing compliance levels for information systems, and then creating / implementing the necessary plans to become fully
complaint, can by a very intensive process indeed. However, with the correct approach and method this effort can be minimized.
It stands for People Capability Maturity Model. This provides guidance for organizations in crucial areas such as attracting, developing, motivating, deploying and training the talent needed to steadily improve the organization's software development capability.
6. Support Center Practices (SCP) Certification:
This program was designed to address issues that affect the rapidly growing technology support industry. SCP Certification quantifies the effectiveness of customer support based upon a stringent set of performance standards and represents best practices in the industry.
7. Six Sigma:
Six Sigma is a methodology that provides business with the tools to improve the capability of their business processes. This increase in performance and decrease in process variation leads to defect reduction and vast improvement in profits, employee morale and quality of product. Six Sigma is a rigorous and a systematic mythology that utilizes information (management by facts) and statistical analysis to measure and improve a company's operational performance, practice and systems by identifying and preventing 'defects' in manufacturing and service related processes in order to anticipate and exceed expectations of all stakeholders to accomplish effectiveness.
8. Help Desk Institute: (HDI)
It is the world's largest membership association for the service and support industry. Founded in 1989, HDI's mission is to lead and promote the customer service and technical support industry by empowering its members through access to timely and valuable industry information, including reports and publications; encouraging member collaboration through events and online forums; and establishing internationally recognized, standards-based industry certification and training programs.
Performance Appraisal Of Employees
Performance measurements are usually tied to expectations and standards. There are about as many different sets of performance measurements and standards as there are contact centers. There are three different types commonly used in assessing individual performance -- calls per hour, adherence and qualitative measurements. Calls per hour have been an almost universal productivity measurement. Adherence factor, or signed-on time, is a measurement of how much time an individual is available to handle calls versus the time he or she was scheduled to handle calls. Qualitative criteria, focuses on knowledge of products and services, customer service. As part of the recruitment process for the post of contact attendants or agents, many contact centers are now shifting to stricter and tough tests. It means that now contact centers assess the employees be various tests. Some of such tests are given below: Name of Test Listening and keyboard skills Verbal Ability Spoken English Competencies assessed Accent understanding, listening, keyboard skills Grammar, sentence construction Voice clarity, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, sentence construction, accent, situation comprehension Comprehension and Writing Ability Office Software Usage Numerical and Analytical Concentration and accuracy MS Office tools, browsing Numerical ability, logical reasoning, comprehension Process adherence, attention for detail Message clarity, comprehension
CHALLENGES BEFORE INDIAN CALL CENTERS The major challenges faced by the Indian call center industry are:
Market Maturity: India is one of the longest-serving markets for offshore contact
center services. Because of this, western investors are aware of its capabilities, and many have already established operations there. Thus, the relatively slow growth is reflective of India’s mature positioning on the offshore product life cycle.
Increased Competition: Philippines, South Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and
North Africa are continuously making efforts to increase the market value of their call center industry.
HR Issues: The call center industry currently employs more than 171,000 professionals
compared to a 25,000 in 1999. However, India is running out of the supply of good quality managerial talent.
Infrastructure: Most cities still face power outages and water shortages, and are
heavily dependent on backup supplies.
Increasing Labour Costs: Overall salary levels have gone up by 20-25% in the last 12-18 months in major Contact Centre clusters across India.
Margins under Pressure: With increasing competition and subsequent price dips,
the margins these companies have come under tremendous pressure.
Attrition: Indian BPO attrition rates are far too high, with levels over 50% p.a. This
inevitably impacts service levels and impedes ongoing improvements.
Security: Although India compares well with competing destinations on the security
matrix, awareness about security issues is still low. Data security is an important issue and needs to be tackled on multiple fronts - regulation (to keep out unscrupulous players who spoil the fair name of India), robust processes, systems, and training.
Health Concerns: One has to sacrifice social life, time and health. The odd working
hours is a major issue. As health problems, arising from tampering with the biological clock of the employees, become more pronounced the lure of BPO and IT-enabled services will go away.
Necessity Bilingualism: Apart from English, most Indian contact centers are unable
to service other languages like Spanish, French, Mandarin and Cantonese.
ISSUES IN CALL-CENTER INDUSTRY
HUMAN ISSUES IN CALL-CENTER INDUSTRY Stress
For many employed in the call center sector, "the daily experience is of repetitive, intensive and stressful work, which frequently results in employee "burnout". Brown, more vividly, characterizes the work as "repetitive brain strain". These descriptions are hardly surprising, in a way, given that call centers are established by organizations to "create an environment in which work can be standardized to create relatively uniform and repetitious activities so as to achieve economies of scale and consistent quality of customer service". This means, in other words, that workplaces are organized in ways that weaken employee autonomy and enhance the potential for management control, and "a loss of control is generally understood to be an important indicator of work-related stress".
There is almost universal consensus that call center work is stressful. Even in studies that report the observation that some staff actually enjoys their work, mention of stress is still the norm, and a significant portion of the call center literature is devoted to detailing the sources of stress in call center work.
Four Key stressors 1. 'Can we get off the phone for a while?'
The primary source of stress reported is inherent to the nature of the job: spending all day on the phone dealing with people one after another, day after day, is difficult. Doing it under constant pressure to keep call volumes up, with no time between calls to "recover from an awkward call or from 'customer rejection'" is even more difficult. And doing it with "very little authority or autonomy to rectify problems" that arise is perhaps the most difficult of all. Many studies report agents as wanting to 'just get off the phones'. For example, Belt and colleagues note "agents in all three sectors [financial services, IT, and third-party services] spoke of the phenomenon of 'burnout', caused by the pressure of working exclusively 'on the phones'". Managers face an inherent conflict between the need to reduce staff boredom and labor turnover, and the pressure to concentrate staff energies on telephone based work. The question of how call center employees deal with stress is an important one, particularly in view of evidence that a build-up of stress leads to illness, absenteeism and turnover. Tricks to circumvent control mechanisms, such as those discussed above are sometimes mentioned as attempts at stress reduction, although they are unreliable in this role as they may also increase stress. Others mention social interaction squeezed into brief moments agents using humorous (or rude) gestures towards the phone, or making faces at colleagues to defuse stress over angry or abusive callers, and making jokes to combat the tedium of the day. a similarly social approach to reducing tension in one of the sites they observed, where staff often laughed and joked with one another in intervals between calls, with management's approval. More formally, some call centers include stress management as a component in training programs, and many have, or
claim to have, team de-briefings which permit staff to vent frustrations while discussing difficult calls or dissatisfactions with elements of work. It is noted that although much organizational analysis and most of the call center literature tends to conceptualize stress as an individual problem, it is actually located within "a framework that emphasizes the interrelationships between structural relations of power and the subjective interpretations and actions of employees". This more nuance positioning may provide more insight into call center conditions, as it allows a researcher to consider the response of employees "forced to interpret the often contradictory demands management place upon them" including "contradictions…over service quality versus the quantity of work output". "Clearly," these authors write, "staff face some fundamental contradictions over unity versus conflict, uncertainty versus certainty, quality versus quantity and these are at the heart of the reproduction of stress, resistance and control". This focus on the "contradictory" nature of demands strikes at the heart of the second inherent sources of stress in (primarily inbound) call center works: the quality/quantity conflict.
2. Quality/Quantity conflict
Typically, organizational rhetoric in inbound call centers is concerned with 'customer care', or 'keeping customers happy' (providing quality service), yet these goals are juxtapose with an ongoing pressure to keep call times down and call volumes up. Call centers are rooted in contradictory tensions and structural paradoxes, and confront a number of trades-offs on that basis. These set a context for attitudes towards the organization and can impose conflicting role requirements on agents. A core example is that of the pressure for quantity versus the aspiration for quality, the guiding logic of which is the conundrum of trying to get closer to the customer while reutilizing, centralizing, reducing costs and prescribing standards.
It is not completely straightforward, it is important to note. Part of providing quality service from a management perspective is making sure customers do not wait too long for their calls to be answered, even though the push to keep queue waiting times short is typically categorized as part of the pressure towards quantity. An effort to attain what is perceived to be the desired balance between the quantity and the quality of calls presents a perennial challenge. The practice of ongoing work practice modification and target revision as management swings from one side to another of the quality/quantity debate is a major source of stress for call center agents. The practice of putting a 'drive' on particular targets for improvement (for example, the collection of renewal dates, the up-selling or cross-selling of products, the quality of data input, or the intensity of sales push) and continual reprioritization means that the 'goalposts' are constantly shifting. Virtually all of the call center authors who write about work conditions mention the difficulty of dealing with these competing goals. The dilemma is particularly difficult for front-line workers because they may be likely "to identify with embodied individual customers, for interactions with specific customers may be an important arena for meaning and satisfaction within the work". They contrast this customer-as-individual orientation to the managerial goal of balancing customer orientation with efficiency, which they suggest leads management to prefer workers to identify with a generic category, 'the customer', since "such a disembodied image of the customer will encourage workers to deal with individual customers efficiently because they will be conscious of the concerns of other customers waiting in a queue". 3. Intensity The third central stressor in call center work is its intensity. far from being either in terminal decline or on the wane, with a range of other control mechanisms-is not only alive, well and deeply embedded in the call center labour process, but its malevolent influence appears to be spreading to previously uncharted territory". There is widespread consensus that "call centers are a new, and particularly effective, manifestation of the increasingly capital intensive 'industrialization' of service sector work, and work performed in them is highly intensive and routine".
It's almost like the army. It's much regimented. You punch in with a time clock. You come in and you sit down, and the numbers are all computerized. As soon as you finish a call, the minute you hang up another call comes up just this constant, all day, repetitious…constant sort of like beating on a drum, but day after day. The pace of work is determined by the combination of technologies that deliver calls to the headset and account details to the screen, and workers often have no control over this process. Descriptions such as "exhausting," "robotic," "controlled," and agents discussing the nature of their work often use "machine-like the idea of controlled, machine-like agents by suggesting that this is in fact exactly the way that the organization conceives of them: Call centers are information handling organizations. As currently characterized, the job of the agent is to be the voice of the organization, interfacing with the client or customer. The organization rehearses the things it wants said and feeds them through the agent. The agent is largely constructed as a mouthpiece rather than as a brain.
A call-center worker who articulated her feelings about the organization's expectations of its agents in very similar terms: Rosa: You are standing waiting to be used by the technology, and it's a physical embodiment of that. You are standing, waiting until that call comes in to use you to make money. And you are simply another part of that machine.
When this feeling of being a cog in a machine which never stops as it grinds on, repeating the same actions over and over again, is combined with "the cumulative emotional demands presented by the interpersonal nature of the work", stress is inevitable.
4. Targets There is a fourth feature of some call center work that may engender stress: performance targets. There are various types of targets, which may vary between inbound and outbound centers. Inbound centers typically have targets for call duration, 'wrap time', and daily call
volume. Outbound centers often also have sales or 'completion' targets, which are closely monitored and upon which pay may be partially based. In addition, in some sectors, inbound call centers are attempting to introduce the practice of cross selling, where agents attempt to sell additional products to the customers who call in for another purpose. In these centers, sales targets similar to those in outbound centers are often in place.
Particularly in the financial services industry in the UK, targets are a significant source of stress for workers as more and more importance is placed upon meeting them in an increasingly competitive business environment. Sales targets, in particular, are difficult to accept, or meet, for staff who often consider themselves as service personnel, particularly when they are set centrally and implemented locally: "Cross-selling is seen by employees, not as an opportunity to engage in creative work, but as an additional and acute source of pressure". This is especially the case when sales targets are parachuted in on top of service targets set originally when there was no pressure to produce sales.
Even in centers that claim not to prioritize targets, researchers have found that staff often feels significant pressure. Targets simply intensify the stress produced by the quantity/quality debate, or, as one agent is quoted as saying, "They say that they're not really interested in numbers. They say that they are more into quality. Well, that's a lie. They're usually more into numbers than anything". It is important not to over generalize however. While most call centers do have some targets, they are a source of stress that is directly under management control. Some call centers are managed in such a way that targets are set to realistically reflect local conditions, are interpreted in light of other, more subjective information, and are not used punitively or to intensify work. In some they are even used effectively to motivate and encourage staff. For example, a series of conversations with managers in their call center site where management consistently conceptualized their performance reports (for example, one commented that it's 'human nature' for productivity to drop before and after a holiday), and used their stats as an excuse to praise good performance and coach those who consistently had difficulty meeting targets: "Our best bet is to develop the people we have got" one manager is quoted as saying.
Other Health issues…
The result of intense, stressful work may be an effect on workers' health. There are often high rates of absenteeism and sick leave reported in the literature, although there is relatively little exploration of these issues, particularly when compared to turnover. Most often, authors provide a brief list of known health issues. For example, Richardson, Belt and Marshall write that "Health concerns have been expressed, including tension, sleeplessness, headaches, eye-strain, repetitive strain injury (RSI), voice loss, hearing problems and burn-out", but they do not develop the point. More detailed descriptions of the causes and effects of these ailments can be found in industry and trades union reports. For example, the Trades Union Council (TUC) in its brochure targeted at call center workers, cites the main illnesses to which call center staff are prone: "back strain and RSI, stress, eyestrain, and voice and hearing loss".
Also in the UK, regulators have been proactive in their examination of the industry, with the Health and Safety Executive issuing a bulletin on call center regulations, health risks and best practices in December 2001. They looked specifically at health issues including stress, noise levels, musculoskeletal disorders (such as back problems) and voice loss, and also at display screen issues, working environments, requirements for work stations, daily work routines, training, organizational working practices and shifts.
No prizes for guessing the most severe ailment afflicting people working in Indian call centers. Since this is a unique Indian problem, again, no solution appears in sight. Obviously this affects first timers more severely, as they take time to acclimatize their biological clocks, but even experienced people or managers are not able to completely escape from it. Some call centers are looking at devising innovative mechanisms like flexible shifts with sleeping arrangements in the office premises as possible solutions.
Digestive System Related Disorders
Working long and odd hours without any sleep, and eating food supplied by external caterers every day, has led to 41.9% of the respondents suffering from digestive problems. Especially for
the large number of girls working in the industry, the problem is even more severe. Many call centers are now taking additional care to ensure their caterers supply hygienic food; besides stipulating strict conditions to maintain the quality of the food they serve.
In last year's survey, this was not among the top disorders, but this year it has climbed up the chart, affecting nearly one-fourth of the respondents. Not surprising, since, as the industry matures, the initial glitz and glamour wears away and the real problems come to the fore. Not only are there several health related issues, but, on top of that, the gradual realization that there is limited scope in developing a career owing to fewer growth opportunities is increasing the frustration levels. Coupled with growing mental fatigue and increasingly punishing physical environments, depression is the obvious end result. Some call centers have now devised different stress management programs mainly to counter depression.
Severe Stomach Related Problems
continuing digestive problems lead to severe stomach disorders like gastroenteritis, as endorsed by more than 24% of the respondents. Even doctors in major cities agree-in recent times many of the patients with various stomach ailments are from call centers.
Globally call center industry employees are considered a high-risk group for eye-related problems. While the quality of monitors might impact these disorders, sitting continually without adequate breaks seems to be the truer reason. The number of people affected seems to be on the rise-last year only 19% complained; this year it has gone up to 23%. At some point of time, this problem might also afflict the IT services industry, but for the call center industry, no remedy seems to be in sight.
More than 16% of the respondents inform that they have hearing problems. Again, no surprises here, since a call center job involves taking calls throughout the shift, sitting with headphones.
While quality of headphones does make a difference, it would not be correct to completely wish the problem away by thinking that changing headphones will solve it.
Some other Human Issues, in Call-Centers, which need Immediate Attention Personal habits
The young executives are getting more than five figure salaries per month in an early age. They tend to develop certain bad habits such as alcohol, smoking etc. It is not easy to identify such individuals. It is also very sensitive to talk to them. The professional counselors can conduct group-counseling, workshops, educative film shows in order to create awareness on effects of bad habits. Such actions will enable individuals to realize the importance of good habits and they could seek one to one counseling sessions to solve their problems.
Discipline and behavioral issues
Call centers provide excellent working environment, free food and transportation. There is always a situation where individual or group of youngsters tend to commit mistakes and abuse the freedom. They start behaving like in college campus where they have more freedom. However, the call center executives have more responsibility and accountability, they need to follow discipline and do well in the job. The most common behavior is misuse of food, behave erratically in vans, and smoke in public places, misuse of telephones and other resources of the company. The supervisors always concentrate on performance and achieving targets. They do not have time or interest to go deep into these matters and find out the reasons for such behavior. The professional counselor can play a major role in educating the youngsters on discipline; provide advice to erring executives. The counselors with their wisdom and experience can tackle such issues tactfully and bring change within the individuals.
As said earlier, to majority of them this is the first employment and they are fresh out of the colleges. Few tend to behave differently and they have the "do not care" attitude. Such executives will not take their job seriously, they indulge in teasing, and joking, talking over
mobile phones, have friction within the team. These aspects may go noticed or unnoticed by the supervisors.
The fact remains that such unacceptable behaviors will cause disturbance to others and overall it affects the productivity. Sleeping while on duty, reading novels and playing games on the computer during working hours brings down productivity and quality suffers. The HR representatives and professional counselors jointly have a role to bring behavioral change starting from the training days. Continuous education and Counseling will help to mitigate such problems and it is possible to prevent serious problems.
Inter-personal relationship and friendship
Executives develop friendship quickly and sometime the friendship breaks and there will be misunderstanding among the team members and naturally affects the team performance. The supervisors and counselors can play a major role to sort out the interpersonal relationship and develop team spirit. Healthy relationship among the team members has always helped the team to outperform. When the relationship fails the individuals will also break down mentally. They either absent for duties or fall ill or the performance will come down. It is also true that due to misunderstanding and break in friendship they change jobs quickly.
Love affair and marriages
Few of the boys and girls fall in love quickly. They maintain the healthy relationship, behave in a matured manner, plan the future course of action and such persons have got married with the consent of their parents. They work together in the same organization for longer duration. There are instances, where lovers fall apart, start disliking, creating troubles to each other and vitiating the atmosphere. They are immature, take instant decisions to break or unite and sometimes go to an extent of damaging others reputation. The professional counselors can play an important role in explaining the importance of marriage, preparation required for marriage, how to enter the institution of marriage, which is acceptable to both parents and society and about the new role and responsibility after getting married. Counseling services can definitely give emotional support to individuals.
Absenteeism is very high in calls centers. Employees tend to be very irregular to the duty due to various reasons. The professional counseling services to such irregular employees on one to one basis will help to bring down the absenteeism. The counselor can educate and explain the importance of attending duties to earn the salary and also to meet the organizational goals. Each individual are unique and the problem they face are also different in nature. Only the professional counselors can understand, analyze and provide long lasting solutions for the individuals.
Higher education and part time jobs
It is possible to do higher education while working in BPO units. Few organizations encourage and offer support services to pursue higher education. However, the time management by the executives is crucial to go forward in education as well as to maintain the performance and career growth. Programmes on time management, tips to study, tips to keep fit and such other programmes can be offered. These steps would help to seek the loyalty of employees to the organizations and helps greatly for the retention of employees.
Organizations do not grant permission to pursue part time jobs while working in BPO units. In order to make quick money and to have options open to change the jobs in future will drive the employees to do part time work. Human body does not permit to stretch beyond one's capacity. The executives need to take sufficient rest in the daytime so that energy levels are maintained. Either due to lack of experience or due to compulsions, the executives keep their one foot in call center and another in part time jobs. In the long run this would affect individual’s health. The HR executives must identify such persons and offer professional Counseling services to them.
Remedial Measures for Stress Management
Understanding that the "Stress" is a major concern for all Call-Center Employees, it is a duty of HR-heads of Call-Centers to address it properly. Some of the common signs and symptoms of stress although we all experience stress in different ways, there are certain signs that are most frequently reported. These signs fall into two major categories; physical/behavioral signs and emotional signs. If we become aware of our own stress symptoms, we will be more effective in
dealing with them sooner rather than later. What follows is a list of some of the most experienced symptoms of stress. The physical/behavioral symptoms include; muscular tension, muscle spasms and tics, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, backaches, headaches and neck aches, stomach problems, indigestion, irritable bowel and ulcers, feeling fatigued, irritable, decreased ability to concentrate, insomnia and changes in eating behavior. Since these physical symptoms may be related to physical problems, you should consult with your medical doctor before you assume that your symptoms are purely stress-related.
The emotional symptoms include; anxiety in a variety of situations not limited to the stressful situation, depression, hopelessness and a strong urge to cry without specific incident, withdrawal from social interactions and avoidance of previously enjoyed activities, powerlessness and decreased self esteem, hostility, anger and resentment, fears, phobias and unwanted thoughts. Learning to become more aware of your own stress symptoms is the first major step in the stress management and healing process. It is often helpful to monitor your daily symptoms in a stress diary where you match the stressful events with the symptom experienced. For example; you made find that if you are stuck in early morning traffic you may experience irritability and headaches. In this case it will be important to use these symptoms as a cue that you have to begin managing that stress more effectively when it happens.
MAJOR CALL CENTER IN MUMBAI
In West India, states of Maharashtra and Gujarat lead in call center operations. Mumbai - the capital of Maharashtra is a favorite destination of BPO providers. It has also been rated as lowest risk location because of good communication and infrastructure facilities. Government of Gujarat too is making all efforts to lure call center companies. The state has implemented lucrative business policies and provides BPOs with necessary infrastructure support.
Call center in Mumbai Daksh Daksh eService Private Limited
5th floor Magnus Towers Mindspace, Link Road Malad (W) Mumbai 400 064 Tel: +91 22 56775677 Fax: +91 22 56771301 Website : www.daksh.com
Epicenter Epicenter Technologies Pvt. Ltd. Sigma
11th Floor, Hirandanani Gardens, Powai, Mumbai - 76 Ph. : + 91 22 5694 8848 Website : www.epicentertechnology.com
E Serve International e-Serve International Ltd.
Plot No 223, Nesco Compound, Off Western Express Highway, Goregaon East, Mumbai - 400063, India Tel: +91 22 26855203 website : www.eservenet.com
Intelenet Intelenet Global Services Ltd.
Address: Intelenet Towers Plot CST No. 1406 - A28, Mindspace, Malad West Mumbai 400064 INDIA Tel: +91-22-56776000
Fax: +91-22-56778210 Website : - www.intelenetglobal.com
Tarang Infotech Pvt. Ltd. Providing consultancy services for ISP, BPO and call centres. Also providing video conferencing services, complete telecom solutions, point-to-point leased lines, point-to-multi point leased lines, internet connectivity and other tele com solutions.
Address: Shree Mahavir Chambers, 2nd Flroor, 1/5, Banaji Street, Fort, Fountain, Mumbai - 400 001, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-22046711 Fax: +(91)-(22)-22046711 Website: www.indiamart.com/tarang-infotech
Triace Computer Solutoins, Mumbai Providing service of call center.
Address: T6/1201, Sea Breeze Chs, Palm Beach Road, Navi Mumbai - 400 706, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-33943649
Lifezone Training Providing services in customer care and call center trainers.
Address: 109 Mahavir Industrial Estate, Mahakali Caves Road, Near Paper Box, andheri (East), Mumbai - 400 093, India Phone: +(91)-(98)-20196299 Fax: +(91)-(22)-56921181
Respondez Provide services as call centre.
Address: B/22, Krishna Bhavan, Deonar, Chembur, Mumbai - 400 088, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-55958100/ Fax: +(91)-(22)-55958105/
Rushabh Direct Marketing Services providing related to call centre, telemarketing, back office work, database marketing and advertising.
Address: 101 Rajashree Shopping Centre 1st Floor Mira Road, Mumbai - 401 107, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-56905400/56905730 Fax: +(91)-(22)-28552951
Ramshyam Communications Limited Providing e mail based call center services.
Address: 210, Mahavir Indl. Estate, Off Mahakali Caves Road Andheri East Near Paper Box, Mumbai - 400 093, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-56938801 Fax: +(91)-(22)-56950498
Sitel India Private Limited Providing call centre services.
Address: 238/6192, Mig, Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar (E), Mumbai - 400 075, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-25162039
Cybosys Consulting Providng serviceslike call centre set up, call centre operations outbound and inbound calls help desk business procurement.
Address: D-106, Crystal Plaza. Andheri Link Road Andheri (West), Mumbai - 400 053, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-55021750 Fax: +(91)-(22)-55021749
Senseit Technologies Private Limited Providing all bpo projects services.
Address: 4001, Oberai Garden Estate, Chandiwali Farms Road, Mumbai - 400 059, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-56943095
Orasi Technology India Private Limited Providing services for call centre.
Address: 467/ A , Tibra House, J.S.S. Road, Chira Bazar, Mumbai - 400 002, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-22093149
Sceptre Solutions (P) Limited Providing call centre services.
Address: D-106, Crystal Plaza Link Road, Andheri (west), Mumbai - 400 053, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-55021750 Fax: +(91)-(22)-55021749
Indus Markfin Private Limited Providing services as telecaller for customer loyalty programs and other customer services.
Address: Office No. 2, Washington Plaza, off S.V. Road Goregaon (West), Mumbai - 400 062, India Phone: +(91)-(22)-56423000
Amita Enterprise Providing BPO services i.e. take whole contract of import & export activities including banking, ECGC, EEPC, Licencing of any sorts etc.
Address: 302/B-5, Asmita Mogra Hsg Soc., 3rd Floor Mahakali, Andheri (East), Mumbai - 400 093, India Phone: + (91)-(22)-28382289 Fax: +(91)-(22)-28390822
Snehal Overseas Providing services of call center.
Address: 101, Modern Business Centre, Kanjur Station Road, Kanjur Marg, Mumbai - 400 078, India Phone: + (91)-(22)-25941716 Fax: + (91)-(22)-25911716