IP Recording in the Contact Center and Beyond

Internet Protocol telephony remains one of the hottest topics in technology and business circles today. Its reach is broad, impacting businesses of all types and sizes--small and large, domestic and international, and in vertical markets across the board. Momentum around the transition to IP telephony environments continues at a steady pace. For some, traditional Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) equipment has run its course, becoming outdated and obsolete. Others are moving from centralized to decentralized models. And some are now gaining greater efficiencies and access to a previously untapped labor pool by expanding their workforce to include work-at-home agents or remote staff. IP enables these structures and more. Couple the growing IP trend with an increasing focus by organizations at the highest levels on such topics as profitability, regulatory/compliance requirements, workforce/staffing, and a renewed commitment to the customer experience--and it's easy to understand why companies continue to prioritize call recording and quality monitoring as strategic investments and staples in their day-to-day operations. Regardless of the catalysts driving change, IP delivers a range of value and advantage. For many years, organizations looked to IP as a way to reduce costs. However, the benefits associated with the technology extend well beyond dollars and cents. Companies can now leverage the flexibility of IP recording to increase workforce productivity, impact training, support dispute resolution, improve service quality, and optimize different functional areas of the business. As companies prepare to make the move to IP and IP call recording, three common themes emerge:
  • protecting technology investments;
  • enabling remote workers; and
  • leveraging the benefits of IP recording not just in the contact center, but throughout the enterprise.
Protecting Technology Investments
In a recent InformationWeek survey, 39 percent of respondents reported that they have already installed IP, with another 33 percent planning to do so in coming months. Only 12 percent have no plans to install IP and 16 percent remain undecided--but these organizations may ultimately be forced to make the move as their telephone switches age into obsolescence, and telecom providers begin phasing out production of conventional PBX switches. In fact, the transition is already underway. Last year, telecom and networking companies shipped more IP telephony ports than conventional, circuit-based ports, according to the TEQConsult Group. Leading call-recording provider systems can operate in traditional, IP, and mixed telephony environments--that flexibility makes the systems particularly helpful to organizations that are making (or plan to make) the transition from TDM to IP. Such recording platforms help protect your investment in hardware by enabling you to migrate from one recording infrastructure to another, without the need for heavy reinvestment in costly hardware. What's more, organizations can easily add other capabilities, such as workforce management, performance management, and e-learning to gain even greater insight into--and control over--customer satisfaction, workforce efficiencies, and staff performance. Enabling the Remote Worker IP recording offers organizations new functionality and supports processes that were previously unavailable in the earlier (or more traditional) systems. According to a research study conducted by the Yankee Group, companies are implementing IP recording to effectively and efficiently place and manage remote agents. The "agent anywhere" strategy is gaining more attention among customer service organizations as it provides contact centers with new flexibility in managing their operations. Benefits include:
  • No location restrictions. A remote agent can work out of her home, in a satellite office, or on the road--all with the same level of network access as if she were in the main brick-and-mortar contact center.
  • Addition of knowledge workers. Agents located in a contact center now have access to experts outside their particular location. This is especially important if the organization needs someone with technical support skills, bilingual capabilities, or years of experience with a certain product line or offering. For example, a customer dials into the support center of her financial institution with a question. The agent knows that an employee in one of the company's branch locations can better serve this customer and handle the request in a timely and accurate manner, so the call is transferred seamlessly, and first-rate service is delivered. This is supported by the focus on first-call resolution and increasing customer loyalty.
  • Access to an untapped workforce. IP enables organizations to hire a previously underutilized labor pool--such as stay-at-home mothers wishing to work a portion of the day or disabled workers that otherwise would be unable to do so. Studies show that, overall, home-based agents have lower attrition rates, provide high productivity, and are less expensive to maintain than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Furthermore, in an IP environment, companies can record calls to gauge service levels, process efficiencies, and training needs--just as they would in their traditional centers. Remote staff have the same access to tools, information, and training as their on-site contact center counterparts.
  • Increased hours of operation. With the "agent anywhere" strategy, organizations can stay open later during the weekdays and weekends. This also enables companies to better support customer needs around the globe.
  • Improved workforce productivity. Many studies have claimed that the more flexibility employees have in their work hours and environment, the more productive they become. This is a concept that is quickly attracting attention in the contact center as well. By offering agents split shifts and flexible hours throughout the day, companies can optimize available staff during peak hours without the need to pay overtime. The new generation of agent is looking for companies that offer a high quality of life. In some cases this is more important than the level of monetary compensation. Working from home offers the ability to be available when children come home from school or the ability to take them to the doctor in the middle of the day. Companies that offer this flexibility are likely to attract a loyal workforce.
Extending Services to Include the Enterprise To date, insight gained from call recordings has been captured and shared with other parts of the business to some degree, but principally the information is used within the contact center. That is now changing--and IP recording further supports that shift. Analyzing recorded interactions is becoming essential as businesses seek to gain information that can impact customer service and the entire business--from front-office service to sales and other departments. About the Author Greg Sherry is director of marketing at Verint/Witness Systems, a global provider of workforce optimization software and services. Witness Systems is headquartered in Roswell, Ga. Greg's background includes leading business optimization and service quality initiatives at Verizon Wireless (GTE Wireless).
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