Call Processing Solutions, (Randolph, N.J. 973-361-7770, www.callprcess.com
) has, for several years, occupied a
unique niche in the call center marketplace, offering an on-site CT switch adjunct that does IVR, intelligent call routing, fax-on-demand, and the maintenance staff to tend it, while charging by the handled call. CPS s Win-NT-based, Dialogic-powered adjunct is called InfoServer, and it goes into the client call center at no capital expense. Pricing is per transaction, plus monthly maintenance fee. The company also offers all sorts of ancillary fulfillment, voice recording, and transcription services, as
well as its own on-site call center staff as a secondary circuit for overflow and disaster recovery.
The pitch is obvious: the IVR benefit of automating as much as 40% of inbound calls, protection against obsolescence and employee turnover, the assurance of upgrades as new technologies emerge, freedom from constant retraining, freedom from the competing priorities of in-house MIS departments, and the disaster-backup of a mirrored application located at CPS.
For year 2000, CPS pitch and business
model is the same, but expanded to embrace the twin 800-pound gorillas of call center trends: Internet-browser-based contact and customer relationship management (CRM). We paid a call to Dan Ferrara, CPS President, in his airy suburban headquarters to see what these trends mean in practice.
Ferrara is an upbeat CEO, fresh off a major capital infusion ($2 million from TDH Capital Corporation, Rosemont, PA, and Early Stage Enterprises, of Princeton, NJ) and the announcement of some new glamour accounts
($2 Million from Uniden, Fort Worth, TX.) He was happy to show me whats new and whats been leveraged for the web in InfoServer, v.2.
The white board in his office showed a Front Office InfoServer PC holding the IVR. People call into the application thats put onto the IVR. After we query the customer to find out what hes looking for, be it dealer-locator information, shipping or payment status, account-retrieval questions, and the like, it goes through a TCP/IP
connection to the Back Office piece of the InfoServer. (In most installations, Front and Back Office are two rackmounted boxes in the same CPE cabinet.)
The Back Office server finds the information appropriate for the customer whether this is resident in the machine or available from client databases, elsewhere on the LAN and tells the Front Office (armed with Dialogic voice boards) which voice files to speak. We can look up information on the LAN, on the host computer Back
office manages all of that. The Back office has a TCP/IP socket just for the LAN, and an IP socket for the Internet, says Ferrara.
When the Internet came around, it made it very easy for us to replicate this query on a web page, where we control the URL. The web page sends the same query to the Back Office, but through the IP socket. It goes through the same logic and same handling. The Back Office determines what information the customer should get, and sends it through the IP connection to the
web page. Queries from client sites seamlessly link to similar-looking pages on CPSs own web server.
The same thing is true for the agents. Since weve developed a set of applications to get the information out, we create a pop-up browser for the agent for the same applications. It goes through a TCP/IP connection a LAN connection that uses the same logic and data handling as the Back Office. We send it to the agents desktop. With the set of apps that were
supporting, whether it goes through agent, IVR or web page, its all being managed in a unified way. That allows us to more completely manage the transaction data that results from these customer interactions. And because it is complete, we can report it to the VP of marketing and show it to him on an application on his desktop.
Lets say a manufacturer makes aspirin, Ferrara continues. All of a sudden a large number of calls come in to report that customers cant open the
bottle. As the agent talks through a script, he asks for the SKU number of that aspirin bottle. It turns out that 90% of these bottles are traceable to a specific machine in a specific plant in Chicago. Now we know that this machine needs to be recalibrated. CPS is currently looking to upgrade the data mining aspects by integrating third-party tools.
In a typical call center, the IVR may be a Conversant IVR; the software on the desktop may be separate. The MIS department may have created something
or used third-party software. The people doing the website are off doing their own thing, handling data in their own way. Here, one party creates both pieces, we provide a way to collect all that information in a unified way, and we become their staff on demand.
Each account team, Ferrara says, includes software engineer, system engineer, and data engineer. Bonuses are tied to annual client satisfaction surveys, says Ferrara, giving his staff an on-going material stake in his clients
Since its a short logical hop from parts-and-availability queries to purchases, outsourced e-commerce is the next thing on CPSs plate, says Ferrara, hoping for 1Q 2000 roll-out, built around I-CAT and Microsoft Merchant. Theyre also working on offering video streaming.
If were doing operational support on an account, with our emphasis on customer self-service, it makes sense for us to create video solution libraries, so that instead of spending ten or fifteen dollars
with an agent walking a person through something, browsers can click on the video solution and see how to do it. Tech support is the natural app here. Theres a verbal agreement with a health-care company, Ferrara says, but no installed video customers yet.
For now, he browsed over to the website of Hunter Fans. As soon as we clicked on the dealer locator link, we were in CPSs web server. It looks just like everything else [on Hunter Fans website], Ferrara
explains, but this is all our logic. And it runs on CPS server. We entered a zip code, clicked, and got back a list of nearby dealers and offers to map their locations. He explained that CPS keeps a database for Hunter one for both web server and IVR. Logic built into the system assures that each dealer always receives fair promotion. They operate the same kind of service for Samsung and Electrolux.
Call center application changes are all made by CPSs staff. We use our
own app gen. Theres no fancy GUI, but we dont have to worry about end-product appearance and we lose nothing in performance. CRM reports are in Crystal Reports, and the database is Microsoft SQL 7.0.