Technology has been historically used in call centers to incrementally enhance offerings, expand footprints, and operate more efficiently over time. The realization of the benefits technology provided to call centers has usually depended on at least three things. First, the business must have embraced technology by deeply connecting its operations and portfolio of offerings to the relevant technical options available. Second, the technology implemented needed to be implemented and governed in an optimal and organized manner. And third, the implementation needed to achieve specific goals, benefiting meaningful business requirements.
As the pace of options for further advancement in call center technology increases, one fundamental enhancement stands out as the next increment in significantly making an evolutionary step forward in call center value. This enhancement is available to early adopters of innovation today, but is not intuitive, off-the-shelf or trivial to implement. The realization of its full potential at this stage will require the same discipline of deep embracement, efficient implementation and application of meaningful business goals.
The innovation mentioned above shall be referenced as automation. However, this term doesn’t do the full concept justice, so further explanation of the concept is required, with a simple example to start. Think of the evolution of mobile computing from pre-iPhone mobile devices to the wonderful devices of the current day. Remember those awful PDA’s that only “techies” carried around, which required CAB files to be transferred in archaic ways, installed manually, deleted and cleaned up, and upgrades required intimate knowledge of the hardware? Thankfully, those days are long gone, but consider what has changed.
Various dimensions of automation and abstraction have enhanced our experience such that software is no longer a complex set of bits requiring intimate technical knowledge to install, maintain and use. Instead, we now think of software as “Apps”, which are fundamentally evolved and abstract bits of software delivering valuable functionality. But you don’t think about an App the way we used to have to think about device software. Apps just appear when requested, they perform their duty, and all the complexity from before is abstracted away. The movement from painful details to abstraction is a path of increasing automation.
“Various dimensions of automation and abstraction have enhanced our experience such that software is no longer a complex set of bits requiring intimate technical knowledge to install, maintain and use”
Consider the myriad of innovations that took place to evolve device software from awful complexity to Apps that act like appliances. The components of said evolution included elastic cloud compatibility, continuous integration, deployment scripting, upgrade intelligence, robust quality processes, comprehensive version control, broad monitoring, data analytics, hardware abstraction and technology architectures that encompass a complete view of the entire technology life-cycle. Similarly, call center technology and operations can embrace the same attributes to yield a meaningful step forward in automation.
Unfortunately, the robust and multi-dimensional automation referred to above won’t come from Google Play or the Apple App Store. Call center automation involves a deep commitment from across the organization and the IT expertise to implement processes, software as well as the adoption of true cloud computing in order to fully benefit from the value that can be derived from the evolution of abstraction.
A deeper view of the characteristics of call center automation include:
• Elastic Cloud Compatibility: Provisioning automation for compute resources, with a full support for cloud techniques including virtualization and optimization for telephony. This includes elastically scaling computing resources as demand increases, matching the required load while optimizing the cost of computing, networking and storage.
• Continuous Integration: Techniques and infrastructure for software (both third-party dependencies licensed as well as home grown extensions, and configurations and environments). Includes establishing separate development, QA and production environments with nightly regression testing and complete system integration each 24-hour cycle for rapid development and increase in quality.
• Deployment Scripting: Automatically moving hardened versions of applications from environment to environment. Includes failover scenarios enabling a turn-up without human hands involved in installing and setting up environments.
• Upgrade Intelligence: All system artifacts following a consistent versioning scheme including composite versioning (switches, servers, ACD, agent scripting, data bases, data warehouses, dashboards, KPIs, etc.) with automated governance.
• Robust Quality Processes: Unit-level tests, regressed nightly through continuous integration, including agent scripts, ACD software, telephony routes and trucking, etc.
• Comprehensive Version Control: Comprehensive inclusion of all software and environmental artifacts supporting telephony infrastructure, routing, agent scripting, data capture and reporting.
• Broad Monitoring: Enhanced monitoring of every system component with thresholds and alerting of events necessary for business and administrative governance.
• Data Analytics: Near real-time multi-dimensional data-mart supporting ad hoc data analytics as well as standard dashboards.
• Hardware Abstraction: Groupings of individual components into higher-level footprints. For example, a functional unit can be composed of telephony switches, web servers and databases optimized to establish a baseline scale, packages as a single, movable, deployable unit through automation control.
• Thorough High Availability: Availability failover zones with automated failover of every computing and networking resource.
• Entire Technology Life-Cycle: Finally, combining all attributes above into a single, full life-cycle, establishing how all parts move, scale and upgrade, all through automation is the key to evolving the call center of the future.
Call centers that embrace, implement and apply each automation attribute to meaningful business goals will benefit from this evolution tremendously, while those that fail to do so will find their cost structures rapidly out of line with the rest of the industry, and their ability to adapt to changing business requirements a difficult and painful process. Imagine adapting and scaling agent applications, call distribution, telephony servicing, data analytics, feature enhancements the same way you download an app from App Store or Google Play, and you’ll get a sense for where call center technology is headed next.