Example 1: Handling increasing numbers of customer requests

The Software Company is planning to release a long-awaited update to its best-selling accounting application: The Virtual BookCook. As a result, the company expects a large increase of interest from customers:

Preparing for the expected

The Software Company's main challenge is to handle peaks in customer demand, without setting up a complicated and expensive customer contact system that is often idle outside those peak periods. It also needs to address the problem that the peak periods include several different kinds of customer queries.

The company can deal with the problems piece by piece, by automatically filtering the demand. Figure 1 shows how everything fits together.

Figure 1. The Software Company's customer contact system
This picture is divided into four main tiers:: firstly outside customers call into the company; these are then received and handled by the presentation tier, which can consist of voice applications, web applications or computer telephony integration (CTI) — the CTI component can also route calls to helpdesk agents or customer service agents. The presentation tier then interfaces with the logic tier (the business object or the web server). Finally, if required, a call is made to the data server.
The Web as first point of contact:
The Software Company knows that most of its customers are happy to use its Web site as their first point of contact with the company.To deal with the customer requirements in this environment, The Software Company Web site offers:
  • The ability to order, or download, new releases of software over the Web
  • The ability to upgrade existing software over the Web
  • A frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to answer common questions about new releases

Sometimes customers will not or cannot use the Web for their query. Before moving directly to a human agent at this point, The Software Company uses voice applications to filter calls.

Voice applications as the second point of contact:
In this example, the use of voice applications to provide automatic customer services has three main advantages:
  • Providing a similar set of services to those provided over the Web filters out a percentage of the total demand on the company's agents.
  • The Software Company can use voice applications to provide a 24–hour, 7–day service. Business is no longer lost, therefore, when people try to contact the company outside normal business hours.
  • When a customer elects from the voice applications to be transferred to an agent, it gives the company the chance to further filter calls by establishing the type of call before automatically forwarding it to the agent.

    For example, The Software Company can set up a menu that says: “To order BookCook Version 2, press 1; for technical help with installing BookCook 2, press 2; to report a problem with any version of BookCook, press 3....” and so on.

    Using the intelligent call transfer functions that are available in computer-telephony integration (CTI) products (such as those from Genesys or Cisco), callers who want to order software can be connected to customer service agents; callers who want help with installation, or who have a problem, can be connected to helpdesk agents.

When people reach an agent:

The combination of Web and voice applications minimizes the intervention of human agents, thereby cutting costs and providing an ‘out-of-hours' service.