Call center architecture or infrastructure refers to the entire system set in place for the call center to provide its services. This includes the hardware and software used, the center’s organizational model, and the communication channels customers can use. It also involves planning out the processes that take place before, during, and after calls.
Besides the programs and processes, call center architecture also entails developing a disaster recovery plan if the call center has emergencies such as data security breaches or natural disasters.
Key Elements in a Call Center
Here are key components that affect how a call center’s infrastructure is modeled:
This refers to the various hardware and software used by call centers to handle calls. For example, one of the most common pieces of equipment is the Automated Call Distributor (ACD), which receives incoming calls and directs them to available agents. Another would be the Voice Response Unit (VRU), an answering system that directs customers to specific departments or types of inquiries through pre-recorded messages or menus.
Businesses have to consider the scale of their operations to determine the amount and size of the call center equipment they need.
A call center’s physical location is crucial in their operational costs, agent recruitment efforts, and the amount of technology they can use. For instance, a center using a smaller facility would not recruit as many agents as they’d like, which could hinder their ability to handle high call volumes. They might also not be able to make more room for their in-house servers, limiting their capability to run more programs, store data, and provide other services to the call center.
Call centers implement processes for handling inquiries and ensure that these are efficient at resolving them. They develop call structures that serve as guidelines for how the call agent:
- opens the call
- identifies the customer’s problem
- provides solutions
- makes other offers
- closes the call
Centers then need to review their processes and improve on them if necessary continuously.
Since agents are handling the customer calls, the call center also has to consider their training and the protocols set in place for them to follow. This allows for better interactions during calls, leading to better customer satisfaction and boosting performance.
Call centers also consider their customers’ experiences during calls and how satisfied they are with the current process. This helps them determine if the current call center architecture needs revising.
Call center management is responsible for planning the center’s processes, monitoring operations, and reviewing agents and calls. They gather the metrics needed to gauge the call center’s overall performance and improve the infrastructure’s shortcomings.
Call Center Metrics and Their Use in Call Center Architecture
Call center metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are types of data call centers use to measure their operations’ success. The management uses their findings to search for ways to improve the center’s current architecture and provide better services to their customers.
Some common metrics include:
- Answer Time: The average amount of time it takes for agents to answer incoming calls.
- Abandon Rate: This refers to the number of times customer calls get abandoned before they’re answered. This can be connected to the answer time metric, as customers may leave after waiting for too long.
- NOTE: A call is considered abandoned for outbound calls if the agent doesn’t return the greeting within two seconds after the recipient says hello. This is usually a concern when using a predictive dialer that dials more calls than there are agents, assuming that not all calls will be answered. The US FCC and the UK’s Ofcom both have stringent regulations regarding abandoned calls and the abandon rate.
- Call Handling Time: How much time it takes for a call agent to finish a call.
- Queue Time: This shows how much time customers wait in the queue before a specialized call agent accommodates them.
- Transfer Rate: The number of calls that need to be transferred to another agent or department before they can be resolved.
- Blocked Calls: These are the number of incoming calls that get a busy dial tone. This is often due to a lack of free agents, call queues, or call center software that can’t handle high call volumes.
- Idle/Occupancy Rates: This metric lets management know how much time an agent spends finishing work related to a completed call. This could help indicate productivity issues or problems with their equipment or software.
Omni-Channels and How They Affect Call Center Architecture
A center that uses multiple communication channels or touch-points will also need architecture that accommodates these. Besides the systems and processes needed by traditional phone calls, other channels can need special support such as:
- Email processors for forwarding email inquiries to the correct department agents
- Using speech-to-text assistance when a customer contacts the center through their mobile device
- An SMS processor which lets agents handle SMS or text-based inquiries
Many call centers also integrate AI assistants in social media and live chat channels to handle common issues. The AI can forward customers to human agents if the customer demands it or if the issue is too complicated for the AI to resolve.
Developing the call center architecture your business needs is a complicated process that requires many considerations. This is why many opt to outsource their customer support needs to third parties that can already develop the infrastructure they need.