Sometimes we need to turn back the hands of time to see where we have come from. Here Bart Delgado, Managing Director of Akixi, the cloud based supplier of call management applications, looks at the history of the product and poses the question – what next?
Looking back at the history of call management applications is interesting. No, honest, it’s an insight in to how our channel evolved through the eye of one application.
Long ago, when making a phone call was a seriously expensive business – and for the younger reader expensive was a whole lot more that 10 pence a minute, telephone bill shock was common. I remember a lot of residential phone users kept a piggy bank next to the table in the hall where the phone was installed to encourage voluntary donations to be made by family members before the quarterly bill came through the letter box.
Now there’s a bit of history in that opening statement – phones were fixed, shops sold telephone tables/stands to put them on and bills were universally paper based.
The first generation of call loggers for business addressed the need for firms to control their costs and be aware of fraud. A lack of itemised bills and the high cost per minute meant companies had to keep a check on what they were spending and to be able to challenge bills. Fraud was less sophisticated than the organised crime we have to deal with today but users wanted to know who was phoning their aunties in the USA on the company account. Usually the office cleaner got the blame.
1st Generation loggers typically took the form of a printer connected to an event port of a PBX. There was no smart reporting; you just had to wade through reams of paper whereas the 2nd Generation systems got a lot smarter.
Here call data was downloaded to a database – usually in a proprietary format on a standalone PC so that call records could be analysed in a DOS (Microsoft’s first bash at a Disc Operating System) based application and thereafter in a Windows environment. By now you could have multiple carriers on the same system so call logging needed to handle that and managers also started to get reports based upon extensions and departments. You could actually use the application for limited management of your business. Call logging took off and post call data processing provided good margin for resellers who could almost guarantee users that installing call logging would reduce their call bills by xx%. And they were right. Often call bills went down by just putting out a company wide memo that call logging was being installed.
The world and technology moves on at a rapid pace and soon the post call processing of historical data was not fast enough – firms wanted to react to situations and call flows on the go – in real time. Operational efficiency was becoming far more important that the cost of calls which by then were starting to tumble.
The 3rd Generation of call management products (the call logging tag had become a bit redundant) heralded automatic call distribution (ACD) functionality for real time events reporting. Wallboards began to appear either on big screens or desktop PCs and the applications began to focus on customer relationship management, call quality, customer services and departmental management of the business.
4th Generation systems introduced call control and real time interactive driving of business key performance measures. Integration with other applications such as call recording led to ‘suites’ of integrated applications appearing. Applications were more open with APIs to link to business process software. As a result CTI exploded.
Today I consider we have reached the 5th Generation of call management products where the application is delivered from the cloud on a flexible pay as you go model. Software revisions and updates are incremental rather than the big jumps and long intervals in between experienced by CPE deployments. Customers are no longer tied in to lengthy contracts so if you fail to deliver on your promises to the user you’ll find the service has been discontinued.
That last step is one being taken by most software application sectors today. Those in as diverse and previously disparate sectors as Accounting, Contact Management, Help Desk, Customer Service and Marketing tools are taking that step and also playing their part within what is increasingly being described as ‘Big Data’ or more specifically, Business Intelligence, B.I .
Once these applications are all cloud based, connectivity, interaction and data exchange becomes much more easy.
Now ponder some examples of what will be possible, features such as:
A wallboard showing not only call activity but also how much revenue each agent has generated today and the potential value of calls currently queuing, a statistic showing £500.00 of orders currently waiting for over 30 seconds would add motivation to all.
Management reports which show how much time is spent servicing each account and prospective customer, what is the optimal ratio to be achieved in this.
Invoices which not only show how much is due for goods and services in the period but also detail the interactions that customer has had with the firm supplying those services in that time.
Alerts that highlight when customers have not been contacted recently and are due a customer service call.
All the above are technically possible today; the data is held by most companies but it is held in many separate silos in not easily reachable places or formats and to bring them together would take a custom project that few would have the budget let alone the patience and imagination to successfully deliver. However, the convergence of voice and data hardware that we are bearing witness to is now making it much more easily possible for disparate data between diverse applications to also converge.