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The art of the possible: DTMF in the call centre

This month Mashud Ahmed, Integration Manager at Puzzel (formerly Intelecom) talks about how to handle complex requirements in the call centre with the use of DTMF.

The use of DTMF is a commonplace in Telephony systems and is a universal mechanism through which almost all of us interact on a daily basis.

“Please choose from one of the following options…” and we obey, its second nature to us all and we don’t really think about what goes on behind the scenes.

In an interactive voice response system (IVR), DTMF is key to routing the caller through the maze. The choices here determine if the call should progress to an audio announcement, jump to a queue or do something smarter.

There are times when the caller may be prompted to enter a reference number or more commonly in a fully automated payment system one might enter card details to make payments. The IVR collects this information and carries out some clever processes to tell the caller whether the payment was successful or not.

Looking at it from a call centre agent point of view, it’s not very often that you expect the agent to do the same whilst talking to a caller. But there are times when an agent might press some buttons on his or her phone keypad to maybe send the caller to a survey or simply transfer to another department.

Now imagine a situation where a call centre is fully equipped to carry out complicated tasks including recording of the calls and agents have access to a host of applications to manage the calls. The agents may have desktop applications to pause and resume recordings where needed. When the call centre reaches full capacity or during out of hours, callers are sent to an outsourcing company where they may not have the same level of control or access to applications. (The outsourcing company is usually a standalone entity and often not very well connected to the main call centre.)

Suppose now that we wanted to give the outsource call centre access to some of the main call centre functions including the pause and resume feature which is normally accessed via a desktop application. It can get quite complicated and costly to develop custom integrations and security considerations make things even more difficult.

Let’s introduce a Cloud based call centre software like Puzzel’s contact centre solution, a multi-channel skill based routing engine that exposes its core functionality through an API that can interface with virtually anything.

The outsource call centre agents here can invoke the necessary functions like pause and resume simply by pressing a button on their telephone keypad without any additional local hardware or software. All of the intelligence and complex functionality can be accessed simply by a tone.

So what else might be possible? We could imagine that an outsource agent might press a button to initiate a logging request that creates an entry in the main call centre CRM application which matches the caller’s phone number or customer reference. This log may be defined as a request for follow up by another specialised team based in the main call centre. Since the contact centre software is aware of the type of request, it may allocate this request to an appropriately skilled agent with a screen pop of the customers details on the CRM and at the same time dial the customer.

Wishful thinking? This is actually possible today, but what you do need is a cloud service that allows for you to interface with it in a simple manner. This is just one example of how we can reduce complex requirements into simple tones.

Author: Mashud Ahmed – Integration Manager – Puzzel
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