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5 tips for integrating modern contact centres

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A contact centre must work seamlessly with a business and its people and it should not come with an unrealistic price tag. 1Stream’s BRUCE VON MALTITZ and JED HEWSON outline five steps to integration success.

Investment into contact centre integration doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. Not anymore.

For the business that wants to expand its footprint and engage its customers, investment into a contact centre can singlehandedly tick the box of strategic technology investment while expanding customer engagement and sales.

Every organisation wants to grow. Most are staring down the economic barrel with trepidation. Fluctuations in market and confidence are impacting on most organisations and introduce a fine balancing act between caution and innovation. A recent global analysis found that growth and technology are the two biggest balls that the Chief Financial Officer has to juggle. They are expected to research and invest in innovation so the business can evolve, but they also have to ensure budgets remain smart so they can survive within the stony grip of recession.

The struggle between growth and constraint has never been more relevant.

The contact centre is the ‘you have arrived’ of the corporate GPS. Still, even with that accolade, it must work seamlessly with the business and its people and it should not come with an unrealistic price tag. Want the benefits without the drama? Here are five steps to integration success.

  1. Get cloud

Cloud is the ultimate ‘try before you buy’ that doesn’t  require investment into heavy hardware just to get a taste of its potential. The ability to truly assess the capabilities of a system before spending plenty of money on it is something that wasn’t possible in the past, but allows for enormous freedom of investment and opportunity.

“If you wanted to introduce web chat into your call centre you would have to go and buy all the kit, put it in and then, if it didn’t deliver business value it was too late – you’d spent the money anyway,” says Bruce von Maltitz of, 1Stream.

To ensure that investment into the call centre fits within corporate requirement before it is wedged into corporate budget, the CFO should consider trying it out before buying it. Technology is on a relentless innovation cycle so it is essential to ensure that it works with legacy systems and expectations.

  1. Invest in trust

“Another step is to ensure that the company used is one that has a proven track record,” says Jed Hewson of 1Stream. “There are plenty of providers pushing all types of technology, so go and see it in a live environment and confirm that it will deliver. Don’t just look at the brochure and sign the deal.”

  1. Read the fine print, again.

Ensure that the cost savings of the investment are real. You may need to reallocate a portion of your staffing budget (which usually makes up 70% of your overall contact centre expenses) to your technology budget (which is normally only 7% of the overall costs) to give your contact centre a 10% saving through a rise in productivity or reduction in staff.

“You should be looking to bring in systems that make the call centre more efficient rather than trying to constantly save money,” says Bruce. “It is worth spending on the technology if it helps to make the people more efficient as they make up most of your operational costs.”

  1. Assess integration

Be careful when weaving new technologies through the business. Look to systems that allow for add-on functionalities that can be integrated fully. If you tack on different functions, such as email or telephony, and these are not comprehensively integrated, then the reporting and the consolidation of data has to be done separately. Next thing, you have to hire someone who spends their time trying to add one solution’s report to another. Make sure you understand the knock-on consequences of adding new technologies into the call centre.

  1. Get an expert on board

“Finally, beware of the homegrown IT guru that haunts every business hallway,” concludes Jed. “They can put your contact centre together and do it cheaply, but the challenge is that you can end up running out of the features and functionality you need, just when you really need them. Then either the industry or the guru move on, and suddenly nobody knows how it works or why it suddenly stopped working.”

Call centre technology is a critical business function and therefore needs the same care of investment and quality as any other core functions. Instead of leaping for cheap, focus on cloud solutions that allow you to try before you buy and implement the one that’s ideally suited to the dynamic nature of your organisation. It may sound complex, but thanks to the ubiquity of technology, it is far simpler to find the perfect call centre platform right now that it was a few years ago.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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