Johannesburg, South Africa – Insurers looking to enhance their contact centers may want to consider convergence, primarily driven by the increased acceptance of internet protocol (IP) and improved reliability, scalability and proven benefits that come with maturing product sets. According to the latest findings in Dimension Data plc's "Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2007," more than 60% of contact centers—representing a number of industries across 42 countries and five continents—have introduced IP-based or hybrid IP private branch exchange (PBX)/automatic call distribution systems (ACD), which is an increase from the 50% recorded last year. 

The report findings indicate that contact centers are gaining a better understanding of the business benefits of an IP environment. The top reason given for a move to IP is flexibility of architecture (69%), which is followed by cost savings (66.1%). Other reasons include compliance with corporate technology policies (31.1%), end-of-life technologies that need to be upgraded or replaced (30.1%), and improved business functionality (29.0%).

IP is a protocol used to transport information across networks. Converged IP technologies enable contact centers to take advantage of applications across the organization network as they aim to improve customer satisfaction and operational effectiveness.

One example of an insurer adopting this technology is Paris-based Groupama Insurance Co. Ltd. Groupama consolidated its customer contact centers into an integrated network based on IP technology. In an effort to replace the aging PBX systems scattered across the company in 2005, Groupama rolled out Genesys SIP, an IP telephony solution from Daly City, Calif.-based contact center software provider Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc.

Groupama's contact centers can facilitate enterprise routing based on SIP, or session initiation protocol, an open protocol for Internet telephony first developed under the aegis of the Internet Engineering Task Force. Instead of being routed through a traditional PBX-as business calls have been for decades-calls are digitized and routed via Web interfaces to representatives' workstations. A virtual IP contact center was established in Lyon, France, to help improve customer relations across Groupama's multiple sites.

Genesys' own survey of 400 contact center technology managers finds that IP-based technology is gaining a foothold, with 27% of enterprises in the midst of an IP-based contact center implementation, and 57% planning or investigating the technology.

"Convergence, in its simplest form, is the combination of previously separate entities—data and telephony systems, networks and equipment," says Cara Diemont, editor of the report. "Since contact centers depend on a range of information and communications technology, converged technology can significantly increase efficiencies. Benefits include allowing agents to handle contacts, access customer information more quickly and, more importantly, enable contacts to be handled throughout the organization."

The Report findings also show increased usage in two technologies strongly impacted by convergence - computer telephony integration (CTI) and universal queues. Over half of contact centers (53.4%) currently use CTI while 23.3% are planning to do so. Also, 28.0% have implemented and 15.9% plan to install universal queues.

"As a result of the move to convergence, CTI will shift from its traditional role as a proprietary solution to link disparate technologies. It will become an open standard technology incorporated in applications across the network to enable contact centre telephony functionality. CTI will continue to deliver functions such as screen pop, transfer of calls with attached data, and unique call identifiers between systems for example call recording information passed between switching and recording platforms," explains Diemont.

"The growing adoption of CTI and universal queues illustrates that the benefits of these technologies for driving operational and service improvement are better understood.  In addition, contact centers are responding to customers who increasingly want to interact with organizations using channels other than voice," concludes Diemont.

Source: Dimension Data plc and INN archives

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