Call centres

In document Business Information Systems Analysis Design Amp Practice (Page 194-197)

Currently, all computerized information provision and transaction processing is by way of ABC’s mainframe computer located in London. Local sites possess terminals connected to the mainframe by public telecommunications. Local site managers are arguing for more autonomy in responding to the needs of local customers. They claim that the central computer services, for which they are charged internally, provide poor and non-targeted information. As a group, individual site managers have put a case for abandoning the company’s central mainframe system – which is due for review with respect to significant upgrading – and replacing this with local minicomputers that would communicate, if necessary, through the public carrier system. All functions appertaining to the local sites would be processed locally. Advise the managing director on this issue.

8. A large regional college is extending its network and IT infrastructure to support all its academic and administrative functions. Currently, the network infrastructure is used for internal personnel, payroll, accounting, student registration, administrative and financial functions. Academically, it is used by students following computing and engineering courses.

It is the long-term intention of the college to ensure that all staff have a PC connected into the college network and that all students have IT skills training, especially in the use of word-processing and spreadsheet packages. Laboratories are gradually being upgraded under the direction of the computer centre. For some years, the Computer Science and Engineering Departments have been unhappy with much of the service provided by the computer centre. These departments have already implemented their own laboratories of desktop computers separately, cabled and networked for students on their courses.

Staff in these departments have also been networked using a physically separate cabling system, as the respective department heads believe that with computing students there is a danger that their knowledge will allow them unauthorized access to staff data traffic.

The college principal is concerned that there is an absence of strategic planning and con-trol and is unhappy about the current situation. Advise the college principal on a course of action.

CASE STUDY 4

Call centres

A call centre provides the public with a point of contact to an organization. Telephone calls are routed to a department, often located away from the organization itself, which acts as a first-stage filter for calls. Simple enquiries can either be dealt with automatic-ally, using computer-generated messages, or can be fielded by operators who have a basic understanding of the business and are aware of frequently asked questions. They may also place orders or make reservations for customers.

Call centres were traditionally operated by companies in the financial sectors and offered products such as insurance and mortgage services. Now it is becoming increasingly com-mon for many large companies, including cinemas, travel operators and local authorit-ies, to use a call centre to handle first-line enquiries.

Call centres would not be possible without the technological advances of the last few decades. Developments in information and communications technology, especially advances in telephony, have seen telephone switchboards being replaced by much smaller and less expensive computerized systems. These systems are easily tailored to suit the

organization’s requirements and require much less human supervision and intervention. As well as computerized speech output, many systems also employ voice recognition software.

The immediate effect of establishing a call centre is for the organization to gain a com-petitive advantage over its rivals. The cost of dealing with customer enquiries falls, and if set up with care, the quality of customer service and satisfaction is raised.

The work flow through the call centre is largely controlled by the system itself. The agents who take the calls are allocated tasks and their daily activity is closely monitored by the system. A number of indicators can be generated to monitor the performance of the agents in this way. These statistics can be used to ensure that the quality of service is maintained.

The agents are clearly pivotal in the call centre as they are the customer’s first point of contact. To gain any competitive advantage it is important that they are effective in their work. The automated distribution of tasks leads to a very intense working atmos-phere, and rates of pay are relatively low. Call centres have historically demonstrated low staff retention rates and high levels of absenteeism. The careful management of the agents is therefore an important consideration.

Questions

1. In order to answer customer enquiries, agents in a call centre need access to the company database. Explain how this might be achieved. What potential problems does this create?

2. Computers in a call centre will be connected to a local area network. Describe the different topologies of LAN that could be used. What criteria could be used to establish the most appropriate?

3. Explain the role of ‘standards’ in ensuring that different devices can be connected.

Recommended reading

Cole M. (2002). Introduction to Telecommunications: Voice, Data and the Internet. Prentice Hall

A very readable introduction to telecommunications topics. The book has a technical focus and is very well illustrated.

Harasim L.M. (ed.) (1994). Global Networks: Computers in International Communications.

Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press

This is a collection of articles by a range of authors with differing backgrounds that looks at the global aspects of networks and communications. For example, included are articles on social and cultural aspects of international communications, global education and computer confer-encing. The book should be of interest to those who wish for more than a technical treatment of networks and communications.

Harle D. and Irvine J.(2001). Data Communications and Networks: An Engineering Approach.

Wiley

A technical look at the subject of networks. The book focuses in particular on the Internet as the context for discussion of data communications techniques.

Hodson P.(1997). Local Area Networks. Letts Educational

The text is restricted to LANs and interconnections with wide area networks. Although not assuming any initial knowledge the text takes the reader into technical areas of LANs and com-munications. It is designed for the student and has many exercises and self-help questions.

Peng Z.-R. and Tsou M.-H.(2003). Internet GIS: Distributed Geographic Information Services for the Internet and Wireless Networks. Wiley

This provides the background to basic network architecture and then moves on to explore how geographical information systems have become a popular feature of the Internet. The book combines theory with applications and also discusses the importance of standards in network developments.

Peterson L.(2003). Computer Networks: A Systems Approach, 3rd edn. Academic Press A thorough coverage of networks with an interesting chapter on congestion control, resource allocation and network security.

Stallings W.(2003). Data and Computer Communications. Prentice Hall

This provides an encyclopaedic coverage of the topic. Includes end of chapter review questions.

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Learning outcomes

5.1

Chapter 5

The Internet and

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