Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  17 Feb 2010

LOGISTICS: Emergency Contact Centres - Inefficiency Can Cost Lives


Recent Gauteng Business News

The level of service and support a customer receives from a contact centre has become an important gauge of a company's commitment to service excellence. However, those calling into an emergency contact centre expect nothing but the very best in terms of response times, agent expertise and information accuracy. In many cases, lives depend on it. The technology used in emergency contact centres - systems, applications and services - is vital.

Says Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion: "While corporate contact centres can accept a certain amount of abandoned calls and errors in handling customers (they can always call the client back), in an emergency contact centre this could cost lives. Here, the communications infrastructure is mission critical and a high level of efficiency is paramount, adherence to stringent service levels and a consistently high level of performance is expected."

Unlike corporate contact centres that are able to offer acceptable levels of service over conventional communication infrastructure, emergency contact centres have broader requirements. They not only need to be easily accessible to callers but, to offer optimal services, they need to be able to reliably communicate with police, ambulance and medical services.

Says Fick: "Depending on the location of emergency service personnel -- in the field at the site of the emergency, or travelling in a vehicle, or in geographically remote areas, at a hospital, etc -- incoming calls may be via radio, GSM, microwave, wireless, Internet, VoIP or analogue telephony technologies. The underlying systems in an emergency contact centre are thus very important, as is the backup infrastructure.

"These organisations need to ensure they have the breadth of connectivity needed as well as very high guaranteed levels of reliability on a 24x7 basis." They also need to be able to scale up their operation very quickly in case of national natural disasters or for peak periods such as holiday seasons when accidents increase. And specialised technologies and services must be catered for," he adds.

Relying on a world class contact centre technology platform is an essential first step for any contact centre organisation hoping to meet high standards. Says Fick: "They can simplify and improve routing and management of interactions across all communication channels, as well as provide real-time and historical reporting, data management, a customer interaction repository and a Web reporting framework. In addition, these solutions are built on open standards, allowing for integration with third-party applications and technologies which provide specialised add-on functionality."

But all the technology in the world is useless if agents do not receive adequate training, he notes. "Agents in an emergency contact centre need to be able to meet the needs of all callers," says Fick, "you don't want to listen to an Interactive Voice Response menu or be put on hold while the agent tries to find someone to assist you. However, to ensure consistently high service levels, the performance of agents must be monitored and fair assessments must be followed by effective remedial actions. Making use of proven workforce optimisation solutions can assist."

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