It seems so simple: The phone rings and a qualified representative answers and provides the caller with technical support. In some IT support call centers, it’s still that simple. Often, though, call centers must be able to handle multiple streams of customer inquiry from phone, e-mail, chat programs, fax, and a variety of Web-based transactions. The advent of the Internet and its increasing popularity—and its ability to slash costs—has made call center management a bit more complex.

To handle these multiple customer access methods, many call centers are using automatic call distribution (ACD) and/or related customer relationship management (CRM) technologies. These systems are used to enhance customer service, improve employee productivity, increase revenue, lower costs, and develop new customers and markets.

But do these complex systems prove to be more harmful than helpful in midsize call centers? That’s what we’d like to learn from you. If you work in or manage an IT support call center that’s using an ACD or CRM system, send us an e-mail letting us know if it has helped or harmed your ability to provide support.

Poor training vs. the value of reporting
A recent Gartner report said that while a successful ACD implementation can help a call center gain a competitive edge, a deficient ACD system design and implementation combined with poorly trained agents can spell disaster.

If call center employees don’t understand the system, can’t escalate calls to supervisors, or repeatedly lose customers by accidentally ending the call, the number of successful resolutions will plummet, along with the customers’ view of the service provided. When that’s the case, it may be tough to decide whether the benefits of the system outweigh the damage being done to the level of service provided.

However, you can’t dismiss the value of information these systems can provide, such as performance statistics for every agent, group, or queue based on various criteria. If properly analyzed, the information can reduce staffing and overhead costs. Further, it can identify problem agents who are, for example, making long-distance phone calls, using the “make busy” feature to avoid support calls, or otherwise wasting the company dime.

So the question for call center managers is, when a CRM or ACD system seems to be causing problems, does the blame belong with the technology or on management for designing poor employee training?

You decide

If your IT support call center is using an ACD or CRM system, do you believe it’s an asset or liability and why? If you believe the problem is poor training, what suggestions do you have for improving call center staffs’ understanding of the system? Send us an e-mail or post your thoughts below.