The Importance of Call Center System Integration
Wikipedia describes system integration as, “the process of linking different computing systems and software applications physically or functionally to act as a coordinated whole.” System integration touches every aspect of today’s society. Everything we do - from buying groceries and other essential items, to banking, to operating a business, to healthcare where hundreds of systems are integrated - relies on systems integration.
System integration is a critical part of operating a successful call center, in both the commercial and healthcare markets. Call centers are required to interact with multiple and different systems, both internal (within the business) and external (at client locations), to complete their calls and business processes. Our products have evolved throughout the years, as the demand for system integration continues to grow.
Infinity Integration System
It is hard to believe, but Amtelco's Infinity system is more than 25 years old. When it was introduced in 1994, it offered a powerful integration of operator services and text-based messaging with voice processing and voice messaging. This integration was so unique that Amtelco was awarded a U.S. Patent on the concept, one that is still in effect to this day. This integration of voicemail and operator services laid the foundation for the many features that are considered essential today. Over the years, many new integrations have been added to the Infinity system.
Intelligent Series (IS) Integrations
The Amtelco Intelligent Series (IS) was introduced in 2003 as a Windows and SQL Server based application platform for Infinity. Intelligent Series takes integrations to a whole new level. One of the key elements of the Intelligent Series is IS Scripting and one of the primary goals of the initial development of IS Scripting was a concept called Dynamic Linking that also resulted in a U.S. Patent being awarded to Amtelco. Dynamic Linking focused on integrating IS Scripting with other Intelligent Series modules including IS Directory, IS On-Call Scheduling, and IS Info Pages as well as with web content and external databases. Many call centers took advantage of Dynamic Linking to streamline call and workflow processes for their agents, allowing agents to focus exclusively on the script to complete complex calls.
IS Scripting has expanded over the years with new integrations, including web service elements that enable programmatically integrating IS with third-party systems via SOAP and REST API’s. In today’s IT world, web services are the most popular method of systems integration. Call centers can leverage web services to directly interact with customer and hospital systems to send and receive information.
Third Party Integrations
The Amtelco Intelligent Series (IS) offers the ability for other systems to interact with the IS functions through the IS Web API. The IS Web API is available as a SOAP or REST API. Most developers now prefer the REST interface method because it is easier to work with than the older SOAP interface. Many call centers and hospitals use the IS Web API to enable other systems to access IS information such as IS Directories, IS On-Call Schedules, IS Messages, and more. Amtelco continues to expand the role of the IS Web API to provide further access to IS functions and data.
Soft Agent Application
In 2008 the Soft Agent IS agent application was introduced. The Soft Agent application directly integrates with third-party switches and ACD platforms. Soft Agent integrates directly with any SIP enabled platform such as Asterisk, Avaya, Nortel, and Cisco. Soft Agent also integrates directly with PBX specific CTI interfaces such as Avaya AES/DMCC, Cisco CTIOS (UCCE), and Cisco CTI (UCCX).
Amtelco continues to expand the role of Soft Agent. It is one of two agent interfaces for Amtelco’s Genesis Soft Switching based Emergency ACD and is one of two agent interfaces for the Genesis Soft Switching based IS ACD.
Web Agent Application
The new Genesis IS Web Agent application is a scalable client application that makes any personal computer a professional telephone agent station. The Web Agent application can be integrated with both hard-wired legacy systems and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) based Voice Over IP (VoIP) networks. Web Agent is an integral component of the Intelligent Series (IS) call center system. The application can be accessed through the Internet or your company’s local intranet, depending on how your system is configured and integrates with a SIP-based PBX ACD.
MergeComm Features Systems Integration and Automated Dispatching
The MergeComm module of the Intelligent Series (IS) is focused primarily on system integration and automated dispatching. MergeComm adds automated dispatching functions to IS by accepting inbound triggers from other systems, as well as by allowing operators and the system schedule to initiate automated dispatching. MergeComm processes a request by running an IS Script on the IS Server without human interaction. The IS Script typically produces an output that integrates with another system via one of the available IS Directory Contact Methods. The IS Directory Contact Methods all integrate with third-party systems using common interfaces and APIs. The list of supported IS interfaces continues to grow and Amtelco continues to add new interfaces to IS.
There are significant benefits for both call centers and hospitals from MergeComm. Call centers can utilize the automated dispatching functions of MergeComm to automate many of the dispatch processes that require manual intervention today. This includes group dispatching, escalation, retries, confirmation, and failure handling. These automated dispatch scenarios can be initiated by an operator or with a scheduled job. All MergeComm jobs can be monitored from the the Dispatch Board. The Dispatch Board is an interactive display that can be used with MergeComm Auto Dispatch jobs to view dispatch progress for individual contacts and to handle failed notification attempts.
Integrations for Healthcare
Healthcare has unique system integration requirements. In addition to the above-mentioned interfaces, healthcare has a standards-based interface called HL7 (Hospital Level 7) that enables all of the different hospital systems to interact with each other using a common interface. Amtelco has a long history of working with HL7 to accept ADT (Admission Discharge Transfer) messages and populate patient directories used by agents to relay patient information to callers. Hospitals running Amtelco systems also have utilized HL7 to initiate pages to transport staff, housekeeping staff, and clinical staff upon receipt of ADT messages that indicate a patient needs assistance or a room needs to be cleaned.
As part of the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA), the U.S. Congress included incentives for healthcare organizations to migrate their medical records from paper to electronic format and penalties for non-compliance. The move to electronic medical records (EMR) brings additional requirements and opportunities for system integration. One of these opportunities is to document telephone encounters related to a patient in that patient’s electronic medical record. IS and MergeComm facilitate this with outbound HL7 capabilities that enables sending information into an EMR system via HL7. Amtelco is working with hospitals to use HL7 and other interfaces to allow call center agents to interact with EMR systems for uses, such as nurse triage call handling.
The Future of System Integration
The opportunity and demand for system integration continues to grow. This is one of the primary focuses of Amtelco’s IS-based MergeComm module. There will be continued expansion of the integration options provided by Amtelco in the future.