LOOKING AHEAD with Kevin Beale - Vice President for Software, R & D
This edition of Looking Ahead examines automation. Automation is the process of mechanizing functions that previously would be performed by human control or intervention. Automation can be used in conjunction with manual processes, and in some cases automation can take over processes entirely. Automation not only saves labor time and reduces costs, it also minimizes errors and provides a more consistent product.
Automation can be applied to most industries. Automobile manufacturers use automation in the form of robotics to automate repetitive tasks. Farmers use automation to assist in the planting and harvesting of crops. The computer industry uses automation to populate circuit boards with parts too small for human handling.
The call center industry can use automation to reduce labor costs and become more efficient with call handling. Automation can take many forms. This photo from the early 1980’s depicts how automation was used with Amtelco’s Video III system to present an answer phrase for the operator on a screen, eliminating the need for the operator to locate a paper card with an answer phrase.
The photo also depicts how a carousel was used to file messages by client, allowing operators to quickly file and locate messages. The carousel was made obsolete in 1983 with the introduction of Amtelco’s EVE (Electronic Video Exchange) system, which was the first system to introduce electronic messages to the industry.
Automation in the call center industry takes on a much different form today. Automation now is accomplished primarily with software. Amtelco’s Intelligent Series (IS) Scripting is a great example of using software to automate tasks. Prior to IS Scripting, call center operators needed to read instructions providing them with guidance on how to complete each call type. Completing calls may have required locating and viewing Info Pages, Directories, or On-call Schedules. IS Scripting automates this process by building the call flow steps into the script, allowing the operator to focus on a positive interaction with the caller rather than trying to figure out the next step to complete or where to look for information.
Healthcare call centers rely heavily on on-call schedules to determine what resource to reach for each specialty based on the current date and time. Many of these call centers still rely on manual processes such as printing and faxing schedules or looking up schedule information in a spreadsheet. IS On-Call Scheduling with the IS Web interface and IS Scripting interface automates these manual processes.
Amtelco currently is focused on helping customers migrate clients to IS Scripting using automated data conversion routines. These routines are included in the IS Transformer, which provides automated conversion for IS Clients, IS Scripts, IS Info Pages, IS Directories, and IS On-Call Schedules. Imagine pressing a button and having all of your IS Clients, IS Info Pages, and IS Scripts created in a matter of seconds. Amtelco continues to advance these automated routines and is trying to make these tools more accessible to anyone who may need them. We encourage anyone interested in streamlining the process of converting to IS to contact us.
One of the most labor intensive tasks for the call center industry is initiating dispatches and following up on those dispatches. The new MergeComm module of the Intelligent Series suite of applications, introduced at the 2015 NAEO annual conference, is focused on addressing this need through automation. MergeComm builds on the power of IS Scripting and IS Directory Contact Architecture. MergeComm is available as part of IS 4.2 release and is now being installed in call centers.
MergeComm automates dispatch tasks that previously were done manually. This is accomplished by adding an Auto Dispatch element to IS Scripting. The Auto Dispatch element allows defining who to dispatch to, how to dispatch to them, the information to dispatch, how to react to replies, and how to escalate if the person isn’t reached. This all is accomplished with a single easy to set up IS Scripting element as shown below.
MergeComm Auto Dispatch can send messages to groups of individuals. The messages can be broadcast to the group or can escalate through the members of the group until someone confirms receipt of the message.
MergeComm Auto Dispatch can send messages to multiple Contact Methods for each individual. The messages can be broadcast to all Contact Methods or can escalate through the Contact Methods until the individual confirms receipt of the message. The Contact Methods selected can be based on the individual’s current Status and the associated Contact Order with retry and timeout values.
MergeComm also automates dispatching with the introduction of inbound triggers to IS. These automated inbound triggers are very powerful for both call centers and healthcare institutions. An inbound trigger takes an input such as an e-mail message, SMS message, HL7 record, miSecureMessages message, or web service request and initiates a script to process the trigger. The contents of the trigger are made available to the script as fields for processing or to include in the message. The processing of the trigger may be entirely automated to forward to another individual or group using the MergeComm Auto Dispatch element, or may generate a Dispatch Job to present the script to a call center agent.
One of the key elements of MergeComm is the Dispatch Board. The Dispatch Board provides a real-time interactive view of the automated dispatch process. It lets call center agents and supervisors see the status of each message being dispatched and provides the ability to intervene to change the flow or stop the dispatch process. In the screen below, it is clear that Michael Allen and Sean Mandti have confirmed a message via miSecureMessages; the attempt to contact Rachel Ferguson failed with a button to view why it failed; and Steven Eckert had no available Contact Methods.
Amtelco continues to advance the capabilities of MergeComm. The IS 4.3 release now being developed includes more MergeComm interfaces and capabilities. The new interfaces include an outbound Vocera VMP interface, an inbound TAP interface for Rauland Responder 4, an inbound SIP interface for Rauland Responder 5, a two-way WCTP interface for TigerText and other secure message platforms, and automated outbound phone calls generated by MergeComm through the IS Genesis Soft Switch. IS 4.3 also includes throttle settings intended to prevent a glut of triggers from flooding the system.
Automation provides many benefits. These include reduced training, reduced fatigue, reduced errors, labor savings, and increased profits. Look for Amtelco to continue to provide automation tools to help each of you expand your offerings while saving labor. Feel free to contact me directly for more information about automation.
Kevin Beale is vice president for software, research and development at Amtelco, a manufacturer and supplier of call center solutions located in McFarland, Wisconsin. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.