Emergencies call for top tech
The technology used in emergency contact centres, systems, and services is vital in meeting the response time, agent expertise, and information accuracy demands this environment requires.
So says Paul Fick, MD of contact centre solutions provider, Spescom DataFusion. "While corporate contact centres can accept a certain amount of abandoned calls and errors in handling customers, in an emergency contact centre this could cost lives,” he explains.
“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.”
In addition, says Fick, a recording of every call needs to be available for audit purposes, so in the case of a legal dispute or wrongful death, the actions of the contact centre staff and other emergency services can be assessed. “This calls for ongoing assessment, monitoring and optimisation of systems, processes and staff," he adds.
For this reason, the infrastructure requirements of emergency contact centres are broader, notes Fick. "Depending on the location of emergency service personnel - at the site of the emergency, travelling in a vehicle, or in geographically remote areas - 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.”
Fick highlights the use of geographic information systems and cellphones' geographic positioning systems to enable the exact location of the caller. “This enables the response time to be quicker by speeding up the allocation of emergency services vehicles to the required location, resulting in a faster coordination of assistance," he offers.
But all the technology in the world is useless if agents do not receive adequate training, argues Fick. "Agents in an emergency contact centre need to be able to meet the needs of all callers; 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.”
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, advises Fick.
Emergency call centres also have complicated legal requirements, he explains. "Recording of interactions between the caller and the agent are standard requirements in corporate contact centres. In emergency contact centres, however, it can become complex, as the agent will interact with any number of emergency personnel in the field, as well as reference various applications to coordinate assistance to the caller.
“Screen and voice recording technologies are thus necessary to gain a full overview of exactly what happened in every instance and to be able to assess why certain decisions were made, and what real response times were in each case. The entire scenario from origination to resolution needs to be recreated for this purpose,” states Fick.