Medicare agency stands to save big by automating call center

Govt. call centers turn to VoIP, VXML, integration to reduce call center expenses.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Baltimore receives 32 million calls a year, an average of 102,000 a day on Mondays, the busiest day of the week. With the cost of personal phone service running anywhere from $6.85 to $15 per call, CMS is turning to technology to drive down the costs, according to CMS is combining interactive voice recognition software with CRM (customer relationship  management) software to authenticate callers and pull up records before the person-to-person conversation starts. That cuts 20 seconds off the call, which could save serious sums of money. It needs to because CMS is investing $15 million in the integration effort.

The article goes on to detail two major technology options for call centers.

Voice  over IP, a slam-dunk in concept but not totally ready for prime time in practice. "Call center managers are loathe to leave behind the [traditional telephone technology] reports and tools they've had to run the operations and staff and track customer details," [a vendor] said. "The IP offerings haven't yet matured in sophistication of agent routing and analytics about agent performance during the course of the day."

VXML, or Voice Exensible Markup Language, can be used with application servers to turn voice into text and then apply programmatic analysis to learn about trends and  make routing decisions. "Organizations can more methodically look at inquiries to determine the most commonly requested information and most frequent means of advancing or clarifying a request. Then they can alter call routing or information delivery," article author Terry Sweeney explains.

Ultimately call centers want to integrate this data into agency applications, which can be expensive and complicated. Says a Gartner analyst: "It's an effort, since you have to have organizational buy-in to get data from a number of different entities. Some hoard their data and don't want to share it. Potentially, there's a lot of value there, but an organization needs to go into that with their eyes wide open."