Wednesday, August 27, 2008

2008, New Brazilian Rules for Customer Service Centers

Here is some info I put together about a major event going-on on the Brazilian Telecom Marketing.

Brazilian Government has received thousands of complaints from customers over the last several years against Customer Service Centers on several different service areas. They have consolidated the "most common" complaints and put together a set of rules that companies will have to comply in order to avoid penalties.

On July 31st, 2008, the Brazilian Government made officially available a new set of rules on how the Customer Services Centers (Contact Centers) must deal with their customers. The new set of rules is supposed to make the customer interaction a lot more effective. Things like "All Customer Service representatives must be enabled in order to cancel immediately any services as per the customer request", "the customer cannot be transferred more than once after he/she reaches the first live agent", "the customer must be offered the option of talking to a live agent in the very first interaction with an Automatic Response System", "All Customer Service Centers must be enabled with TDD (Telecommunications device for the deaf) , "All interaction costs must be charged to the Enterprise and not to the customer", etc.

From the customer perspective I'm really happy - I'm one of those thousands of guys who have complained about the end-less waiting time on my cable company phone queues being brain-washed by advertisements!

Unfortunately, I could not find any English version of the regulations. The original document can be found at "
Decreto No 6523" from the Republic Presidency website.

Here is a quick summary with my own free (non-official, of course) translation:

Art 1 and 2 – This rule intends regulating all Contact Center activities regarding the Customer assistance. The rules defined here are not applied to Active Telemarketing.

Art 3 – All costs must be charged to the CC.

Art 4 – The IVR will always offer on the very first script the possibility to transfer to a live agent, complaints and Service Cancelation

  • Live assistance must be available from every IVR script
  • The CC will never be allowed to hung-up on a customer
  • No identification is mandatory before transferring to a live agent
  • Max wait time in queues is still to be defined

Art 5 – CC must be open for business 24x7

Art 6 – Hearing impairing access is mandatory for all CCs

Art 7 – CC phone number must be readily available in all Enterprise documents

Art 8 - CC must be polite / honest / etc

Art 9 – Agents must have proper training to do their job

Art 10 – Customers can be transferred only once in case the first agent cannot complete its request.

  • Call transfers must be completed in up to 60 seconds
  • For service cancelation and complaints, no transfer is allowed. All agents must be able to handle such requests.
  • CTI apps must allow access to customer request history

Art 11 – Customer data must be kept private
Art 12 – It is not allowed to ask the customer needs again after it was first initially asked during the first conversation with the live agent.
Art 13 – CTI apps must be in place to make sure the service quality matches the customer needs
Art 14 – It is not allowed to play marketing messages during call wait unless it is previously accepted by the customer.
Art 15 – A protocol must be generated to the customer for each request and that number will be used by the customer in follow-up contacts

  • All contacts must be recorded and kept for at least a 90 days period. The customer may request access to it based on its protocol number.
  • The recording must be kept available for verification purposes for at least two years

Art 16 – Customer have the right to receive in up to 72 hours by regular mail or electronic media the entire history of its request.
Art 17 – Information requests must be provided immediately and without complaints. Issues must be fixed in up to 5 days counting from the day they got registered on the CC.
Art 18 – CC must be able to promptly answer any Cancelation request made by the customer.
Art 19 – There will be punishments in case these rules are not followed.
Art 20 – The regulatory agencies will provide clarification in case any of these items is not clear enough.
Art 21 – The customer rights defined here do not change the other customer rights already defined by other laws and regulations.
Art 22 – The current set of rules is public and will be effective on December 1st 2008.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Virtualization - Virtual Box and VMWare

Today I'm going to write a little bit about virtualization. This technology has been growing in popularity for some time now. I have been using it since a few years ago, back when VMWare was a commercial tool only, VirtualPC did not belong to Microsoft (even supported Linux guest really well) and free virtualization tools such as Virtual Box and VMWare Server were just a dream.

Virtualization is the capability of running multiples virtual computers inside the same "real" computer. I used to consider this as a BIOS emulation. However, the technology has evolved so much that they now emulate, BIOS, Video drivers, Sound Card, NIC, etc. It makes my life a lot easier and my lab a lot smaller :-).

These days, I have done some quick testing on Virtual box. This seems a very interesting option for the future. It works in Windows Vista and several other platforms. Unfortunately, it still misses some of the functionalities that can be found on commercial softwares such as VMWare.

I was very impressed with Virtual box performance. Even that the virtual PC supports only a single processor, the response time is really fast. I particularly enjoy the fact that it can load the exact same HD file images from VMware (Makes the transition very smooth). What I did not like was the fact that each virtual network card from the guest operating system gets mapped to a virtual network card inside the host PC. In my case, it is not unusual to see me running 4~6 machines on the same physical box, with 10~15 machines created; each server would required two network cards; with simple math we would realize that Virtual box would require at least 30 virtual network cards installed on my host server (a little too much for me since VMWare requires only three, does not matter how many virtual machines you have created). Of course that one might say that I could reuse some of the virtual NICs for other machines that are not running, but I really do not want to keep changing my Virtual machine setting every time that I need to start it. I also require working with multiple processors; this is another feature that I cannot afford to loose.

With VMware Free server, I do have pretty much everything I need. Multiple processors (only 2 in fact), fairly good processing power, etc.

There is one thing that I really need to mention regarding Virtualization. This is the one thing that bothers me the most. And this seems to be true for all (or at least all the free ones) virtualization platforms. I have noticed that does not matter how many processors you have in you system, the virtual computers always use only a single processor at a time. I mean, if you have two quad-core processors, your Host Operating System will identify eight processors total. The virtual machine will run as a single Operating System process, what means that this process will keep switching from processor to processor at your Host PC. Sometimes it will occupy 100% of its processor while the other 7 processors will be doing nearly nothing. It is true that if you have several machines running at the same time, you see a better overall CPU utilization because with 2 or three machines, you will see two or three processors running close to 100%. Of course, the other 5 or 6 processors will keep doing nothing. I do not think that this is an easy issue to be addressed because all virtual platforms seem to have the same limitation. However, I think that the one which find a way to really distribute the full host potential to the guest PCs will become the main choice for all business on the market (at least, would become the favorite on my lab).

At this time, I will keep working with VMWare Free Server. However, I really encourage the Virtual Box developers to keep up with their great work because I really think that they are on the right path.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Current Activities as of Aug 2008

Hi Folks

You will realize that I run several activities at the same time - may be that is why I cannot keep track of everything by heart. By now, I think it is fair to mention the subjects that I'm working-on right now so I can provide some more context about whatever findings I decide to record here.

Project#1 - At this point I'm working on the Contact Center area. We are developing a Business Intelligence type of tool that I obviously cannot provide much more details because it is part of the company Intellectual property. Since I cannot really provide in-depth details about the product itself, you can expect to hear (or read :-) ) a lot about Software virtualization, High performance tricks, Linux Operating system and, may be, some database tricks.

Project #2 - Contact Center self-service - This is a particular cool one. I'm new into this as well, just started about one month ago and I love the possibilities. Since we are using several open standards, I'd expect to write a lot about Java Language, Voice XML, Call Control XML, Text to Speech, Voice Recognition, etc. Lots of fun to come from this end.

Project #3 - Space Science - I'm not even sure if I should be mentioning this here. Honestly, I have not even started learning anything about this. Next week, on Sep 1st I'm planning on going to INPE (National Institute of Space Research in Brazil) in order to start taking classes for my PhD. However, I do not have the time to attend their regular PhD program. My plan is attending as many classes as possible as an "external" student (as we call the guys who attend a few classes without being officially part of the program) and when they finally kick me out I will join the official program and try taking advantage of the credits that I got as an "external" student in order to not be required to attend all classes. Well, even that I already got some not so friendly messages from there about doing this, I'm not sure how far I'm going to go. Keep you posted :)

Well, other than these three main items, I'm always looking for an excuse to do something different. Sometimes you will read things about my patents, the jokes from the sales-enablement activities, etc.

Hopefully, I will not give-up this blog at any time soon and even more hopefully I will find interesting things to post.