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Japan is ahead of the pack with 3G (W-CDMA and CDMA2000 flavors), while U.S. manufacturers are building the infrastructure to provide 2.5G technology, at this very time. Europe and Asia are somewhere in between in development. The Japanese typically do not own home computers and are relying increasingly on their cell phones to exchange text messages, as well as to access email and the Internet.

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Japan is ahead of the pack with 3G (W-CDMA and CDMA2000 flavors), while U.S. manufacturers are building the infrastructure to provide 2.5G technology, at this very time. Europe and Asia are somewhere in between in development. The Japanese typically do not own home computers and are relying increasingly on their cell phones to exchange text messages, as well as to access email and the Internet.

Gruber advises others to find a research firm that can revise as necessary the questions they ask customers. So if you offer a product on sale during one month, you'd want to ask customers who called that month how well agents answered questions about the product.

Gruber says that since working with Metrix Matrix, RIA is more confident about measuring customer satisfaction independently. He also recommends that call center managers contact customers themselves to find out if they're happy with how agents treated them.

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Since agents need to enter and look up information on their PCs to help customers, Gruber installed Virtual Observer from Coordinated Systems (East Hartford, CT) at his call center in January 2002. Virtual Observer enables supervisors to view agents' PC screens in addition to recording their calls. The software also provides supervisors with a desktop app containing the call checklist they previously used printed versions of.

After supervisors became accustomed to working with Virtual Observer, Gruber found additional uses for the software. By February 2002, supervisors relied on Virtual Observer's scheduling feature to set call monitoring times for days, weeks or months in advance. And by April 2002, Gruber encouraged supervisors to use the screen capture feature to check how efficiently agents responded to customers' e-mail messages.

Most recently, supervisors began monitoring outbound calls. Of the 50 agents the center employs, 14 of them also make credit and collections calls to receive late payments. Supervisors can record every call that agents make within a designated time. Gruber says that outbound calls are considerably shorter than inbound service calls and that supervisors can typically record an average of five to six completed outbound calls in a half hour.

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RIA is considering adopting the same quality assurance program at its sales call center in Eagan, MN, and at its technical support center in Carrollton, TX. As of press time, the company was anticipating the most recent quarterly report from Metrix Matrix to determine how much customer satisfaction has improved since implementing Virtual Observer. Based on the report's findings, RIA might upgrade its other two call centers.

SALT RIVER PROJECT COMPANY SAYS COURTESY FIRST

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As an agent working for the Salt River Project Company (SRP), a Tempe, AZ-based utilities firm, Christy Kerekes could have easily been discouraged. The results of the customer satisfaction survey the company conducted in 1997 revealed that callers rated agents' courtesy levels at 57% out of a possible 100%.

At that time, Kerekes was one of fewer than 100 agents working at the company's call center in Phoenix, AZ, that handled residential customers. She recalls that agents often couldn't keep up with the calls in queue, reducing their morale and geniality.

The date-code limits that OEMs impose on parts vary, but are typically two to three years, said Vishay's Smith. If there's any doubt, OEMs don't want to take a chance,” he added, noting that in sectors where reliability is paramount, like the military, date codes tend to be more strictly enforced.

Large shipments also present problems because they often consist of parts with mixed date codes, noted Jack Crawford, director of assembly standards and technology at IPC, a Northbrook, Ill., electronics industry group. This could happen with a shipment, for example, from a distributor, Crawford said.

But Tom McCartney, president of components distributor Avnet/Kent, Phoenix, said that while mixed date codes do appear in shipments, they're within the parameters set by the customer.

We have rotation policies with suppliers that allow us to renew inventories on a regular basis,” McCartney said. We make sure we have parts with in-spec date codes on the shelf.”

Some OEMs retest dated parts to ensure their proper operation.

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