Using XML in call centers
During the autumn of 2002, I have done research to determine if XML can improve the management information in call centers. This was based on my observation that call center log data is generally very complicated. This is primarily caused by the fact, that these data are stored in tables, which are not a feasible data structure for the sophisticated process of a call in a call center. XML offers a better way, about which I wrote a research report, as a part of my Masters degree in BWI. Prof. dr. Ger Koole supervised my research.
In a call center, management reports on prior performance are vital. Based on the information in these reports, scheduling decisions for the next time period are made. Those decisions in turn influence the performance and customer service level in that period.
Management reports are based on call center log data, which contain a lot of information about each call arriving at the call center. In my experience, these log data are very complex and hard to understand, particularly since these data are stored in tables. Tables are not capable of capturing the sophisticated process of a call in a call center, because of their simple and rigid structure.
I have invented a better way of logging calls than using traditional tables. XML (eXtensible Markup Language) is a relatively new technology, which will certainly become more common in the near future. Using XML offers clear advantages over tables:
- The sophisticated process of a call can be better modeled. This in turn leads to the following advantages:
- Data are more detailed;
- Data are easier to understand;
- XML offers an excellent validation mechanism called XML Schema. A lot of computer programs can use this validation to read data, which means that XML data can be processed in other ways that offer more possibilities than tables.
Using XML for call logging leads to call log data that are easier to understand. As a result, call centers might be able to downsize their Management Information department or create richer management reports as a result of the more detailed log data.
As a compromise, it is possible to convert the currently used tables into XML and test them. The data cannot be as detailed as described before, because data are stored less detailedly in tables, but this does offer the opportunity to test and experience the advantages that XML offers, without losing the proven safety of database technology.