In today's competitive business, even high-tech products can be quickly reduced to commodities that are difficult to differentiate through features, functions, or price. As a result, it becomes increasingly important to provide accessibility to the company, which has a direct impact on the customers' perception of quality, in order to acquire, keep, and grow customers [8,58,123]. A contact center (or call center) provides such accessibility for customers who buy or reserve products or services and for customers who have questions, complaints, or need for technical supports and other customer services. Since contact centers are the critical element of customer relationship management (CRM), they are ubiquitous in PC companies, banks, airline companies, rent-a-car companies, hotels, and credit-card companies, etc.
Although a contact center is a significant revenue generator, its operating expenses are also huge, and human resource costs are estimated to account for 50-75% of the total operating expenses [58,123]. As a result, a significant amount of research has addressed analytical tools and simulation techniques that support capacity management at contact centers .
However, operations at contact centers have become increasingly complex, and the increased complexity in the operations makes it difficult to apply existing analytical tools to support capacity management. For example, new technology for communication has become available, and a mere ``call'' center is transformed to a contact center that support various communication channels, including telephones, e-mails, and chat. Also, advancement of information technology such as data mining and information retrieval enables one to identify customers of high value and to give priority to these customers. Further, more and more specialized products and services are created and sold, and particular customers need to be served by particular agents.
Analytical tools developed and lessons learned in this thesis may be useful in supporting capacity management at contact centers with these complex operations, and for other purposes in contact center operations. In this chapter, we will provide an overview of contact center operations (Section 8.2), and discuss how the results in this thesis may be applied in designing contact centers today (Section 8.3).