New lab brings call centre technology to campus

Karen Lai

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A technology-driven customer relationship management (CRM) laboratory was launched by City University's Division of Commerce on 29 April. NEC Hong Kong Limited donated equipment and software and will provide technical support. The Commerce Applications Technology Laboratory (CAT Lab) will provide an advanced environment for staff and students to gain the latest customer relationship management skills.

Success in today's business world hinges on customer satisfaction. With the help of advances in telecommunications, a fully-fledged modern call centre provides businesses with a broad range of customer services such as help desk, telephone banking, shopping and services enquires. Experience in handling inbound and outbound calls on a telecommunication platform will equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for future career in industry, particularly in the services industries.

Equipped with state-of-the-art computer hardware and the multi-functional software Contact Centre Solution, the CAT Lab provides a middleware solution to link the front and back offices of a contact centre. The software also offers features for interactive voice response, fax-on-demand, and automatic call distribution by integrating multi-channel communications of voice mail, fax, email and the Internet. It can facilitate call operators or agents to understand customer needs on a real-time basis as well as intelligently manages outbound calls as part of a business growth plan.



"The CAT Lab will be a one-stop contact centre, with the full support of advanced technology, where students can work on customer relationship management projects for companies in Hong Kong," said Dr S H Ko, Acting Head of the Division of Commerce at the opening ceremony. Academic staff and students can utilize the operations management tools and telecommunication facilities to enrich teaching and learning in contact centre management, marketing research, and services management.

In addition to providing both the IT infrastructure and user terminals in the Laboratory, NEC will also organize a series of in-depth training courses for staff and students. "We are very pleased to have our Contact Centre Solution deployed in CityU's CAT Lab," said Mr M Kidowaki, Managing Director of NEC Hong Kong Limited, a leading Internet solutions and consultant services provider. "Our partnership with CityU marks a new milestone in the design and delivery of business programmes. We look forward to keeping our technological advancement in line with quality higher education in the region," he added.

CityU commerce students said they welcomed the Laboratory. "Through hands-on training in the Lab, we can consolidate what we learn from lectures and internship programmes. It provides an environment for us to employ advanced technology to solve business problems," said Mr Sam Leung, a year two associate degree student majoring in electronic commerce and Web technology. "The advanced technology and facilities can motivate us to learn and add fun to our study. It will help us keep up with the latest business and technological development," added Ms Angela Wong, a year one student from the same programme.

The CAT Lab will also facilitate more collaboration with the industry. "Small businesses would find it too costly to buy the software and set-up the equipment required to conduct customer surveys and customer satisfaction analyses," said Dr Kokin Lam, Principal Lecturer in the Division of Commerce, who helped line up the NEC donation. Dr Lam, an expert in telecommunication systems performance analysis, plans to use the CAT Lab facilities to develop an inbound service solution-the Complaint Management System-which will assist in handling customer complaints for client companies. "This will improve the quality of servicing industries in Hong Kong in the long run," he said.

In the area of teaching, the CAT Lab will serve as a platform for inter-disciplinary activities, offering comprehensive business and technology training for CityU students. "We should help students to acquire knowledge-based expertise. This is essential to strengthen their competitiveness for meeting new challenges in the business world," Dr Lam said.



Representing NEC (Hong Kong) Ltd at the opening ceremony with Mr Kidowaki were Mr K Adachi, Deputy General Manager, Business Solutions and Services, and Mr Ray Cheung, Deputy General Manager, Business Solutions & Services. Mr John Dockerill, Provisional Provost of CityU's College of Higher Vocational Studies, Dr S H Ko, and Dr Lam represented the College. In his opening remarks, Mr Dockerill expressed his sincere thanks to NEC for providing software, equipment and technology support for the CAT Lab. He said the University is looking forward to fruitful cooperation and remarkable results in student learning in the future.



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