Hosted Future

Hosted Future
Paul Scott

Paul Scott, director of business development for Customer Interactive Data gives readers his insight of the contact centre of the future

Much has been said about the ‘fully-hosted contact centre’. The benefits cited are compelling and include reduced capital expenditure, avoidance of getting locked into a single technology and increased scaleability. However despite these advantages, until recently few businesses have adopted the hosted model for their call centre operations.

Traditionally the main barriers to the adoption of the hosted model have been concern voiced over the perceived ability of hosting partners to maintain a quality of service (QoS) that they feel comfortable appending to their brand. This is coupled with the general fear that allowing a third party to host their contact centre means that the company would lose too much control over its operation.

But today, the situation is very different. The evolution of IP convergence technologies

has allowed hosted services to be offered using VoIP, which mean that (hosted over a private IP network) QoS concerns have been completely eliminated. VoIP has opened up the way to a plethora of innovative services and applications (see figure 1). And further technical advances from the likes of Cisco have placed control of the hosted contact centre squarely back in the hands of the user’s organisation. Control ‘dashboards’ exist, which allow an organisation to manage and control performance levels in as much detail as they require.

Indeed, Dimension Data’s own independent research in the form of the 2005 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report published earlier this year supports this assertion. The findings revealed that while 20% of contact centres considered outsourcing as a viable option for their operating model, the number of respondents who were considering ‘hybrid’ models of co-sourcing, insourcing and hosted contact centres had almost doubled from last year. This would seem to indicate that organisations are increasingly exploring more flexible and different combinations of operating models for their contact centres. Tellingly, only 75% of contact centres bothered evaluating the in-house model in 2003 as opposed to 90% in 2004.

Over the last 10 years most organisations have come to see contact centres as core to their businesses. This means that much of the necessary expertise has been home-grown, and this is resulting in fewer full outsourcing deals and the shift instead towards a hosted model where, for example, the IT environment or specific applications are managed by a third party, leaving a large amount of control still in the business’ hands.

Figure 1. Eight ways in which VoIP capabilities can benefit the contact centre

1) Extend VoIP to home offices, improving staff work/life balance and thereby loyalty; enables the ’single person contact centre’ model 5) Review a customer’s web page on agent’s phone whilst speaking to them 6) Eliminates the need for address books: all contacts’ details accessible from any IP phone

2) Enable hot-desking, unified messaging and mobile working

6) Eliminates the need for address books: all contacts’ details accessible from any IP phone
3) Reduce the cost of business calls by at least 20% 7) Benefit from ‘at your desk’ cost-effective video conferencing
4) View voicemail messages from the IP phone interface 8) Eliminates duplication of processes (such as recharging personal mobile / home phone expenses) through integration with back-end systems

With this additional management information and control, as well as assurances over performance levels, businesses are once again beginning to revisit the hosted model. Indeed, many companies are only using 50% of their inhouse technology capacity, meaning a high proportion of the licences they have purchased are left on the shelf, so immediate cost savings can be realised with hosting because they must only pay for what they use.

These types of benefits are applicable to companies of all sizes, and indeed, larger bluechip companies have traditionally been at the vanguard of the movement towards the hosted contact centre model. With the ever-increasing pressure on cutting costs whilst striving for first call resolution of customer issues and improving QoS, this is to be expected, and larger corporations have the resources to put such plans into action.

Nowhere today, however, are the benefits of the hosted contact centre model more pronounced than in the SME arena. For SMEs going through dramatic growth or changes, the hosted approach ensures they have access to maximum contact centre functionality without paying over the odds and it is for this reason that we are seeing SMEs increasingly looking at this model as a means to achieving competitive advantage within a controllable budget.
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