This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
It’s a balancing act for contact center executives everywhere: improve the quality of customer interactions, but minimize expenses to do it. Ok, how? With advanced applications like intelligent ACD routing and quality monitoring to improve the customer experience, and especially with its pay-as-you-go approach for minimizing startup costs and ongoing expenses, many contact centers are turning to Communications as a Service, or CaaS. Moreover, in a dynamic business climate, contact centers are also discovering how flexible CaaS is, and how rapidly it allows them to adapt to whenever needs dictate.
Minimized startup and ongoing costs
In a contact center, the total cost of ownership for a premises-based communications solution adds up from software and hardware plus implementation services, data center infrastructure requirements (integration, energy consumption, etc.), system maintenance, upgrades, IT staffing and, at times, the need to scale to more users and features. On a balance sheet, the greater these initial and ongoing expenditures, the lower the return on your technology investment is likely to be.
However, reducing costs and increasing ROI is where a hosted solution model, such as CaaS, is at its best. While the scope of operations naturally varies from one contact center to another, a July 2007 Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert) research report (“The Hosted Model: Why It’s Revolutionizing the Contact Center Industry”) found that, when compared to a premises-based solution and equivalent functionality for 100 agents, CaaS can produce a cost savings of 23% over 5 years. The savings primarily come from:
Simplified deployment. CaaS eliminates the initial capital investments for hardware, middleware, software licensing, and months of costly vendor services to implement a premises-based solution. With the CaaS model, the service provider maintains the platform and applications, allowing a contact center to deploy a solution rapidly and pay only for the functionality and capacity it utilizes, often on a monthly fixed-cost basis.
Service provider administration. Although many CaaS offerings extend user and application administration to the customer, vendors routinely manage overall system integration, configuration and administration requirements on the back end, including upgrades and ongoing support. Doing so allows a contact center to reduce its own IT staffing and operations costs.
On-demand scalability. With most premises-based solutions, scaling for more functionality and higher user counts to handle peak volumes requires adding hardware, user licenses, telco services, etc. But, since peak volumes are temporary, a contact center can leverage the CaaS model to scale up for a period of time — usually by activating user licenses or new apps on-demand as needed — and just as easily scale back down to avoid paying for excess capacity when peak volumes aren’t in play.
Virtual capability. CaaS deployments are increasingly being offered via a choice of IP-based LAN, WAN and MPLS networks, meaning contact centers can expand virtually and recruit skilled agents from almost anywhere geographically. By equipping remote agents to work at home by way of networked end-user capability, contact centers find it easier to hire and retain top-producing agents, and reduce the amount of expensive office space and equipment required for an in-house agent workforce.
Advanced contact center applications
Many CaaS providers are offering à la carte application suites, and afford contact centers of any size the same functionality previously attainable only with on-premises systems. That means contact centers from a few agents to several hundred or more can get CaaS-based features ranging from auto attendant and IVR to intelligent ACD routing, predictive dialing, blended inbound/outbound capability, recording, quality monitoring, automated satisfaction surveys, and workforce management, among other features.
Application control for individual business units
Along with their advanced functionality, most CaaS solutions also allow a contact center’s business unit managers to configure the applications they use — say a training manager who wants to establish recording rules and scoring guidelines in a recording app to gauge agent performance. Two benefits to this level of control: 1) managers can implement changes far more easily, since they know what’s required for their unit’s specific operations, and 2) they can bypass IT processes than can be both time-consuming and frustrating.
Increased flexibility for a dynamic business environment
Foremost with the CaaS model, forget a total infrastructure rip and replace to get started. To fit an organization’s existing network and telephony architecture, many CaaS providers offer flexible deployment options that include traditional Time Division Multiplex models (TDM, the makeup of PBX (News - Alert) systems), networked voice over IP (VoIP), or a hybrid TDM/VoIP approach. Deployment model considerations can depend on:
· An organization’s need to supplement an existing PBX or on-site phone system with advanced services, without impacting on-site hardware or software
· A desire to move to an IP-based solution and appropriate network (LAN/WAN) readiness for VoIP
· Whether contact center operations are centralized or highly distributed
· The required time frame to deploy on the new platform
· Requirements for local control of customer data, such as call recordings and call detail records
Adjust accordingly with no hidden costs or downtime
Change is the nature of any business, and the ability CaaS gives a contact center to adapt without adding costly new infrastructure is invaluable. Consider a center in which average monthly volumes require ACD call routing for 50 agents. Throw in an upcoming sales promotion and more incoming calls, however, and the CaaS model makes it possible to inherently add IVR and more agents to handle the increased volume. Contact centers can even use CaaS to test drive a new application without making a large upfront investment for hardware and software licensing. For instance, try predictive outbound dialing for a small group of agents first. If the test drive goes well, all the better. Just add the new feature for a fixed monthly fee per agent, for all the agents you want.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi