Hosted contact center solutions, also known as cloud or software as a service (SaaS (News - Alert)), from third party vendors can and does deliver a widening range of functions from ACD to workforce optimization. It does so with minimal or no capital and support costs and with fast ramp ups/downs, ready updates, assured business continuity and heightened security compared with premise-installed solutions while using best-of-breed solutions from OEMs.
Having applications hosted requires contact centers to entrust the technologies that their operations are dependent on to outside firms, which means taking a thorough look at the offerings, issues entailed and at potential partners. To that end Customer Interaction Solutions interviewed several leading hosting firms. We asked them questions on:
* Changes in hosted value proposition and demand
* Purchase trends: entire platforms or portions of them
* Security, portability and interoperability
* Changes and new offerings they have made and are planning to make to their solutions
Wendell Black, Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing
Awareness of hosted solutions has increased dramatically in the marketplace, due in large part to the immense success of the hosted delivery model for other core business applications such as CRM (salesforce.com) and ERP (NetSuite). The demand for them among contact centers is chiefly coming from existing centers moving from on-premise to hosted solutions. We expect this trend to continue as existing premise-based systems require significant upgrades or approach end-of-life. The demand is also coming from organic demand from new contact center deployments.
Demand has also quickly evolved beyond small and medium sized organizations that saw the hosted model as a way to gain contact center functionality that had been out of reach primarily to financial limitations on their ends. Today enterprises and larger contact centers are discovering the numerous benefits a hosted solution can deliver to their organizations and are frequently mandating that hosted solutions be considered.
Many customers were previously managing multiple vendors and applications for ACD, IVR, e-mail and web chat interaction management and other similar functions. They are thrilled to consolidate everything down to a single application from one vendor. The Contactual OnDemand Contact Center is a fully integrated solution so customers purchase the entire platform, although some portion of the feature set is optional.
While security, portability and interoperability concerns have been raised, much has also been written by analysts and other industry leaders about how these concerns are really persistent myths; myths that were also present in the hosted CRM and ERP markets. The hosted contact center marketplace has matured and evolved in such a way that most of these myths have since been debunked.
Contactual has passed rigorous security audits by numerous Fortune 500 companies and as such we are able to quickly overcome this concern. Hosted solutions also offer a great deal of flexibility and extensibility through integration and interoperability with other applications. In many cases, pre-built integrations exist for numerous business applications, such as CRM solutions.
Customers continuously look for flexible ways to acquire and deploy technology. This has led us to offer basic packages that allow customers to start with smaller feature sets that are more in line with their immediate needs and add options later as they see fit.
Our CRM customers have asked for, and we are delivering, a new Campaign Manager for outbound dialing integration that helps streamline business processes for sales and customer service followup activities. They like our “One Click” integration with CRM applications like Salesforce CRM and we are bringing out new additions to our supported CRM list with this “One Click” model.
David Van Everen, Vice President of Product Management
Larger enterprises are increasingly recognizing the value of cloud-based call/contact centers. In the past year more of them have sought cloud-based call center software products that conform to the standards set for premise-based infrastructure. Larger companies have more challenging requirements for security, software integration, scalability and reliability that can only be met by leading vendors in the on-demand call center software market.
More contact centers are also looking to hosted call center solutions as their premise-based solution service contracts expire. Customers are seeing the value of a blended inbound/outbound contact center on a single platform, integrated with the CRM or lead-management system.
When there are economic pressures, most enterprise customers begin with a pilot that includes a substantial yet limited scope. Some companies start with outbound, while others start with departmental or campaign-related initiatives that provide a standalone pilot as well as a reliable proving ground to justify further adoption.
Leading on-demand contact center software vendors consider security a priority. They employ information security best practices that are reflected in standards such as the PCI-DSS, and that are compliant with the security requirements of large enterprises.
Five9 provides information security details spanning our product development lifecycle, operations and platform, enabling our customers/clients to successfully complete rigorous audits in the financial services and healthcare industries. We employ security experts that continually monitor and enhance our platform to remain consistent with security trends and best practices; each software release includes security-related enhancements.
Regarding portability, with each software solution there are proprietary elements that are not portable–call routing scripts, for example. However, with on-demand solutions there are typically more import/export features since they are often replacing incumbent technology.
Interoperability with other contact center platforms is a challenge regardless of the solution. As with on-premise solutions, most leading cloud-based solutions provide integration capabilities that can be used with on-premise solutions.
Five9 recently introduced the Five9 Virtual Call Center Release 8. This new release contains more than 100 new features. They include an option for geographic redundancy, a new library of over 100 standard call center reports, expanded Cloud APIs and many enhancements to the inbound and outbound call center software product lines.
In the coming months, Five9 plans to introduce new product options with significantly expanded capabilities in workforce optimization: call recording, e-learning, quality management, workforce management. Additionally, Five9 will launch innovative new services based on the industry-first Five9 Cloud Computing Platform for Call Centers.
InContact Mariann McDonagh, Chief Marketing Officer
The hosted value proposition has changed over the past year. As this model becomes more mainstream and as providers’ capabilities grow the value proposition becomes less about their capabilities and more about the business benefits they can deliver to contact centers.
We are seeing that the size of the contact center customers purchasing our software services has grown substantially; this is no longer a solution just for small contact centers. We are beating out premise players in a growing percentage of opportunities. More decisionmakers are demanding that a hosted solution be among the options in the early phases of the selection process.
We have had several record quarters in terms of the number of contract closes. This is primarily coming from contact centers dropping their premise-based solutions as well as a significant amount of organic demand. We are seeing that as companies look to start new contact centers, they are choosing the hosted model in nearly 100 percent of the cases.
We are seeing that in the majority of cases where customers purchase only ACD/IVR/CTI, they typically purchase other components of our platform in the future. The reasons include evolving needs, such as for WFO, the ability to make additional purchases with the money saved and looking to us for additional support as their other solutions come to a point where they need to be replaced.
We have established the inContact Trust Office whose mission is threefold. The first goal is service reliability. The Trust Office works closely with engineering and operations to ensure our systems and networks are designed, managed and able to support 99.99 percent uptime. Second it creates, approves and audits security processes. We uphold the highest security standards and are certified with PCI, Sarbanes-Oxley, FCC and CPNI. We are also certified as a Safe Harbor Partner. The third is to ensure performance and scalability. To achieve this we work closely with network planning and network operations to ensure that network growth and design match our customers' growing demands.
We recently introduced quality monitoring, screen recording and workforce management powered by Verint (News - Alert). Tightly integrated with the inContact survey and recording solutions, the new inContact Quality Management system enables contact center managers to see a holistic view of agent performance and the overall customer experience. It allows managers to identify skill gaps and gain insights in order to train more profitable agents and deliver a brand-differentiating customer experience.
We also have a number of upcoming enhancements planned for our platform. Key among them is enhanced reporting with Qlikview, Universal CRM plug-in agent, social media routing and SMS routing.
The hosted value proposition has not changed but the model has become very interesting to enterprises. We do see a lot of companies looking for a better value proposition that are coming to end-of-life with their hardware/software solutions. Typically the premise-based solutions are costing too much to maintain. With the acceptance and proof points the cloud-based providers are showing it is driving a lot of attention.--
Many large enterprises start with a pilot and move through to larger organizations upon success, but most are making large shifts by unplugging their premise solutions and simply turning up contact center cloud solutions within days. Once they see the delivery of this promise, they can easily add locations, remote agents, and even outsourcers to the solution in the same instantaneous fashion.
Security should be a significant consideration when looking at a cloud-based solution. Security is core to the LiveOps Contact Center Cloud platform. There are dedicated security experts monitoring 24/7 with in-depth security and risk audit controls surpassing industry standards and regulations set by Gramm-Leach-Bliley, HIPAA, PCI and Sarbanes-Oxley, among others.
Our roadmap for the year ahead will focus on productivity and management. Some highlights include expanding on our reporting and analytics offering to give greater insights both in real-time and historically. We will introduce screen capture capability to complement our comprehensive recording to give an integrated view of customer engagement and interaction; extending our integration capabilities to third party applications using our extension API set; and enhance outbound capabilities with improved usability and campaign management.
Tina Valdez, Vice President, OnDemand Operations
TeleTech has seen a significant increase in demand for hosted services. What is driving this demand is that customers/clients need more flexibility to solve major business challenges, and they need the solutions now, not next year. Hosted technology delivers this flexibility and can be deployed very rapidly.
TeleTech is seeing more complex deals involving multiple departments looking for integrated solutions. They need to work more collaboratively to drive business results. We are helping clients solve a broad range of interesting problems, such as revenue conversion, penalty reductions, lost revenue, security considerations and social media.
Business continuity continues to be a major concern. Clients who have historically wanted to manage everything in-house are growing more comfortable bringing in an outside expert. As vendor solutions have matured, the risk level has declined.
Approximately 80 percent of TeleTech’s clients want component solutions, and 20 percent are selecting the entire platform. The flexibility allows them to solve specific business problems and not have to undertake an entire conversion at once. This reduces the complexity and risk of the transition by reducing scope and delivering quick wins for the business. Solutions for HR and workforce management are the most-requested components.
We are experiencing two emerging trends for solutions: social media and revenue conversion. As the consumer landscape has evolved with social media, clients need integrated solutions to address the new realities of providing multichannel support. Many clients are also transforming their traditional contact centers into revenue centers. --
More than ever, clients are concerned about fraud and security. TeleTech is certified with numerous security programs including HIPAA, PCI, SAS70 and Sarbanes-Oxley.
TeleTech helps clients address portability concerns by helping them to consider the benefits of open-market systems and hosted options. Our systems use non-proprietary, enterprise-class technology so we can integrate into other systems as clients’ needs dictate.
As most clients have customized environments flexibility is critical. TeleTech is delivering data feeds, service calls and interoperability across platforms and across continents.
One significant change is in employee mobility. Today, employees are not bound by the four walls of a contact center. They may be connected virtually from home, or working in the field and using a mobile connection. The technology must have the flexibility to meet these needs. We offer robust solutions to respond to clients regardless of their requirements while still maintaining the highest level of security.
We are continuing to see a shift toward hosted services. While the value proposition itself has not really changed, with economy beginning to bounce back but with capital budgets still tight, enterprises are more open to invest in hosted solutions with an eye to improving the customer experience.
The bulk of the demand is coming from customers who have end-of-life premises solutions, and are replacing them with cloud-based services. Next is organic demand, as new businesses start up and other businesses return to growth mode.
Another key factor is that more tools are available to provide the enterprise with visibility and control of their hosted services. Verizon for example, offers Verizon Enterprise Center, a customer portal that enables our clients to manage their network-based services, streamline business processes, and control critical business functions.
There certainly are some customers who are willing to host their entire contact center function in the cloud, and we expect to see that trend accelerate. But the majority of our customers are deploying hybrid solutions, in which the intelligent services in the network are interfacing with their premises equipment. Many of our customers supplement their premises-based ACDs with network-based IVR and intelligent (skills-based) call routing. Others use our intelligent contact routing (ICR)-integration service to enable their premises-based routing engines to control routing and queuing in the network.
Premise-based solutions will always be a good fit for some customers using some applications, so the hybrid model is here to stay. But other customers are likely holding onto the premises components temporarily and will reconsider going all-hosted when their current equipment reaches end-of-life.--
Verizon offers multiple levels of security: network, physical and procedural. As for portability, Verizon's philosophy is a commitment to open standards. For example, our Open Hosted Speech Service runs on a VoiceXML (News - Alert) Forum-certified platform, so customers can create their own VXML apps that run in the Verizon network today and could be redeployed to another standards-compliant platform in the future. We have certified many of our cloud-based platforms for interoperability with the leading vendors' premises solutions.
Over the past year Verizon has begun offering our suite of IP contact center services with local number originations, in addition to toll-free. We have added IP terminations for the Open Hosted Speech Service. And we have enhanced our customer enablement and reporting tools to provide clients with even more visibility and control.
We have also deployed a flexible IP contact center infrastructure that will enable us to launch even more contact center services, to deploy advanced capabilities such as video, and to support unified communication and collaboration, breaking down the barriers between the contact center and the rest of the enterprise. This will enable our customers to adapt to the communication needs and preferences of their own customers, providing them with a competitive edge.
[Box: USAN’s Hosted Fraud Insight Protects Customer Interactions]
The Federal Trade Commission reports that credit and charge card fraud costs cardholders and issuers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. To apprehend the perpetrators however, can be a manually intensive process as it often consists of tracking fraudulent acts after transactions have already occurred. A more effective approach is to detect the villains and their footsteps before any crimes are committed.
USAN is a leading hosted contact center firm. It handles millions of customer interactions each day, and therefore has a strong interest in protecting them. It has devised the Fraud Insight solution, which is a fraud pattern analysis engine and case management tool to track and status suspected cases.
Fraud Insight takes in data from many points of interaction and applies a configurable rules engine to automatically detect suspect activity. It monitors and tracks key “Fraud Indicators” (FIs), such as ANI, digital footprints and account numbers to look for questionable activity. When this occurs and is identified for a given customer interaction it is flagged in the system along with any other potentially related interactions. This provides investigators with a real-time view into potentially at-risk FIs across all media types.
The results from clients are promising. USAN reports that one major financial institution client has seen tremendous savings from using Fraud Insights and while another is piloting the solution.
Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi