This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
Customer retention and the need to create loyalty building initiatives are topics for every customer care organization. Plans for these initiatives frequently hit a brick wall when the need to reduce costs is considered equally important as such corporate directives. These seemingly divergent customer care requirements are really not mutually exclusive if a hosted (or often referred to as “virtual”) contact center solution is considered.
Flexibility to optimally distribute agents by availability of skills, favorable wage rates or geographic coverage is perhaps the most obvious benefits. However, a capable virtual contact center solution can also vault customer care efforts to new heights by:
- enabling multi-channel support that might previously have been inhibited by a legacy system;
- empowering supervisory control, queue management and agent assistance across a distributed workforce; and
- ensuring call spike and telephony uptime via redundant call center resources.
More organizations are turning to hosted solutions for these competitive reasons. Host solutions can also be the answer when an organization is faced with making a substantial capital investment to update obsolete premises-based equipment.
So, is a hosted solution the right fit for your organization?
WHAT IS A VIRTUAL CONTACT CENTER?
Virtualizing contact center services means removing typical limitations such as physical connectivity to a brick-and-mortar agent pool. Call distribution and central management of agents or automated services makes it easy to deploy “best agent” call routing, introduce home-based agents, or immediately answer every call with engaging voice recognition and without concern for port availability within a single contact center.
Servers, telephony access, networking equipment and all associated hardware and software required to accept calls and route them to agents are hosted by a third party in a virtual contact center model. IP-based technology provides a robust and cost-effective means of transferring calls once received via a TDM or VoIP circuit.
“Virtual” is the critical operative word, as any location with Internet access, including a home, can become a contact center. This flexibility generally comes with the added value of redundancy and security from hosting facilities created with multi-tenancy in mind.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
Flexibility to engage customers and prospects with best agent routing and multi-channel communications to improve satisfaction is one of the key benefits of the hosted contact center model. Cost savings and scalability are also strong factors. Commonly highlighted benefits of a virtual contact center also include:
One Virtual Resource – Contact center walls are no longer barriers. The best agent to handle the call may be located in another state or at home. Managers have a unified “global” perspective of queue status, agent availability and call resolution statistics.
Superior Satisfaction between Channels – Virtual contact centers can also make cross-channel support a customer satisfaction benefit. Integration between an IVR and agents to reduce repeat requests and the ability to send an SMS confirmation after an audio dialog are examples of operations that are frequently difficult for legacy systems to support.
Consolidation and Integration – Almost everyone is challenged with multi-vendor systems in various stages of a useful lifecycle. A hosted contact center solution is not an all or nothing proposition. Virtual call centers can easily be phased in or agents transferred without geographic boundaries and without massive disruption.
Scalability – Instant reaction to fluctuating call volumes is a strength of the hosted contact center model. Agent availability and expertise means ability to scale is not infinite. However, it is far more capable than a premises-based model that might carry the overhead required to build out for spikes, thus remaining idle most of the time.
Operational Expenditure – Pay per use vs. capital expense can be the key to a compelling return on investment. OpEx can mean the difference between deploying a hosted contact center model with minimal upfront costs vs. remaining with a less capable premises-based solution.
Virtual Contact Center Evaluation Criteria
A virtual (or on-demand) model for contact center services provides a number of valuable customer satisfaction AND cost saving benefits. However, a provider of those services must be capable of delivering a level of service to ensure the appropriate return on investment. Download a free whitepaper that provides some guidelines on what to look for in a hosted contact center solutions vendor.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi