Call Center Management Feature Article
June 17, 2010
Who Says Hosted Call Center Software Lacks Flexibility?
By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet
A recent study from DMG Consulting shows that more than 70 percent of call centers are now using workforce management for forecasting and scheduling. The results really aren't all that surprising when one considers all the advantages today's workforce management solutions have over spreadsheets - they help companies improve service levels, hold down operating costs, and boost customer and agent satisfaction.
But what about the other 30 percent that are still using spreadsheets or 'manual' systems for scheduling agents? What is holding them back?
Part of it could be trepidation about migrating to the hosted model of delivery. An increasing number of WFM solutions are now being delivered via the software-as-a-service or 'cloud' model - however some companies still see potential drawbacks to migrating their on-premises systems over to the cloud. Some would rather 'make due' with their legacy call center applications, most of which are now becoming old and out-dated, until they feel more 'comfortable' with making the migration.
A recent white paper from DMG Consulting, sponsored by Interactive Intelligence (News
), aims to dispel some of the 'misconceptions' about hosted software offerings. Although the white paper is focused on all-in-one call center solutions that bundle all the core call center applications on a single platform, the same 'misconceptions' can also apply to standalone 'best-of-breed' solutions, including workforce management software.
One of the misconceptions discussed in the white paper is that 'hosted contact centers solutions are inflexible and not customizable.' As we mentioned in Part 2
of this series, it is likely that this misconception is 'carry-over' from the days of traditional hosted software, when the customer was required to deploy some software 'client-side' and the system could only be accessed through the company network. Most of the call center applications delivered via the ASP model were really nothing more than premises-based solutions that were simply hosted in a data center: They were never designed to be 'hosted' in the first place. These traditional hosted applications left behind a legacy of bad experiences due to their lack of features and functionality - not to mentioned poor performance.
With today's Web-based offerings, however, that has changed considerably. With today's network and data center technologies, hosted software vendors are now able customize their solutions based on each customers' needs. What's more, the SaaS (News
) or cloud model of delivery has opened up a plethora of flexible deployment options. What's more, today's cloud-based call center systems are many times simpler to integrate with other leading call center systems - regardless if they are on-premises or hosted.
'In general, end users consider the hosted vendors and solutions to be very flexible and scalable, although there are significant differences among hosted contact center providers, just as there are among the premise-based competitors,' the white paper states.
As the white paper points out, 'there are a couple of aspects of the flexibility issue that prospects should address when making a selection. The first is ease of setting up and modifying the application, and the second is the vendor's flexibility in making upgrades to their solution.'
The white paper explains that with today's technologies, hosting vendors can offer new functionality 'with ease.'
'Hosting vendors simply load up new software, making it immediately available, as compared to premise-based vendors who either ship out upgrades on a CD or have customers download them from a support site,' the white paper states. 'In both scenarios, end user involvement is required to integrate and apply the enhancements in their operating environment.'
The paper points out that just as premises-based solutions vendors can negotiate system enhancements as part of their purchase agreement (along with delivery time frames), 'hosting customers can do the same. Managing the relationship with the vendor is always an important aspect of using a third-party application, whether it is premise-based or SaaS.'
Scalability remains one of the biggest advantages hosted solutions have over on-premises solutions. With a hosted solution, a company can quickly and easily scale up or scale down the number of call center seats they are paying for, which is key for companies with cyclical or seasonal sales cycles. This way, companies only pay based on the current number of seats. This can be much more cost effective than paying for hardware or software licenses based on the maximum number of seats or users during peak periods - and then having the hardware and software sit there, 'under-utilized,' during the slow periods.
Next week we'll look at another misconception: 'Hosted contact center implementations and integrations are more difficult than premises-based initiatives.'
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard
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