An Untapped Multi-Billion Dollar Opportunity: Next Generation Networks (News - Alert) and Multimedia Contact Centers
By Manuel Vexler (News - Alert)
Since the mid 1960s contact centers evolved along with voice technologies. From sales calls by local or overseas agents, to help centers for any imaginable service and last-minute automated political messages, contact centers evolved in lockstep with the voice network. While contact center technologies, such as IVR and skills-based-call-routing are being deployed to reduce wait-time, increase customer satisfaction and reduce operational costs, contact centers still depend on the services offerings of traditional carriers and are held back by their unhurried roll-out of next generation network technologies and converged multimedia services.
A recent analysis by ContactBabel (News - Alert) on the U.S. Contact Center market shows little progress being made in the direction of multimedia technologies. Voice is clearly the dominant media with email and text messages a distant second. Contact centers are still behind in capitalizing on the power of visual media. Images and videos are very popular with services such as YouTube (News - Alert), FaceBook or interacting as avatars in SecondLife. Contact centers risk being left out from these rapidly emerging ecosystems formed around social networking. By not taking part in social network advertising, consultative sales, and support groups, contact centers risk following the same attrition curves that fixed line telephony is already experiencing. In addition, the emergence of the smart phone makes the text chat and IM tools an integral part of the media used by higher income people.
So the question for the contact center industry is what direct benefits they can realize from using NGN services instead of traditional voice and VoIP services to efficiently reach their customers, while keeping customer satisfaction scores high and operational costs low.
First let’s examine how an NGN network implementing federated identity can save an estimated $16 billion a year for the U.S. contact center industry. Customer authentication and identity verification consumes close to 30 seconds for each call or 88 cents per customer. Federated identity is the process of using network authentication to automate the verification of the customer identity. In an NGN IMS network this function is performed automatically between the customer’s terminal and the network. In addition using the same process, contact centers can receive real time information about user location, presence information and select the proper communications media. For example, if the customer is in a meeting, the customer care can be provided in a Instant Message dialogue instead of a phone call.
In addition to tens of billions of dollars in cost savings, activating NGN multimedia services can result in building new high revenue services. For example, contact centers, if staffed with the right medical personnel, can provide remote care in routine examinations. Many chronically ill patients require brief doctors’ visits for a blood test or a basic electrocardiogram. While telemedicine devices are readily available, the lack of the NGN infrastructures makes standardization of such devices and quality interactive video still difficult, hence discouraging usage by the population at large. According to Insight Research, “telecommunications services market will grow from $6.3 billion in 2006 to $8.1 billion in 2011 at a CAGR of 5.4 percent over the forecast horizon due to growth in every healthcare segment.” To reach this level of growth will require an immediate implementation of NGN services which will provide the right level of confidentiality and service quality required by the medial industry, and HIPAA.
In conclusion, the contact center industry is one of the primary beneficiaries of the evolution of the telecom network from current voice and ‘best-effort’ IP to an all-IP network capable of delivering multimedia services with proper quality of service and policy control.
For additional information and participation at NGN Forum and IMS Forum (News - Alert) technical working groups and plugfest please visit www.NGNForum.org or contact us at Admin@NGNForum.org.
Manuel Vexler is the Technical Chair, NGN Forum™ (www.NGNForum.org).
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