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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
July 2007 - Volume 26 / Number 2
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IP, Virtual And Consolidated: The New Standard for Contact Center Technology

By Stephen R. Kowarsky, CosmoCom, Inc.By Stephen R. Kowarsky, CosmoCom, Inc.


With customer service excellence emerging as a core strategy for businesses worldwide, contact center decision makers are now under pressure to increase customer satisfaction and reduce costs at the same time, all while managing complex day-to-day operations.

One of the most effective ways to further all of these challenging and sometimes conflicting objectives — service improvement, cost reduction and operational streamlining — is through the deployment of a virtual contact center.

A virtual contact center is a contact center in which the agents are located in multiple locations, but managed and utilized as a single entity. With one logical center across many locations, staffing resources are used to their maximum efficiency. Since calls are shared across the entire pool of agents rather than across geographically specific ones, the traffic is more evenly divided, moderating the workload for all agents. Busy signals and wait times are reduced, which not only raises customer satisfaction, but also decreases the caller negativity that can wear down even the best agents.

Skills-based Routing
In a virtual contact center, experts are available to any caller who needs them through location-independent, skills-based routing. Since calls are routed to the right person regardless of location, fewer calls have to be escalated and more inquiries are converted to orders.

Because it allows agents to work in the location of their choice and even at home, the virtual contact center model increases the pool of available agents, reduces recruitment costs and improves employee retention and satisfaction, thus reducing training costs and improving customer service.

Virtual also means flexible. Mergers, spin-offs, reorganizations and redeployments are rarely painless. But they are far less painful and costly on an enterprise's contact centers when they are virtual, making the technology resources location-independent.

Virtualization also supports and reduces risks associated with the major trend to offshore outsourcing of agents. While the cost reduction opportunity of offshore outsourcing is significant, vital concerns remain about loss of control, operational complexity and quality of service. Creating virtual contact centers mitigates these risks, because it enables managers to retain complete operational visibility and control of activity across the globe via easy-to-use, Web-based administrative and reporting tools. It also allows seamless global call routing so that callers can reach the most cost-effective and appropriately skilled agent wherever in the world that agent may be.

The IP Advantage
Because IP networks are inherently virtual, virtualization is more cost-effective and easier to justify as a capital investment with the deployment of an IP-based solution. As enterprises deploy their own high performance IP networks, the IP advantage increases. And there are other benefits to this inherently virtual technology. New generation software-based platforms don't need CTI (News - Alert) middleware to integrate with the IT environment, and unify all communication channels in a single platform.

Capital investment for an enterprise deployment is not the only route to virtualization, however. Any discussion of virtualization should also address the hosted services option. Hosted IP contact center on-demand services are increasingly available from major service providers with global presence. These services not only reduce the capital requirement of contact center infrastructure to nil, but also provide instant virtualization because they are fundamentally engineered to support agents in any mix of physical locations.

Whether they follow the traditional premises model or the new hosted on-demand model, IP-based solutions are the affordable and fast-deploying virtual contact center platforms that can make the vision of a completely global, fully distributed, yet logically singular contact center a practical reality.

Consolidation - Multi-virtual Centers
Some forward-thinking enterprises are taking the next step and consolidating their call centers into one “multi-virtual” platform. Multi-tenant platforms can support not just one distributed virtual contact center, but any number of them. Most large enterprises have several contact centers addressing completely different applications. From a staffing perspective, it may not make sense to combine them. But from a technology perspective, it can make a lot of sense and save a lot of dollars.

A multi-tenant platform provides Web-based self-administration to each individual tenant, so for tenants it's just like having their own dedicated platform. Combining the workloads of multiple applications by combining multiple tenants on the same platform generates greater economies of scale across all the contact centers operating within an organization. There are also economies of scale in implementation and support personnel, because the investment in staff training and experience keeps on paying dividends across more and more applications.

The virtual contact center took the arrival of all-IP platforms to make it economically feasible. But virtual isn't always enough. If being virtual is good, being multi-virtual is better. Multi-tenancy technology with tenant self-administration can make this unique and important innovation available to contact center professionals today.

Steve Kowarsky is Executive Vice President of CosmoCom (www.cosmocom.com) and a frequent industry speaker on virtual contact centers.

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