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The Business Value of Consolidating and Centralizing Communications

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 2012 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions

Increasingly powerful servers. Robust IP infrastructures. Innovative design. Call it the new roadmap to consolidated contact center architectures and more centralized configurations. Along with reducing the number of applications and physical boxes to be administered and maintained, consolidation can potentially reduce the number of system and user licenses necessary in a contact center. Consequently, cost savings is an achievable and evident benefit.

Yet while the path to reductions in cost can be clear cut, consolidation can provide additional value by way of business opportunities and managing system-related impacts on profitability. Here’s a closer look at the collective business value of consolidation and centralization.

Defining a consolidated communications solution

Although the approaches to consolidating architectures in the contact center differ from one vendor solution to another, vendors do agree on certain benchmarks. First, all parts of a system must support VoIP to promote greater flexibility in the network. Along with enabling a smoother transition to a centralized platform, VoIP aids in the consolidation of physical locations, and can facilitate handling the different media types that today’s contact centers must process.

Second, the new platform should reduce the physical footprint of systems required for contact center functionality. PBX (News - Alert), ACD, IVR, quality monitoring, workforce management and other components need to be unified, not just integrated. That is, each individual piece should no longer have its own physical hardware to administer and maintain, and eventually to upgrade. Finally, the desktop applications for supervisors, managers and agents alike should include a reduced number of interfaces.

Cost Savings

With an eye on reducing costs by streamlining and simplifying a contact center architecture, three elements of consolidation in particular are key.

Managing multiple contact centers

Diverse contact center infrastructures are typically the byproduct of added functionality and capacity in existing operations, or of mergers and acquisitions. Either way, when designing a consolidation solution for diverse infrastructures, it is imperative to plan a strategy for environments comprised of similar systems, and for those with dissimilar solutions. There are important cost savings advantages in consolidating both types of environments.

Consolidate similar systems

When similar contact center solutions are replicated at multiple sites, a goal should be to consolidate the systems into a few centralized locations, and then use a more robust communications infrastructure to connect hubs to agents at remote locations. Centralization reduces facilities costs for space and HVAC, eliminates equipment, and reduces (or eliminates) the staff needed for local administration and maintenance. Similarly as servers become more powerful and increase capacity, fewer servers are needed to support the same workloads. Of course, such reductions should consider the requirements for business continuity planning and redundant systems.

Consolidate dissimilar systems

Many multi-location contact centers have systems from different suppliers at various locations. By standardizing on a single solution, multi-site centers can simultaneously reduce the number of systems, simplify administration and integration processes, more easily synchronize system upgrades, and actually increase performance and efficiency. They can also provide a more consistent customer experience across media channels and systems.

As importantly, contingency planning for disaster recovery is easier. A consolidated, centralized system reduces the number of interfaces and integrations, makes trunking design easier, and leads to simpler architectural alternatives. Business continuity planning, or even designing for volume surges, likewise is easier when a few centralized hubs are at the core of the infrastructure.

Business Opportunities

Along with smoother contact center operations and process and staffing flexibility staffing, consolidated infrastructures allow companies to provide substantially better service to customers. In all, companies improve first call resolution, more effectively match agent resources with customer requirements, and improve sales, customer satisfaction and loyalty. Moreover they’re able to manage other key impacts on profitability, such as:

Unplanned growth in the corporate ecosystem

With consolidated and centralized technology in place, the company can minimize the need to rewrite expansion plans in the event of sudden sales spikes, mergers and acquisitions, and so on. They can also future-proof the infrastructure for when new business or technical requirements emerge, for the launch of new services and products, etc.

Unexpected events

To manage system changes on short notice, for instance, integration points between lines, phones, IVR menus and other functions can be handled centrally and more manageably within the existing system, preventing wholesale switch-outs of key components and pieces of hardware. For resource scalability, a single platform further allows organizations flexibly to grow and shrink the number of agents within a queue, regardless of whether agents reside at one location or many.

Consistent brand representation and service across channels

Because a consolidated system enables the queuing, delivery, and tracking of all media types, organizations deliver a consistent brand image, message and customer experience regardless of media channel. The customer can therefore expect the same level of service, as well as the same information about their issue, every time they contact the business. From the operations side, the company gets a much clearer view of how agents are delivering service across channels, and can be much more nimble in how it reacts to issues.

Don Van Doren is president of Vanguard Communications ( Brad Herrington is senior manager of solutions marketing at Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) (

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The Business Value of Consolidating and Centralizing Communications

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi