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Will the Hosted Call Center Make Good Cocktail Conversation?

August 08, 2011
By Linda Dobel, TMCnet Contributor

In the early 1980s when you said you were in the call center business—rather, the telemarketing business—there wasn’t much to explain when you needed to describe what you did for a living. There really was no equipment or technology to speak of, only banks of black, corded telephones plunked in front of “sales reps” who were often just struggling actors who were really good at reading the sales scripts that were written out on stacks of index cards that also displayed the names and telephone numbers of the prospects whose names were extracted from telephone books. 

As the years went on, the call center evolved and became more sophisticated with an ever-increasing array of technologies. That’s when the explaining became more difficult.  To make it even more interesting, it seemed that every new call center development had to have an acronym: ACD, PBX, TSR (News - Alert)/CSR, CRM, VoIP, etc.  Further complicating the situation, the average Joe or Jane didn’t have the amount of interactions with call centers like they do today, so they didn’t have a frame of reference to rely on when you’d try to explain the inner workings of call centers.

Flash forward to the current day. Today, even though the average Joe and Jane is very familiar with the call center and is more often than not semi tech savvy, the call center technology itself is so complicated that each facet needs its own specialist to explain how it works. Now throw in the fact that today we have eliminated the physical trappings of the call center and replaced them with the hosted call center and the whole thing  would appear to move further from the reality base of most “outsiders.”

Nevertheless, we can thank TV advertising by a couple of tech companies for bringing the concept of the “cloud” or hosted applications into the homes of the masses, giving new hope that people outside of the industry are beginning to understand the concept of the hosted call center.

Heather Hurst, a blogger for inContact, a company that provides sophisticated cloud-based technology for call centers,  was recently entertaining many of these same thoughts and wrote about them in a post she called “Cloud, You have Arrived.”   Hurst relayed how bringing up the topic of call center technologies in general conversations is typically “met with blank stares or people just walking away from the conversation altogether,” which has made her “a bit leery to start bringing the topic of the cloud into everyday conversation, just in case it isn't completely ubiquitous.”

To her delight, Hurst said that she discovered an article that discusses the concept of the cloud in a consumer magazine she was reading. Goodbye trepidation! If the concept of the cloud and hosted applications is reaching the mainstream media, there is hope that the hosted call center will be universally understood, and people of all stripes will “wonder why we ever installed hardware on premise.”

Nevertheless, while Hurst believes those who are “well entrenched in the cloud” can now talk “freely about SaaS (News - Alert), ACD, agents and self-service” to anyone they encounter,  that is perhaps pushing the envelope a bit too far.

Then again, maybe Hurst is right and the topic of the hosted call center will make the rounds at the next cocktail party you attend.  

Linda Dobel is a TMCnet Contributor. She has been an editor in the contact center space for more than 25 years, and has the distinction of being the founding editor of Customer Inter@ction Solutions (CIS) magazine. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Chris DiMarco

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