Maintaining a Traditional Call Center System Can Be Like Maintaining the Millennium Falcon
February 18, 2010
Traditional on-premises call center systems can sometimes be likened to Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon – it’s an old “bucket of bolts” that can hit light speed when it is tweaked and operating correctly – but it requires a lot of maintenance and isn’t exactly reliable.
The Millennium Falcon keeps Chewbacca and the rest of Han Solo’s “IT team” forever busy patching things up as parts break and systems become out-dated. Much like a traditional on-premises contact center system, the Millennium Falcon is a patchwork of different components cobbled together from different vendors spread throughout the galaxy and acquired over time.
And, in case you didn’t notice, the team often has great difficulty finding the parts it needs for the Falcon, traveling far and wide and sometimes paying an arm and leg once they find what they need.
If you’re tired of maintaining the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” maybe its time to upgrade to a hosted call center system – you’ll get improved features and functionality and all the speed that your current system delivers, only you won’t have to maintain it yourself.
Today’s hosted call center systems offer numerous advantages over on-premises systems. The first is reduced up-front cost for implementation. These systems are simple, fast and affordable to deploy: All that is really needed are the computers and a high speed Internet connection. Therefore, there is no need to make a huge up-front investment in new hardware, network infrastructure or traditional software licenses.
The second advantage is reduced ongoing costs. Because today’s hosted call center systems are delivered as a managed service that means the software vendor takes on all responsibility for application performance – including maintenance and troubleshooting of all hardware and network infrastructure. This, in turn, reduces the strain on internal IT resources -- and significantly reduces the cost of maintenance and support.
Maintenance and support is also greatly simplified with a hosted call center system: A traditional on-premises system may include up to a dozen separate components that all must be maintained. That means your IT team will need to maintain relationships with all those vendors -- and ensuring that each vendor is providing the appropriate support for its product. This, in and of itself, can be complicated, time consuming and frustrating. Whereas today’s hosted call center solutions offer a complete suite of software systems all tightly integrated on a single platform. This tight integration between the applications -- which typically all share the same code base -- yields increased reliability as well as improved integration with other systems, such as CRM systems and customer databases.
Which brings us to the third advantage -- simplified pricing. Because today’s hosted call center systems are delivered as a managed service that means companies simply “lease” the software on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. Not only is this pricing model more economical, it’s easier to predict and manage, and affords simplified financial reporting: Rather than paying out chunks of capital for upgrades or replacements of on-premise systems, companies now have the ability to include the cost of their hosted call center service in monthly expense reports as a recurring line item.
The fourth main advantage hosted call center systems have over on-premises systems is faster access to new technologies. The cloud-based model of delivery means organizations can get faster access to new software and features. Most hosted call center providers offer a range of software which customers can combine to make their own custom suites. Customers can quickly access and “trial” new applications as soon as they become available. The hosted model is also ideal for call centers that are looking to adopt a unified communications architecture.
The fifth advantage is increased scalability. Because they are hosted at a provider’s data facility, where there are ample server resources, today’s cloud-based call center solutions enable organizations to scale rapidly to meet sudden spikes in call volume. That means these systems are ideal for companies that experience seasonal peaks in volume – for example an ecommerce company that see most of its business come during the holiday season. A seasonal merchant can rapidly scale up its call center operations from just a handful of agents to hundreds of agents, with the ability to activate extra seats with practically the click of a mouse.
By the same token, organizations that don’t know whether they will be growing or not over the next several years can just as easily scale down their operations without having to make a wasteful investment in large on-premises systems scaling to up to hundreds of lines.
Flexible deployment is another reason why many organizations are ditching their on-premises systems in favor of hosted solutions. Today’s cloud-based call center systems, with their advanced multimedia routing capabilities, are ideal for facilitating the “virtual call center,” which means the call center environment can be accessed from any computer with a high speed connection. That opens up almost limitless possibilities in terms of deployment.
For example, a virtual call center is ideal for facilitating the much-coveted home-based agent model – which brings cost savings and improved agent performance. With a virtual call center system, multimedia contacts such as phone, email, Web chat and SMS messages can be routed to home-based agents just the same as if they are located in the main center. What’s more, with a virtual call center system, home-based agents can be monitored just the same as if they are in the main center as well.
Today’s hosted call center solutions are also ideal for facilitating the “informal call center,” which is where contacts can be routed other “knowledge workers” within an organization – but outside of the main call center – for the purpose of delivering specialized customer service. This model is becoming particularly attractive to companies that have cut their call center staffing to the bare bone but still want the flexibility to “fail over” to other workers in the event call volume spikes. With a virtual call center architecture, companies can have calls automatically routed to other employees – such as back-office workers – so that customer service levels can be maintained when call volumes suddenly and unexpectedly increase.
Finally, today’s hosted call center solutions are ideal for improving business continuity. For example, should the power get knocked out at the main center, phone calls and other contacts, such as emails and web chats, can be automatically routed to the next closest (or most appropriate) regional or remote center – as well as home-based agents. As such these systems are ideal for companies with geographically-dispersed call center operations – remote call centers and/or home-based agents that are spread throughout a region, country or even globally.
With a virtual call center system, if there’s a storm agents can potentially be sent home (or be told to stay home) to work from their own computers, providing they have connectivity, thus allowing customer service operations to continue despite the outage. Or, should there be a highway accident or some other event that prevents agents from getting into work, they can fire up connections from their home computers and have access to all the same applications they normally use.
Today’s hosted call center solutions offer so many advantages over on-premises systems that there are far too many to enumerate in one article. Suffice it to say that if you’re current call center system is requiring a lot of maintenance and starting to remind you of the Millennium Falcon, it might well be time for an upgrade to a hosted solution.
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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