The Case for a Hosted Contact Center System

Hosted contact center systems have gained popularity as a more flexible, cost-effective choice than premise-based hardware systems. Comparing the two options, however, is often akin to comparing apples to arugula.

To simplify the decision process, you should look at your organization’s business needs, taking into account current and future customer demand as well as corporate and product/service expansion plans. Balancing all these factors with the internal structure and resources, and evaluating what effect these decisions could have upon customer service and support levels, will help you move toward an optimal solution.

Here’s a look at seven common business-focused needs:

1. Rapid deployment. The integration of new system components and applications such as a computer telephony integration (CTI) server, new interactive voice response (IVR) applications, and a quality monitoring system or a database to the legacy environment is complicated and often underestimated. Integration with the desktops and training on all new systems adds to the cycle, which typically takes between six and nine months. Conversely, hosted systems, complete with customized capabilities, are typically operational within 60 days. By selecting managed contact center services, system integration—the most time-consuming step of the installation process—is eliminated. All sub systems (private branch exchange (PBX)/automatic call distribution (ACD), CTI server, e-media servers, IVR, case management system) required for solution delivery are already integrated at the hosting facility.

2. Elimination of acquisition, maintenance, and upgrade costs. Buying, building, integrating, and maintaining a service and support center with an industry standard functional baseline carries a $2.8 million price tag, according to a November 1999 report by Deloitte and Touche. Taking all costs into consideration, a hosted solution typically represents only a fraction (10%-20% the first year) of the cost it takes to build and maintain a premise-based contact center solution. Comparing the costs over three to five years will still favor hosting, with the cost of IT personnel being a major differentiator. And using a hosted provider that delivers a fully integrated platform of inbound and outbound contact center solutions on a per-user, per-month subscription basis ensures that you pay only for what you need.

3. Ability to scale up or down on demand. The number of agents you need can change at any time. A special promotion, seasonal spikes, or some other event could leave you with unacceptable customer delays and breakdowns in your customer service levels.

4. Elimination of over- and undercapacity. Once you buy a hardware-based contact center, you’re locked in. Even if everything goes according to plan, you will have bought too much capacity at the beginning of your usage cycle and be struggling with too little capacity at the end. With an on-demand hosted solution, you receive exactly the capacity you need, exactly when you need it.

5. Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and increased ROI. TCO and ROI are critical to every contact center purchase decision. And nothing drives these metrics like scale and expertise. Most hosted providers own and operate their own data centers and manage the entire contact center infrastructure from their facilities, so that they can provide you with above-average capability and reliability levels.

6. Ability to add features quickly and painlessly. Customer expectations and market conditions change. Contact center technologies advance. An appropriate service integration platform can give you the flexibility to easily add features.

7. Guaranteed performance and reliability. A hosted service provider should promise comprehensive “always on” performance and reliability guarantees for every aspect of your solution.

Bruce Dresser is the chief marketing and strategy officer of Echopass Corp., a Pleasanton, CA-based contact center services firm.

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