Hosting set to top list of hot call centre trends in 2009
Most companies, and most contact centres, are still following a very traditional IT acquisition model; buy your hardware and software outright, depreciate it over three to five years and then do it all over again. This model is in trouble because it fails to give organisations the flexibility they need to compete in a world that is moving at breakneck speed.
What is needed is for organisations to change their IT cost structures, exploring new, variable-cost options that will allow greater agility and more scope for managing budgets and cutting costs – or scaling up – as the business needs it.
This is one reason why technology hosting is likely to be one of the hottest trends in the contact centre industry during 2009. Hosting, as opposed to outsourcing, allows companies to manage their own contact centre operations efficiently by buying technology services rather than equipment. All the work of integration, maintenance, upgrades and all the rest is done by the hosting provider, who typically offers variable pricing models allowing seats to be added or removed monthly, if necessary.
If financial agility is one reason to opt for hosting, the shortage of available skills is another. This is a global issue, not just one facing South Africa. Contact centres are extraordinarily complex technological environments now, especially with the growing need to integrate multiple media such as email and online chats into unified queues. It is much more efficient to create a pool of skills serving several contact centres than for each one to rely on a few individuals who may not have all the required skills – and who may not be around in six months.
When technology skills come as part of a hosted service package, contact centre managers can spend more time and energy on the work they are best at – managing their employees. People account for around 70 percent of the cost of running a call centre – using technology to manage them more efficiently can make a huge difference to overall profitability.
Hosted contact centre packages offer not just the standard technology for making, receiving and recording calls, but also a range of monitoring and reporting tools to make management of both people and costs easier. A few years ago it was enough to be able to report that 80 percent of calls had been answered within 20 seconds – but we have all learned that purely numbers-based monitoring that ignores the quality of the customer experience can backfire.
Now the challenge for contact centre managers is to balance employee productivity against customer experience, a tricky task that requires finely tuned reporting tools. Without hosting to spread the costs, these tools would be beyond the reach of smaller contact centres.
Hosted services also have the advantage of providing a single point of contact when things go wrong. Instead of bouncing between vendors who keep passing the problem on to someone else, clients have a single service provider – who is bound by an SLA and may face penalties if the service is not restored promptly.
Why has it taken so long for hosted contact centre services to make an impact on the market? The simple answer is that until very recently it was not even possible, thanks to high bandwidth costs and technical constraints. The choices were either to host your contact centre in-house, or outsource the whole thing. Now it is possible to have the technology hosted, leaving contact centres to own and manage their own customer interfaces.
In this context, any time spent managing technology is time not spent managing customers and making sales. For contact centre operators tightening the belts for what may be a couple of lean years ahead, this is not a problem they can afford to have.– Jed Hewson (Opinion Piece)