Part of SearchCRM.com's Call Center Trend Watch guide
Now is the right time to start planning an investment in Internet Protocol (IP) contact center solutions. IP technology has been around for more than 15 years and has been used for corporate network infrastructure for most of that time. But contact center vendors took their time delivering functionally rich and technically advanced IP-based contact center solutions that were competitive with their time division multiplexing (TDM)-based predecessors. By the end of 2004, IP technology had finally become a viable choice for contact centers, but the majority of end-user organizations still wanted to see successful implementations with quantifiable benefits before investing. Two short years later, it's clear that IP can vastly reduce operating expenses, simplify management overhead, provide geographic flexibility and improve quality, particularly for multi-site contact center operations.
The IP contact center is ready for prime time
As we enter 2007, many enterprises that put in new contact center systems prior to Y2K have fully depreciated their assets and are gearing up to begin choosing new solutions. It's worth noting that vendors have reported that almost every single request for proposal (RFP) they are receiving today involves IP, though many companies also want vendors to continue to support their legacy TDM-based environments.
Primary benefits from the IP contact center
Below is a list of potential savings and other benefits to consider and analyze when selecting a new IP-based or IP-enabled contact center solution for a multi-site environment:
1. Reduces network mangement fees and carrier costs. IP technology eliminates the need to use a carrier or network management application to efficiently route calls between various contact center sites. This results in major cost savings; even though many companies pay carriers as little as two to three cents per minute, these expenses can add up over time.
2. Simplifies the management of multiple automatic call distributors (ACDs). IP technology enables enterprises to manage all of their contact centers from one central location. This means that expensive contact center technology management staff is no longer needed for all major locations. (It's still a good idea to have business managers who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of each site.)
3. Eliminates the need for multiple copies of the same application. In an IP network, the primary site functions as the central "brain" and provides all application functionality. As a result, it is unnecessary to maintain separate copies of various management and supporting contact center applications, such as workforce management, recording, quality assurance, surveying, coaching, performance management, email response management, etc., at each site. This generally alleviates the management burden and also reduces software licensing and maintenance fees.
4. Provides contact center technology cost-effectively to branch offices, satellite offices, retail locations and remote or at-home agents. IP contact center environments allow agents to be set up anywhere there's an Internet connection. This allows enterprises to provide sophisticated contact center technology in locations where it was previously not practical. Additionally, it facilitates the roll-out of remote, or at-home agents, who are expected to play an increasingly important role in contact centers during the next five years.
5. Optimizes agent usage. IP technology enables enterprises to route transactions to agents more efficiently by eliminating the need for the network management applications and routing and queuing restrictions that have previously hampered multi-site operating environments.
6. Routes each transaction to the most appropriate agent. In an IP environment, agents are managed directly from the primary site. Transactions can be routed to the most appropriate agent, regardless of where they are physically located in the network.
7. Provides a single, unified view of contact center operations. Because all contact center transactions and activities are managed from a central site, there is only one set of reports for the entire operation. (It's also possible to generate separate, customized reports for each of the individual sites.)
8. Facilitates the standardization of service quality. Since all agents and systems are tied into the same hub in an IP environment, enterprises can standardize the handling of all transactions.
The power of IP technology
It's true that IP is just network plumbing, nothing more than a messaging vehicle for moving transactions between locations. But IP technology is exciting because it's agnostic about the types of transactions that it handles and can quickly and easily move all kinds of transactions anywhere within its network.
Any enterprise considering a new contact center investment or an upgrade of an existing one should identify the areas where IP can reduce operating expenses while improving service quality. When IP is implemented properly and is accompanied by changes in contact center procedures, policies and staffing, the organization can realize a payback in 12 months or less. If you're not sure how to achieve these savings, reach out either to a platform vendor or an independent third-party firm, like my company, DMG Consulting, to assist in identifying and quantifying the specific benefits for your business.
About the author
Donna Fluss is the founder and principal of DMG Consulting LLC, a firm specializing in customer-focused business strategy, operations and technology services for Global 2000 and emerging companies. Ms. Fluss is a recognized thought leader and innovator in CRM, contact center and real-time analytics. For over 23 years, she has helped end users build world-class differentiated contact centers and vendors develop high-value solutions for the market. She is the author of the book, "The Real-Time Contact Center" and many leading industry reports, including the 2006 Speech Analytics Market Report and the annual Quality Management/Liability Recording Product and Market Report.