Part of SearchCRM.com's Call Center Trend Watch guide
The technology landscape for multi-site contact centers has undergone a transformation in recent years thanks to Internet Protocol (IP). It's a transformation that can mean big savings for organizations. IP can cost effectively move any transaction type -- data, voice, video, email, etc. -- anywhere in the world. This enhances business flexibility and eliminates the physical and geographical restrictions that previously limited how enterprises used their contact centers. When used properly, IP can deliver payback in 12 months or less.
By creating fully-integrated environments for routing and queuing voice transactions, IP:
Together, these benefits comprise a robust business case for IP contact centers.
ROI advantage of IP
An IP-enabled multi-site architecture eliminates the need for each contact center site to have its own set of applications, such as interactive voice response (IVR) and workforce management (WFM). This architecture requires a centralized gateway and one set of related applications, plus an optional second hub for redundancy (it is always a good idea to have a back-up site that is part of the environment with a fully redundant set of applications). This approach enables enterprises to standardize and simplify ongoing system support and maintenance. It also significantly reduces operating expenses, administrative overhead and maintenance costs.
Once in place, this architecture easily extends to any location that can connect to an IP network. The centralized ACD functionality and applications can support secondary sites -- remote locations, branch/retail offices, at-home agents or outsourcers, located anywhere in the world. Enterprises can then extend activities rapidly and cost effectively to meet changing business requirements. Enterprises no longer need to acquire new contact center infrastructure and applications every time they want to set up a new site.
IP contact center routing advantage
In an IP-based multi-site contact center architecture, all incoming calls are delivered to a centralized IP gateway. The centralized gateway converts all traffic, whether it originates from a time-division multiplexing (TDM) or IP switch into an IP media stream. No advanced network management features are required to route calls to the central site for processing. Once the calls are converted into IP media streams, they are managed and tracked by the contact center's application functionality, which resides in a central hub.
Each call is routed across the IP network to the next appropriate agent, regardless of whether they are located in a formal contact center facility, a branch office, a home office or at an outsourcer. If necessary, calls can be converted back to TDM to preserve the value of legacy equipment in specific locations. This approach eliminates the need for network pre-routing, network services such as transfer-connect and ACD routing at each site. It simplifies call processing and eliminates the need for expensive network management, as calls no longer need to be transferred back and forth among switches and carriers.
IP improving the old contact center
In the early 2000s, contact center sites operated on a stand-alone basis and each required a full set of systems and applications. These included the primary infrastructure for routing and queuing (ACD), IVR for customer self-service, logging functionality to record all calls, CTI for screen pops, quality assurance (QA) applications to allow supervisors to evaluate agent performance, and WFM for agent forecasting and scheduling.
Economies of scale could be realized by sharing contact center agents between sites, but certain routing and queuing inefficiencies were inherent in multi-site operating environments. Additionally, network management costs and carrier fees were very expensive for companies that required these services to allocate calls among their physically dispersed sites. Today, call centers can avoid most of these problems and realize a significant payback by using IP technology.
Case study: Delta Air Lines
After years of encountering challenges typical of companies with large multi-site contact center environments, Delta contracted Avaya to create an international IP network.
As a result of the project, Delta achieved $16 million in annual telecommunications savings. Delta's total investment in the network was $12 million and payback came within nine months. However, telecommunications savings were not the only hard benefits of the IP network. Delta's 2% increase in routing efficiency represented agent annual productivity savings of $7.2 million. IP also allowed Delta to realize hardware and support savings by eliminating hundreds of servers and a dozen ACDs.
While the ROI-based business case for IP is extremely robust, as in Delta's case, it is important to remember IP's greater benefits:
These are the operational benefits that, in conjunction with the ROI case, make IP a highly worthy contact center technology.
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 and 2007 Speech Analytics Market Report and the annual Quality Management/Liability Recording Product and Market Report.