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Making decisions about contact center architecture

Companies need to figure out how to capitalize on multiple communication channels in order to create seamless customer interactions.

Contact centers are an integral part of companies' relationships with customers. Today, one of the challenges they face is exploring channels of communication other than the phone -- email, social media plat­forms and company websites -- to create seamless interactions rather than fractured experiences that frustrate customers.

Providing quality customer service is no small feat, though, and companies have to make seri­ous decisions about contact center architecture -- like whether it makes sense to choose a hosted or on-premises model, for example. With host­ing, companies outsource the infrastructure to an external entity, reducing up-front costs and possibly boosting return on investment. With an on-premises center, organizations must be pre­pared to buy and maintain an entire system.

But the choices aren't always simple -- for example, with a hosted facility, companies may defray up-front costs but instead incur high expenses over the long-term in paying management, maintenance and support fees to have a hosted facility. Further, companies could lose a degree of control over customer service quality and consistency, which may be better managed and maintained in-house.

So, while it's attractive on the surface for its cost-saving attributes, outsourcing can be a perilous move for companies that don't handle it correctly.

By the same token, maintaining costly on-premises physical facilities, paying full-time staff, and owning all the management headaches of an on-premises facility may not make sense for companies with fluctuating demand or for startup companies that need to run lean and mean in order to stay in business. 

For organizations trying to modernize their contact center architecture, legacy technology also presents problems. Upgrading CRM systems may be the answer, particularly because outdated systems irk customers and contact center employees. This is a major project, and sometimes it makes sense to pair older systems with new software.

To go fully modern, some contact centers have chosen to incorporate new channels. For example, certain companies have moved the task of social customer care into the realm of the contact center to provide one voice and con­sistency of service. Others have maintained distinct teams to provide what they see as flag­ship service in each realm, despite possible issues with fragmented customer service.

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