Today’s software-as-a-service or “cloud”-based call center solutions are a considerable improvement over the hosted or ASP models of not-too-distant past – particularly in terms of reliability, service quality, scalability, feature sets, ease of deployment and reduced up-front cost.
In fact, these Web-based systems have improved so much in the last few years that it’s getting harder for companies to decide whether to go the SaaS (News - Alert) route or the on-premises route when it comes to call center technology upgrades.
Both models hold their own distinct advantages, but it seems today’s cloud-based call center solutions are gaining the upper hand, because they’ve now matured to the point where they can deliver the same functionality and features that on-premises systems deliver -- securely and reliably. Plus they now deliver faster, simpler and more reliable integration with a range of other systems, including CRM systems -- which in the past had been a challenge with older, hosted call center solutions.
Backing this up is a recent report from market research firm DMG Consulting showing that the SaaS-based call center software market grew in 2008 – despite the recession. In addition DMG predicts that SaaS-based call center market will grow 30 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2010 and 20 percent in 2011 – thus the migration from on-premises systems to SaaS-based systems will likely accelerate over the next few years.
As we learned in Part 1 of this multi-part series, SaaS-based call center solutions hold numerous advantages over traditional on-premises systems. The three advantages we discussed last week included Lower Upfront Costs; Less Commitment, Lower Risk; and Lower Ongoing Costs. This week we’ll look at three more advantages including Faster Implementation; Faster Access to New Technologies; and Increased Scalability.
Rapid deployment is one of the biggest advantages today’s SaaS-based call center solutions offer. Unlike traditional on-premises systems, which can take weeks or months to install, integrate and configure, today’s SaaS-based call center solutions can be deployed in a matter of hours. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, all that’s needed are the PCs and a high speed (typically T1/E1) Internet connection.
Today’s SaaS-based call center solutions also offer fast and simple integration with existing IT systems, as well as support for service-oriented architecture (SOA). Most vendors are now providing pre-integration for legacy CRM and business systems. Plus, support for SOA helps companies save money by keeping their existing legacy software and servers, yet still being able to access their customer data the same way they always have.
Faster Access to New Technologies
The SaaS model also means customers can get faster access to new software and features. When a service provider upgrades its platform to a new version, adds new software modules or adds new features or capabilities, subscribers typically get these upgrades automatically, without having to purchase new software licenses. In addition, customers can quickly access and “trial” new applications as soon as they become available – without much up front cost or risk. If a particular application or functionality doesn’t work the way the customer envisioned, or doesn’t offer compelling benefits, all they have to do is contact the vendor and have that particular application or feature turned “off.”
Today’s SaaS-based call center solutions also enable organizations to scale rapidly to meet spikes in call volume. Not only can these systems handle sudden “planned” spikes in volume – such as when an e-commerce company airs an infomercial on cable television – they can also provide failover for “unplanned” spikes in call volume – such as sudden product recall resulting in a deluge of phone calls. Because the vendor hosts the software in a data center, where there is presumably ample server resources, all the vendor has to do is allocate additional server space, which can be done on-demand.
By the same token, these systems offer extreme scalability in terms of the number of agent seats they support. This is particularly beneficial to companies operating seasonal businesses – for example, a merchant that does most of its business at holiday time might need to scale its call center from 20 seats to 200 seats starting in late October, and then bring the number of seats back down to 20 come February. This is where today’s SaaS-based call center systems deliver compelling return-on-investment: Rather than having to purchase and install a network capable of supporting 200 agents year-round, and maintain it, a seasonal business can instead outsource the infrastructure, scale the number of agents up and down as needed, and pay based on the number of seats that are currently in use.
Next week we’ll look at three more advantages of the SaaS-based call center platform, including Enabling the Virtual Contact Center; Better Control over Business Rules; and Improved Agent Efficiency.
Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard