Software-as-a-service or “cloud”-based call center solutions continue to gain traction in the small to medium sized business segment, as companies come to recognize the many advantages they have over premises-based systems.
A recent report from market research firm DMG Consulting shows that, despite the recession, the SaaS (News - Alert)-based call center software market grew in 2008. 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 and legacy hosted systems to SaaS-based systems is expected to accelerate over the next few years.
Today’s SaaS or cloud-based call center systems represent a major 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.
But because there has been a flood of new entrants in the SaaS or cloud based call center software solutions market, it’s getting harder for an SMB to choose the service that will best meet its needs.
In this three-part series, we’ve been covering the basic advantages today’s cloud-based call center software solutions have over on-premises and legacy hosted systems. As we learned in Part 1, these Web-based systems allow for Lower Upfront Costs; Less Commitment, Lower Risk; and Lower Ongoing Costs. In Part 2 we covered three more advantages, including Faster Implementation; Faster Access to New Technologies; and Increased Scalability.
This week we’ll look at three more advantages, including Enabling the Virtual Call Center, Better Control over Business Rules and Better Analytics and Reporting.
Enabling the Virtual Call Center
Today’s SaaS-based call center solutions facilitate the “virtual” call center, which basically means the call center software environment can be accessed from any computer with a high speed Internet connection. This is particularly beneficial for companies which have (or which plan to have) geographically dispersed call centers. With these systems, call center managers and supervisors can have control over the automated routing of calls and other contacts to every center, remote location -- including home-based agents. That means they can manage all call center operations – whether centers distributed regionally, nationally or globally – as a cohesive whole. As such, the virtual call center environment is ideal for facilitating the much-coveted home-based agent model.
With the virtual call center environment, remote and home-based agents can have access to all the same applications they use normally. In addition, managers and supervisors can monitor agents just as if they were in the main center. They can listen in on calls, record calls, capture stats and KPIs, and chat with agents to coach them during and between interactions. The ability to capture key metrics and KPIs from all center locations, as well as home agents, means managers/supervisors can quickly and easily combine and package this data into intra-day, daily, weekly, monthly or yearly reports which management can use to make key business decisions.
Because it enables a highly distributed and more flexible call center network, the virtual call center environment also brings advantages in terms of business continuity. For example, should the power get knocked out at the main center due to a storm, phone calls and other contacts, such as emails and web chats, can be automatically routed to the next closest (or most appropriate) regional or remote center – as well as home-based agents.
What’s more, the virtual call center environment is also ideal for facilitating the “informal” call center – which is where contacts can be quickly and conveniently routed to other knowledge workers in an organization so as to provide more specialized customer service.
Better Control over Business Rules
SaaS-based call center solutions also offer the unique ability to apply business rules -- either across the entire contact center or specifically for certain centers, certain agent groups or even specific individual agents. For example, agents can log onto the system only when they're scheduled to; can access only the applications and network resources they need to do their jobs; or can only contact certain other individuals or knowledge workers in the organization from their desktops. In addition they can be restricted to contacting others within the company based only on their "presence" or availability.
What’s more contacts can be precisely routed to each agent based on predefined rules, based on which types of contacts or customers the agent is best suited to handle, as well as the unique skills sets the agents possess (i.e. "skills based routing” across all centers, remote offices and home-based agents). Agents can be instantly delivered custom scripts, or IMs from the manager, during difficult interactions, helping them to calm an irate customer or up-sell and cross-sell at specific junctures predetermined by management.
Better Analytics and Reporting
Finally, most of today’s SaaS-based call center solutions offer advanced reporting, analytics and forecasting capabilities which can help call center managers gain detailed insights into agent performance and then package that data into useful reports which management can use to make strategic business decisions. These solutions give call centers a way to measure performance across all locations, so that managers and upper management can measure performance as a collective whole or drill all the way down into individual agent stats – all from a Web-based administrative interface that can be accessed from anywhere, including mobile devices.
Contactual is a leading provider of SaaS-based virtual call center software. To learn more about the company and its solutions, click here.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard