While it still has room for substantial growth, 2011 showed a dramatic increase in the willingness of enterprises and SMBs to embrace the virtual call center model. Offering scalability and reduction in initial capital investment, virtual call centers are a testament to what is possible in the connected world.
Contactual (News - Alert) is a major player in the space and saw a number of headlines this year that supported the march to dominance for virtual call centers. The company was not only the recipient of a product of the year award from Customer Interaction Solutions magazine, but also boasted significant growth for Q1 performance and a returning stint as a gold sponsor at Dreamforce. But when you mention Contactual there’s really one story that trumped all the others this year. In September the company was purchased by network provider 8x8.
Contactual was built from the ground up to offer users all of the tools they need to support the essential functions of the call center. Former CEO Wendell Black said, “When I got into the hosted solution in 2000, it was a bleeding-edge technology; now everything is hosted. Telephony is still lagging in the move to cloud technology though, and the amount that people spend on premise-based solutions is huge.”
Augmentation for existing phone systems has historically been one of the biggest portions of the Contactual customer base. Offering upgraded utility to businesses which have may have older PBX (News - Alert) systems but want more functionality from them for example. The hosted solution offers a low cost monthly fee, and the ability to expand and get value out of an infrastructure that’s already received investment.
The motivation then for the acquisition of 8x8 is clear then. In the words of 8x8’s Chairman and CEO Bryan Martin (News - Alert), "8x8 is committed to becoming the industry's premier provider of cloud-based communications and mission critical services and applications to businesses of all sizes," he said . "The acquisition of Contactual is a natural extension of this strategy as it significantly broadens our technological expertise and service offerings in the customer interaction management and contact center space. At the same time, the acquisition allows us to realize operational cost savings and enhanced customer satisfaction resulting from the tighter integration of the Contactual technology platform within 8x8's (News - Alert) services and network."
There’s little question that the hosted call center will continue to consume market share from the premise based installations in 2012. By the acquiring a stalwart provider of contact center solutions like Contactual, 8x8 is poised to capitalize on the continued migration that will punctuate 2012. Keep an eye out here for more developments.
Chris DiMarco is a Managing Editor for TMCnet. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University. Prior to joining TMC (News - Alert) Chris worked with e-commerce provider Suresource as a contact center representative and development analyst. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page. Follow him on Twitter @cpdimarco.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca