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IVR - IVR: Shrinking the Environmental Impact of the Contact Center
May 26, 2011

IVR: Shrinking the Environmental Impact of the Contact Center

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

It's always been hard to run a business, but today...let's face it... the art of “making more out of less” has never applied more intensely. Companies are having to show growth and revenue with 75 percent or fewer employees than they had five years ago. Technology purchases are scrutinized even harder than ever, and even when these purchases are allowed, the return on investment had better happen on a quick time line: before the VP of Finance buys a new pair of golf shoes.

Now add to all this: you've got to do it all while being “green.”

Twenty years ago, nobody knew what a carbon footprint was, let alone how to reduce it. Many businesses today, especially businesses with strong IT needs, are coming under fire to make sure waste is a memory and energy costs don't soar along with technological innovation.

Luckily, the technology marketplace has helped make this enterprisewide eco-conscious stance possible. In the contact center, for starters, energy use has always been high, and paper use has always been strong. The average contact center agent uses eight to nine applications at the same time – CRM, e-mail, telephony, IVR, inventory and fulfillment data, Web chat, workforce management, quality management and call recording – and all those solutions once required on-site equipment and processing power, eating up enormous amounts of energy that was purchased from a local utility at peak hours. As far as paper use, given the changeability of contact center schedules, call center managers printed out reams of paper each day – not only for scheduling that changed weekly, daily or even hourly, but also updates, vacation rosters, training and reviews, scripting and reminders.

It's not a big surprise that a contact center can be an energy use sinkhole. But it doesn't have to be.

Hosted solutions – both software-as-a-service and communications-as-a-service – are key technologies when it comes to shrinking the carbon footprint of a contact center (not to mention reducing costs and complexity, but that's another story). While using applications over the Internet that are hosted by a third party may seem like it's just the costs – and the carbon – onto someone else, this is not the case.

Consider that the IVR, for example, of 10 years ago sat on a server in your IT room. It cost a lot to to administer: you required not only IT personnel and a lot of paper for reporting, but a lot of electricity. You needed to both power the machine and cool it at the same time: an energy-intensive process. Fast-forward 10 years and find yourself using a hosted IVR, and “the box” no loner sits in your building. While you use the solution's functionality via a browser, a large data center is responsible for the actual physical server on which your IVR application and data sit. And THOSE data centers – scaled up to enormous data capacity – are able to make strides in energy conservation based on their sheer size and economies of scale.

Writes IVR technology company Plum Voice in a blog post called “Clean Energy (News - Alert) and Voice Applications” (, “While this increased data capacity is quite beneficial for all types of businesses, data centers require increased power consumption. A lot of focus is turning towards how processors become more efficient and use less energy. Some tech companies have made significant investments in clean energy for their data centers, including investing in wind energy and coming up with a plan to buy and sell electricity (as if it were a public utility).”

Not only do the data centers of companies that provide hosted solutions run the most cutting edge and power-sipping servers (the type that, in this economy, your contact center probably couldn't afford), many of them take extra steps to ensure that their power consumption is as low as possible, using, for example, outside air to cool servers, lowering requirements for air conditioning, buying electricity from providers who get their energy from the highest possible percentage of renewable sources, and running maintenance processes during off-peak consumption hours when utilities are less likely to be buying supplemental power from dirty energy sources.

“In addition to modifying the kinds of energy utilized to power technology, businesses are also attempting to reduce the amount of energy required to power large-scale endeavors,” writes Plum Voice. “Reducing energy loss, removing server components that don’t contribute to efficiency, and by using natural surroundings to cool and heat the data areas are all steps companies are taking in an attempt to ensure that their products function on a greener, more efficient level.”

All steps that, chances are, you don't have time to do. After all, you've got a call center to run.

For more information about Plum Voice, visit

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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