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Call Center Buyer's Guide
Call-center technology can deliver huge benei ts to your bottom line
by boosting revenues and enhancing customer experience.
Call Center is also known as :
contact center technology,
Virtual Call Center,
Free Call Center Software,
Call Center Software,
Call Center Solutions,
Call Center Services,
Call Center Outsourcing,
Call Center Resources,
Customer Contact Center Solutions,
Contact Center Services,
outbound call centers,
call center crm solutions,
Customer relationship management,
telemarketing call centers,
Inbound Call Centre,
Outbound Call Centre,
hosted call center,
Customer Support Software,
Contact Center Webcasts,
On State Call Center,
Customer Interaction Solutions,
IP Contact Center,
Call Center Product,
call center tools,
call center monitoring software,
Call Center Directory.
If the old adage, ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression'
is to be believed, then it's no wonder companies are rethinking their
approaches to call-center management. Typically the i rst point of
contact for customers, the call center has long been viewed as a ‘loss
center' ' a costly yet necessary evil.
Fortunately, that view is fading as businesses slowly come to the
realization that a call center can be a valuable source of revenue and a
mission-critical organization. So what's changed? Simply put, call centers
are no longer about fielding phone calls. Rather, today's newly renamed
‘contact centers' let customers submit email inquiries, request Web
chats, send faxes and text message from handheld devices including
cell phones and PDAs. In turn, businesses are now better equipped to
sell products, respond to questions, resolve technical support issues
and handle inquires in a timely and efficient manner. Helping them to
do so is a spate of contact-center technology solutions with features
including call scripting, predictive dialing, multimedia recording, multi-
site routing and real-time monitoring.
In this Buyer's Guide, you will find details on what to look for, how to
buy, what you can expect to pay and how to derive the most value from
your contact center technology investment.
Call Center Overview
In today's highly competitive marketplace, maintaining a loyal customer
base can mean the dif erence between success and failure. That's a
mighty tall order considering that American businesses experience
between 20 and 50 percent customer turnover annually. What's worse is
that it can cost up to six times as much to replace a customer as to keep
one. Certainly, contact center technology can help retain customers.
The trick, however, is finding a solution that's right for your budget,
resources and business objectives.
"Hosted is by far the hottest topic" among today's contact center solution
seekers, according to Michael DeSalles, a Frost & Sullivan strategic
analyst. In fact, Frost & Sullivan forecasts overall hosted revenues to grow
at a compound annual growth rate of 34.1 percent from 2006 through
2013. It's no wonder. Hosted or on-demand solutions of er countless
benei ts above and beyond their on-premise counterparts. For starters,
a hosted solution's pay-as-you-go model eliminates the need for huge
upfront costs and instantly increases cash l ow ' a perk that's especially
benei cial to growing small businesses.
"The fact that you're moving from a capital expenditure model to an
operational expenditure model frees up a tremendous amount of
capital," said DeSalles.
And then there's the unprecedented l exibility that comes with on-
demand delivery. Using a subscription model, companies can add
and subtract functionality with minimal risk and at a reasonable cost.
Growing businesses can rapidly scale up or down in operational size
to meet l uctuating business demands. And hosted solutions allow
companies to better manage agents and their activities, regardless of
where they are physically situated.
Said DeSalles, "With hosted contact-center solutions, you can move
away from technology that is based within a company's four walls to
one that is much more l exible."
Nor does handing over your contact center management to a third
party necessarily open you up to data security risks, a common concern
among buyers. According to DeSalles, "while there is a perceived loss
of control, there are providers in this space, notably Avaya, Genesys
Telecommunications, Oracle, Verizon Business, that have put signii cant
investment into their security structures." In fact, many small to medium-
size businesses would be hard-pressed to put the same high-cost
security precautions in place.
The hosted-delivery model may be taking the world by storm, but
companies in search of an on-premise solution can take comfort in the
fact that many vendors, including Avaya, Nortel Networks and Alcatel-
Lucent, of er both options. In fact, some industry analysts argue that
an on-demand delivery model simply isn't cost-ef ective in the long-
term for large enterprises requiring hundreds ' or thousands ' of
And then there's the thorny issue of disgruntled IT staf . After all,
introducing a solution that doesn't require any in-house deployment,
support or upgrades can spell career-suicide as far as some salaried IT
professionals are concerned. In the end, a business wishing to control
its contact center technology "from soup to nuts within the four walls
of the company" would be wise to go with an on-premise solution,
Making heads or tails of today's contact-center-solution providers can
be a mind-bending experience. "For the casual observer, the landscape
is a bit convoluted," warned DeSalles. Simplifying matters is the fact that
most vendors can be divided into one of two categories: technology
vendors and service providers.
Technology vendors include Avaya, Nortel Networks, Aspect, Genesys
Telecommunications, CosmoCom and Oracle ' companies that both sell
their products directly to end-users and make them available through
telcos, outsourcers and value-added resellers. Service providers, on the
other hand, include AT&T, Verizon Business, Cincom Systems, Contactual,
Interactive Intelligence, Five9 ' vendors that sell their products and
services directly to end-users, from large enterprises to SMBs.
So how do you know which is the better choice: a technology vendor
or a service provider? According to DeSalles, "service providers of er a
very high-value, lower-budget, one-size-i ts-all, hosted out-of-the-box
solution" ' ideal for companies interested in testing the contact-center-
solution waters. If, however, you're a company whose IT infrastructure
features technology from Nortel or Oracle, for example, then it's best to
leverage your existing investment and continue working with a single
Another factor to consider is a vendor's intended audience. While
Five9 excels at serving SMBs, CosmoCom is best known for supporting
large, multi-site, virtualized contact centers. Industry stalwarts include
Genesys, Cisco, Nortel and Interactive Intelligence, whereas Contactual
is known for having "a very compelling of ering for SMBs" while "reselling
its service for service providers or value-added resellers as well," said
In the end, making an appropriate selection hinges on asking the right
questions, reviewing vendor track records and checking references.
Although it can cost a pretty penny to deploy, contact-center
technology doesn't have to be a drain on your finances. In fact, if
done right, it can deliver huge benei ts from boosting revenues to
enhancing customer experience. Here are just a handful of contact
center technology perks:
- Superior Customer Service:
By routing customers to the right
agents and providing them with the answers they need, contact
center technology can reduce the number of times customers are
transferred and boost retention.
- Improved Monitoring:
Find out what it's like to be on the
receiving end of your contact center with customizable real-time
reporting functions and call monitoring ' features that help ensure
a positive customer experience.
- Enhanced Scalability and Flexibility:
Ef ortlessly ramp up or pare
down your contact center capacity with unfettered system-access
control. Why pay for seats that aren't being used? Rather, with pay-
as-you-go pricing, you can add personnel on an as-needed basis,
allow center representatives to work from home and avoid the risk
of outgrowing a contact center system altogether.
- Easy Prioritization:
Coni gure your system to route calls based on
factors such as agent skills, service level or longest wait in order to
optimize resources and better manage call l ow based on business
- Simplii ed Savings:
With a hosted contact center solution, you can
focus on serving your customers rather than complicated system
coni gurations and costly hardware deployments.
Don't expect a lot of dif erentiation among today's top contact-center
solutions. While there's a wide breadth of features to choose from,
including predictive dialing and real-time monitoring, most solutions
offer the same capabilities. But on a cautionary note, whereas hosted
solutions allow businesses to make modular, a-la-carte feature
selections, on-premise technologies tend to maximize functionality
in one fell swoop, so be careful to consider your business needs when
making a purchasing decision.
Key features you can expect to find in a contact center solution
- Predictive Dialer:
An ideal tool for outbound-calling campaigns,
a predictive dialing system is an automated outbound dialing
system that only connects agents to calls answered by real people.
Five9's predictive dialing function, for example, anticipates when
an agent will become available, and then accelerates or decreases
the outbound dialing rate accordingly. So as more agents use the
system, the system improves its accuracy at predicting average call
length and agent availability.
- Quality Monitoring:
Don't be the last to discover that your
contact-center service isn't up to snuf . Interactive Intelligence's
Interactive Supervisor feature transforms real-time system,
workgroup and queue statistics into readily viewable graphs
and tables, and it summarizes activities throughout both your
communications system environment and the interaction process.
Subjecting customers to voicemail hell creates frustration
and can cost a company customers. Fortunately, vendors such as
Genesys Telecommunications, for example, of er solutions that put
an end to customer frustration by ensuring that each interaction
is routed to the ideal resource, no matter where that resource is
located. This solution increases i rst-call resolution rates, manages
variable call volumes with limited resources, increases cross-sell
and up-sell rates and improves agent satisfaction.
- Speech and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Solutions:
Enhance customer interactions with speech-recognition
technology. According to specialists such as Avaya, introducing
speech-recognition technology to a contact center can
dramatically increase automation rates and improve the customer
experience. It is ideal for self-service applications. Speech is also
making inroads in mobile applicationsm, where companies have
used speech technologies to make signii cant gains in operations
responsiveness and productivity of mobile workers.
As agents increasingly move from the coni nes of a high-overhead call
center to the comfort of their own homes, virtualization is fast becoming
a hot technology trend. In fact, Ventana Research reveals that 21 percent
of companies now route interactions to employees in business units
outside the contact center, 17 percent to mobile workers and 10 percent
to home-based workers. Helping companies to accomplish this are VoIP
and SIP technologies, which automatically identify who is available
on the network to i eld calls. Nortel's IP contact-center solutions, for
example, provide remote oi ce solutions to individual agents such as
at-home workers, enhance a company's l exibility to manage peak loads
and provide 24/7 service and optimize resources by distributing skills
across a wide geographic area.
If you plan on keeping a tight rein on your company's purse strings,
then contact-center technology probably isn't in the cards. Warned
DeSalles of Frost & Sullivan, "Even a small call center is going to be a
million dollars." As for those companies willing to take the i nancial
plunge, there are important factors to consider before signing on the
dotted line. For starters, while a hosted contact center solution can
deliver immediate cost benei ts, plan on waiting anywhere from i ve
to 10 years before reaping any i nancial gains. That said, an on-premise
solution can better enable companies to maximize their investments in
existing technologies from a single vendor.
Secondly, keep contact-center agents in the loop by apprising them
of technology updates and changes. After all, driving adoption of new
features and innovations is key to getting the most bang for your buck.
And lastly, work hard to change your company's perception of a contact
center. Rather than serving as simply a high-cost communication hub,
a contact center, buf eted by the right technological solutions, can be
"a customer-retention center, a brand-retention center and a revenue
generator," according to DeSalles.
Call Center Chec klist
What to ask before you buy.
Before talking to a contact-center-solution provider, you will need to
know the following about your current situation:
- How many employees are in your organization?
- Will your company be in growth mode over the next i ve years?
- How quickly are you looking to deploy a contact-center
- Do you have the in-house IT resources to support an on-
- What degree of customization are you expecting from a
- Do you have the safeguards in place to securely manage in-
house data centers?
- How could you benei t from monitoring your contact center
- How could you benei t from a geographically diverse contact
center staf ?
- How can you improve your customer-support services and
- How ef ectively are you serving your customers and
responding to their inquiries?
These days, keeping customers happy entails more than hot marketing
campaigns and sweet-talking sales reps. A contact center is often the
i rst ' and last ' chance a company has to make a good impression
on a valuable customer. Yet all too often, a contact center is seen as
nothing more than a costly necessity. That doesn't have to be the case.
By carefully selecting a contact-center solution, companies can boost
revenues, retain customers and discover customer-service strengths
and weaknesses for years to come.
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Phone: 415-318-7200 / Fax: 415-318-7219
- Executive Summary
- Call-Center Overview
- Market Overview
- Call-Center Benefits
- Basic Features
- Advanced Features