Monday, July 02, 2012

Call Center Dilemma ... To Host Or Not To Host



To host or not to host; that is the question of many. Depending where they are in their equipment lifecycle, many CTOs and Call Center Directors are considering moving away from premise based equipment and moving to a hosted or "cloud based" call center platform. For example, let's say you are at a point where your premise based equipment needs to be replaced, and assuming you are using "best of breed" equipment, you may be looking at a capital expenditure of roughly a million dollars to replace your equipment. That figure doesn't even factor in service & maintenance agreements, licenses and traffic.

Providers of hosted solutions will say that hosted solutions are more versatile, scalable, redundant and cost significantly less. Providers of call center equipment will say that their solutions may have lower monthly recurring costs, are more customizable and offer more integrations with other applications. Is there a simple "rule of thumb" to figuring out which makes more sense for your call center?

Here's one, which while not absolute, is a good guideline. Most hosted call center platforms are a multitenant environment. That basically means the platform is shared amongst multiple clients. Providers of hosted call center solutions typically provide features that most call centers require. Let's use the 80/20 rule. Hosted call center platforms provide the features, functionality and integration options that approximately 80% of call centers will require. Likewise, when adding new features and enhancements, providers will typically only add ones that will benefit their platforms as a whole and that the majority of customers will find beneficial.

For instance - using an inbound call center for example - most will need an ACD with Skills Based Routing, a robust queue events engine (to control how calls are handled in the queue), scripting with a screen pop, custom audio/whisper audio, call recording, live call monitoring, real time telemetry, detailed reporting, etc. In addition, they may require data exchange or an integration with other standard, well known applications (CRM, Workforce Management, databases). A center like this could do quite well with a hosted provider. They should be able to get all the basic features and functionality they require with little to no Cap-Ex and can be up and running quickly. This system will be easier to manage than premise based equipment and the monthly costs should be quite reasonable. In addition, most providers are in multiple data centers, offer both TDM and VoIP, and offer more robust business continuity solutions than most call centers have with owning and managing premise based equipment.

While premise based equipment comes with a large Cap-Ex, is more difficult to manage than hosted solutions, requires a larger technical staff (which also increases overall cost), includes the headache of occasional forklift upgrades and will eventually need to be replaced, it does have certain advantages. Let's use the same inbound call center example as above except we'll say that the center needs to be able to have a custom graphical interface that shows each agent's cubicle; depending on the prefix of the caller's DID, the agent screen needs to be a different color, and calls need to be routed to agents based on the agent's nationality, hair color and favored brand of blue jeans. In this admittedly ridiculous and extreme example, premise based equipment would make more sense.

With premise based equipment, the sky is the limit when it comes to customization. Your only limit to your customization is your pocketbook because software developers that work for you or that you contract with will be writing the code to make your customizations possible. That said, with premise based equipment, nearly anything you can imagine you can build and it should be possible to integrate with nearly any application.

One more item of note is that there are some cases, based on security requirements, where a center absolutely has to use premise based equipment and keep it onsite within their secure facility. An example of this might be a security company or some government military organizations.

In closing, while premise based systems have value and there are obvious benefits to some organizations to own and manage equipment, for the majority of call centers, a hosted provider will meet their needs while providing a lower cost, easier to manage, more scalable, user friendly and redundant solution.

About the author:

Darren Prine is a writer for the call center industry and is the Director of Sales & Marketing for Connect First; a premier provider of cloud based call center solutions.


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