Selecting A Hosted Contact Center Solution
Selecting A Hosted Contact Center Solution
By Donna Fluss
Hosted contact center offerings represent a worthwhile, potentially cost-saving alternative to premise-based contact center solutions and the demand is expected to double in 2005. As a developing and expanding market with many variations available, it is essential for end users to evaluate the capabilities of the service that they expect to receive from a service provider.
The contact center on demand (CCOD or hosted contact center) market has emerged from relative obscurity to become front page news, as described in my article, Hosted Contact Center Offerings are Ready for Prime Time (ICCM Weekly, December 14, 2004). Demand for hosted contact center offerings is expected to double in 2005, according to DMG Consulting LLC, driven by viable offerings, increased market awareness, new entrants and the improving economy.
CCOD represents a worthwhile, potentially cost-saving alternative to premise-based contact center solutions. The features and capabilities of hosted contact center solutions differ significantly from one another, so its strongly recommended that prospects undertake as thorough a selection process as if they were buying and installing a contact center on site.
A Two-Step Selection Process
Prospects for hosted contact center solutions must evaluate both the underlying technology and the service capabilities of the provider/delivery company with whom they will be dealing directly.
Generally, a technology company sells a hosted switch to a provider that then offers the service to its customers. A few of these vendors, build the switch and also sell it to end users.
As this is a developing and expanding market, there are many variations among the offerings available from service providers. Some of the service delivery companies openly disclose whose technology they use for their CCOD offering and others do not. In either case, its essential for end users to evaluate the capabilities of the underlying switch, in addition to assessing the service that they expect to receive from the service provider.
CCOD Technology Selection Criteria
The technology categories that end users must evaluate include:
System Back-Up/Fail Over
- Is the system fully redundant?
- Is the system designed so that one so that there is no single point of failure?
- Is there a back-up system available in a geographically separate location?
- How does the system protect customers data from security attacks?
- How does the system protect customers applications from security breaches?
- Can the solution be provisioned over the phone?
- How long does it take for an end user to be in production on the system?
- Are professional services required to install the solution? If so, to what extent and at what cost?
- How is the application maintained?
- Can the end user manage the system or does the service provider need to administer it? (Note: Its possible that a CCOD technology platform may theoretically allow end users to self-administer, but the service provider, wanting to earn fees, does not make the capability.
- If the end user is allowed to self-manage, how much training is required?
- What is the cost of the training?
Maintenance And Support
- How frequently is the system software upgraded?
- Is there any downtime for end users when the system is upgraded?
- If customers request a change, is there necessarily a fee?
- How long does it typically take to add a new feature to a system?
- How are custom change requests addressed?
- Does the application allow end-users to pull their own reports? If so, describe how.
- Can an end user build custom reports? If so, how?
- Can an end user schedule reports to run?
- Can an end user see reports online?
- How current is the data in reports?
- How can reports from multiple tenants be consolidated?
- How is the data from different tenants kept separate and secure?
- What is the cost of the application?
- Can a license be transferred?
- What is the duration of an agreement?
- What happens if an end user needs to terminate an agreement earlier than anticipated?
- Describe any expenses (implementation, professional services, etc.) above and beyond the monthly licensing fees.
- References As with any technology selection process, request three references that are similar to your operating environment and carefully check them. Ask the references for tips about using the solution this is a great way to pick up proven best practices and learn what to avoid.
Whether purchasing or renting/hosting contact center capabilities, you want to select a solution that will meet your needs today and in the future. You want a solution that is secure, dependable, provides value-added functionality, is easy to maintain, has a low total cost of ownership (TCO) and will grow with your company. Service providers offer CCOD solutions with a wide variety of capabilities, but you still have to make sure that the underlying technology platform is sturdy and suitable for your needs. Its also essential to make sure that the service provider knows how to manage and maintain the CCOD service, as even the best system wont work well if the company you sign up with doesnt know how to use, deploy and manage it. A CCOD offering will substantially reduce your companys TCO for its contact center, but its ultimate success depends on a careful selection of the right solution and provider for your operating environment.