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Selecting a Hosted Contact Center Solution

Selecting A Hosted Contact Center Solution

Selecting A Hosted Contact Center Solution

5/27/2005
By Donna Fluss
ContactCenterWorld.com

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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 it’s 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, it’s 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:

Architectural/Operational

Does the solution support both time division multiplexing (TDM) and Internet Protocol transactions? Can the solution be integrated with a customer’s existing telephony infrastructure? If so, how much time and cost will be required to do the integration?
Can the solution support multiple locations? What resources will be required to integrate the CCOD offering with the customer’s customer relationship management (CRM) application?
Does the solution support multiple tenants (users)? What is the system’s capacity – how many agents can simultaneously use the solution?
Is there a physical or software separation between tenants? What is the vendor’s capacity per tenant (how many simultaneous users)?
Does the solution require hardware to be installed at the end user’s site? Is there a limit on the number of independent tenants on one switch? If so, what is the limit?
Is the solution network-based? What server hardware platform does the switch run on?
Can system and application software be upgraded without disrupting service to other tenants? What “clients” (Windows, Apple, Linux) does the application support?
What databases does the application support?

Functionality/Capabilities

Is the solution multi-lingual? Dialer?
Can the application support a multi-lingual environment for the same tenant? If so, how? IVR?
Which of the following features are part of the standard offering? If not, are there partnerships to provide the capability? Surveying?
TDM? Speech recognition?
IP? Logging/Recording?
Hybrid TDM and IP environments? Quality management?
Voicemail for each agent? Speech analytics?
TDM and IP switching for the same tenant? Workforce management?
CTI? E-mail response management?
Universal queue? Chat?
Network management? Fax?
Web-based collaboration (i.e., form sharing)? Web self-service?
Agent scripting software? Telemarketing/telesales application?
CRM suite (for recording and tracking customer inquiries)? Contact center performance management?
Reporting?

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?

Security

  • How does the system protect customers’ data from security attacks?
  • How does the system protect customers’ applications from security breaches?

System Implementation

  • 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?

System Management

  • How is the application maintained?
  • Can the end user manage the system or does the service provider need to administer it? (Note: It’s 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?

Reporting

  • 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?

Pricing

  • 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.

Bottom Line

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. It’s also essential to make sure that the service provider knows how to manage and maintain the CCOD service, as even the best system won’t work well if the company you sign up with doesn’t know how to use, deploy and manage it. A CCOD offering will substantially reduce your company’s TCO for its contact center, but its ultimate success depends on a careful selection of the right solution and provider for your operating environment.

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