Call Center Buyer s Guide

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1 Call-center technology can deliver huge benefits to your bottom line by boosting revenues and enhancing customer experience. Call Center Buyer s Guide Copyright 2007, Tippit, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

2 Contents Executive Summary 3 Call-Center Overview 4 Market Overview 6 Call-Center Benefits 7 Basic Features 8 Advanced Features 10 Cost 11 Checklist 12 Conclusion 13 2

3 Executive Summary 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 first 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 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, multisite 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. 3

4 Call Center Overview In today s highly competitive marketplace, maintaining a loyal customer base can mean the difference 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 It s no wonder. Hosted or on-demand solutions offer countless benefits 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 flow a perk that s especially beneficial 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 flexibility that comes with ondemand 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 fluctuating 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 flexible. 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 4

5 of control, there are providers in this space, notably Avaya, Genesys Telecommunications, Oracle, Verizon Business, that have put significant investment into their security structures. In fact, many small to mediumsize 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, offer both options. In fact, some industry analysts argue that an on-demand delivery model simply isn t cost-effective in the longterm for large enterprises requiring hundreds or thousands of subscriptions. And then there s the thorny issue of disgruntled IT staff. 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, recommended DeSalles. 5

6 Market Overview 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. Vendors are now peddling modular CRM solutions that allow companies to adopt a piecemeal approach to deployment. So how do you know which is the better choice: a technology vendor or a service provider? According to DeSalles, service providers offer a very high-value, lower-budget, one-size-fits-all, hosted out-of-the-box solution ideal for companies interested in testing the contact-centersolution 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 vendor. 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 offering for SMBs while reselling its service for service providers or value-added resellers as well, said DeSalles. In the end, making an appropriate selection hinges on asking the right questions, reviewing vendor track records and checking references. 6

7 Call-Center Benefits 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 benefits 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: Effortlessly 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 payas-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: Configure 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 flow based on business needs. Simplified Savings: With a hosted contact center solution, you can focus on serving your customers rather than complicated system configurations and costly hardware deployments. 7

8 Basic Features Don t expect a lot of differentiation 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 include: 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 snuff. 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. Routing: Subjecting customers to voic hell creates frustration and can cost a company customers. Fortunately, vendors such as Genesys Telecommunications, for example, offer 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 first-call resolution rates, manages variable call volumes with limited resources, increases cross-sell and up-sell rates and improves agent satisfaction. 8

9 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 significant gains in operations responsiveness and productivity of mobile workers. 9

10 Advanced Features As agents increasingly move from the confines 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 field calls. Nortel s IP contact-center solutions, for example, provide remote office solutions to individual agents such as at-home workers, enhance a company s flexibility to manage peak loads and provide 24/7 service and optimize resources by distributing skills across a wide geographic area. 10

11 Cost 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 financial 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 benefits, plan on waiting anywhere from five to 10 years before reaping any financial 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, buffeted by the right technological solutions, can be a customer-retention center, a brand-retention center and a revenue generator, according to DeSalles. Companies would be wise to look for improvements in timeto-lead qualification, order-to-cash processes, churn rates and error reduction. 11

12 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 five years? How quickly are you looking to deploy a contact-center solution? Do you have the in-house IT resources to support an onpremise solution? What degree of customization are you expecting from a contact-center application? Do you have the safeguards in place to securely manage inhouse data centers? How could you benefit from monitoring your contact center agents? How could you benefit from a geographically diverse contact center staff? How can you improve your customer-support services and activities? How effectively are you serving your customers and responding to their inquiries? 12

13 Conclusion These days, keeping customers happy entails more than hot marketing campaigns and sweet-talking sales reps. A contact center is often the first 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. 13

14 Tippit, Inc. 514 Bryant Street, San Francisco, CA Phone: / Fax:

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