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Few enterprises today own their own buildings, vehicle fleets, or hardware like copiers. Instead they lease them and for good reasons. These include freeing capital expenditures to be used where these dollars can generate the greatest ROI. It also includes flexibility when business needs change from new opportunities or downsizing; there are no costly assets to purchase/install or unload, which takes scarce time.

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The same arguments can be and are applied to contact center solutions known as hosting or cloud computing. Drew Kraus, research vice president, Gartner adds that leasing/hosting also avoids internal battles over which products to keep in a merger/acquisition. He reports that more firms are selecting hosted solutions, in particular CRM, IVR, and to an extent ACD and routing.

Dave Van Everen, vice president, product management, Five9 reports that more enterprises turning to solutions to support remote/home agents, and blended insource/outsource, and onshore/offshore operations. It is also becoming a popular choice for teleservices firms.

"We're seeing many outsourcers become Five9 clients, and in doing so go out and win new accounts," says Van Everen. "They can quickly add seats to their Five9 environment, and often they credit this agility as a competitive advantage."

Hosting takes up less IT resources and consulting dollars. Alaska Airlines deployed Varolii's automated outbound voice notification solution to improve service and deflect customers' calls arising from flight delays and cancellations. It has proven very quite popular; it successfully communicated with more than 100,000 passengers and now supports e-mail and wireless devices.

As a hosted service, Varolii did not place an additional burden on the airline's IT resources. Its internal staff can create, manage, and edit Varolii applications without coding; it is also saving considerably on consulting services.

"I've done a lot of ROI studies of our technologies and this is by far the quickest payback I've seen," says Karen Wells, Manager of Network Operations at Alaska Airlines.

Hosting has another key benefit: the firms providing them have a vested interest in making the solutions work; these are not 'fire-and-forget' relationships, which can be the case with premises-based solutions. For example Frontline Call Center, a teleservices firm based in Washington State's went with inContact in 2007 after struggling with premises-installed software and has been with them ever since.

"I moved everything over to inContact and have never been happier," says company founder Jill Blankenship. "They provide me with detailed reporting, no down time, great support, and the ability to grow my company. They truly care about the success of my firm."

Hosting challenges

There are challenges with contact center hosting. Most of these, reports Kraus, are perceptual: mainly a lack of security and customizability and integration to user companies for data and business processes. These issues will be resolved, he says, when suppliers begin to make a better case for hosting overall rather than focusing on why their hosted solutions are better than their competitors' products. Hosting will be a long time coming in applications where the state of the technology is presently such where there is a large amount of custom setup and integration work required. Examples include performance analytics and workforce optimization.

"When more companies become persuaded to come in and kick the tires on hosting they will find that that it can meet stringent security requirements, it does offer flexibility, and it can do a lot more than they had expected it to do," says Kraus.

Here are several case studies that illustrate the case for hosted solutions:

Musicnotes Stays in Tune with Customers via nGenera CIM

Musicnotes.com is a leading Internet-based sheet music store, offering over 100,000 pieces of digital sheet music and guitar tablature; it also sells books. It recently sold its five-millionth download since the site launched in 1999 and its current growth rate remains strong at 20 percent year-over-year. The firm is on Internet Retailer's Top 100 list.

To grow its business Musicnotes wanted to make its service more accessible and helpful to customers by giving them a convenient and user-friendly way for them to obtain immediate answers to their questions and concerns, without adding personnel. The Internet firm has five agents in their Wisconsin office. It also wanted to offer chat, which it says its younger customers have a growing preference for, in addition to phone and e-mail contacts.

Musicnotes selected nGenera CIM, specifically its nGen Knowledgebase and nChat modules, delivered via hosting. The nGen Knowledgebase is accessible to both agents and customers. The firm specified hosted delivery to avoid investing in additional hardware.

Musicnotes installed the solutions in a few days in December 2007. The firm found the setup easy and intuitive. The chat templates provided were simple to customize. nGenera CIM offers free training which its found extremely helpful. This coupled with the tools' ease of use enabled its customer service team to swiftly come up to speed on the new technology and channel.

"We have been very pleased with the nGenera CIM solutions," says Kristin Gilbertson, Musicnotes' Director, Customer Service. "Our customers appreciate the option to communicate with us via chat; we've seen a steady increase in chat usage since deployment. Another real plus is that our agents really like the tools so it has been simple to get everyone using them."

Contact Solutions Assists onProcess

OnProcess Technology provides comprehensive outsourced asset retrieval and proactive 'customer experience management programs' in select vertical markets. It conducts business in 11 languages in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. OnProcess has 3 contact centers with a total of 430 agents. The center is open 8am to 11pm.

About 85 percent of the inbound call traffic at OnProcess is received as a result of outbound calls OnProcess has placed to its customers. Previously, when customers returned these calls after hours, they left a voicemail that was manually retrieved by agents the next day. This manual process proved to be a time-consuming and inefficient method for handling customer call backs.

To improve customer service OnProcess decided to make customer access available 24/7 with the help of the voice portal. The voice portal would permit its clients to update the status of returns in real-time, and at a fraction of the cost of hiring and scheduling agents to take those calls. The voice portal would also lower interaction costs when the center was open.

OnProcess chose to have the voice portal hosted and implemented by Contact Solutions' On-Demand Services in June 2008. The Contact Solutions' service is fully integrated with OnProcess' host systems to provide real-time retrieval status and updates. Transfer to live agents is always supported during the contact center hours of operations. After-hours, calls are sent to OnProcess via a nightly data feed for next-day processing by OnProcess staff.

The Contact Solutions On-Demand program has worked out very well for OnProcess. It achieved a 27.2 percent completion rate after go-live compared with 20 percent projected. It is now witnessing 50 percent automated interactions, a high rate for this type of complex transaction, thanks to ongoing improvement releases from the provider.

"We had no self service IVR prior co Contact Solutions," explains Pam Roddy, OnProcess Vice President-Operations." We are able to reach a larger customer base with the expanded hours. We leveraged their expertise to help us make critical business decisions. Going to a hosted model and Contact Solutions was an easy move."

iPass Takes Pass on Premises, Goes with Contactual

iPass serves broadband solutions for enterprise customers worldwide connecting mobile workers, home offices, branch and retail locations. It offers device management, security validation and unified billing. It serves hundreds of wireless, broadband and dial-up providers in 160 countries to give iPass customers' employees a single user experience using 3G mobile broadband, Wi-Fi hotspots, hotel Ethernet and other access methods.

The firm began searching for a virtual call center solution in 2006 following an acquisition that would allow it to handle customer service calls through four remote office locations and an outsourced contact center. It has over 100 agents in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Japan and India. It looked at

iPass went hosted because after much examination it decided against bringing all of its agents in-house. Jeanine Stephens, Director of iPass IT because her company quickly realized the complexities and challenges going on premises would cause along with a substantial investment in hardware, labor, maintenance, and licenses.

iPass chose Contactual because it would scale immediately and improve customer interactions without the costs of a premise-based system. It offered a superior ability to organize and set up real-time monitoring and recording functions and would integrate with iPass's CUM system.

The implementation has been very successful. Contactual helped streamline supervision and brought information together in one system. That centralization and synergy made the firm more productive.

"We have realized tremendous value from using Contactual's hosted contact center solution; it has transformed our customer interaction operation into a truly unified function," says Stephens. "Before, it cost us nearly double to support an in-house contact center that included all of the infrastructure components: hardware, software, personnel, maintenance, and licenses. Contactual also requires little to no support, which allows me to manage other areas of our operations."

The following companies participated in the preparation of this article:

Contact Solutions

www.contactsolutions.com

Contactual

www.contactual.com

Five9

www.five9.com

inContact

www.incontact.com

nGenera

www.nGenera.com

Varolii

www.varolii.com
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Title Annotation:CALL CENTER Technology
Author:Read, Brendan
Publication:Customer Interaction Solutions
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Jul 1, 2009
Words:1563
Previous Article:The ROI to attend IT EXPO.
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