• June 1, 2005
  • By Colin Beasty, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Virtual Contact Centers Need Some Fine-Tuning

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With recent product enhancements, such as VoIP Virtual Contact Center by Five9 and Siebel's announcement of Siebel On Demand 7 equipped with distribution capabilities for call center management, virtual contact centers are gaining momentum. They are just two companies making noise in this space. Avaya, Cisco, Contactual, and Siemens all have begun working on their own solutions. Advantages in telecommunication costs, virtualization, and management technology are improving to the point where, operationally, the differences between an on-site cubicle and a spare bedroom are disappearing. Brian Silverman, Five9's president and CEO, feels that virtual contact centers have already made their presence felt and will only become more popular. Companies are beginning to take advantage of VoIP, hosted, and Web-based service capabilities due to the advantages of avoiding the real estate costs associated with contact centers. Some let star service performers work from home as a perk. Others use the telecommuting model as a way to find agents who can be available during off hours. According to Bob Furniss, president of contact center consultancy Touchpoint Associates, representatives working from home are best suited to handle simple information-driven interactions, such as directory assistance inquiries. However, there are some caveats. "The more complex the call, the harder it is to telecommute," Furniss says. "That's because remote reps can't lean over their cubicles to ask a colleague a question. Also, some don't receive the in-person training that many centers conduct before an agent starts fielding calls. It's a certain kind of person who can work on their own without a lot of interaction, communicate by email, and gather information on their own." As for the immediate future, Randy Jessee, Five9's product manager, sees virtual contact centers continuing to expand, but not before all communication is shared on one line, as with VoIP.
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