2004: The Year of VoIP
Reservoir Partners expects 2004 to be the year of Voice over IP (VoIP). Supporting its claim, the consulting company on Tuesday released its latest report on how VoIP technology can be leveraged in contact and customer service operations.
The report, "VoIP in the Contact Center: Convergence at Last?" states: "The year of VoIP has been long-rumored, but we are firm believers that 2004 will finally be that year."
VoIP cuts telephone costs by transmitting voice signals in packets over private or public networks via the Internet Protocol, obviating the need for separate telephone circuits. This provides three primary benefits to customer companies: lower cost, less complexity, and the ability to create a virtual call center where agents can work from home. The latter will likely be the driving force for VoIP adoption, however.
Initially lower cost was not enough of an incentive for large enterprises to rip out their existing public switched telephone network (PSTN) infrastructures for VoIP, especially when technological glitches similar to those in cell phones (latency, echoes, and dropped calls) still persisted in VoIP technology. Also, PSTN lines were dropping enough in price to keep executives happy with their existing complex-but-functional infrastructures.
By bringing voice and data onto one system, companies like Cisco Systems, Avaya, and Aspect Communications maintain that organizations can clean up their telephony infrastructures. Most call centers have "a mess" of servers, software, and systems, says Chris Selland, managing director at Reservoir Partners. "[Traditional infrastructures] require the integration of two networks, the telephone network and the computer network. Integrating those two networks is very messy, ugly, and expensive," Selland says. However, he adds that this, too, wasn't enough of a reason for large organizations to invest in VoIP, mostly because companies were already too heavily invested in their existing architectures and, more important, they were already working.
The most compelling reason for VoIP in 2004 is the ability to push the agents out of the contact center and into their own homes. With various governmental restrictions like the do-not-call legislation effectively decreasing the amount of outbound telemarketing calls, fewer agents will be needed to make those calls. As these call centers become emptier, so does the argument for keeping them. This, Selland argues, will be the biggest driver for encouraging agents to work from home; over time, companies will look to VoIP to help them extend their existing call centers and "create a larger virtual whole."