• May 16, 2005
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Hosted Contact Center Apps For Everyone?

Hosted applications have been seen as an option for contact centers looking to quickly obtain capabilities without the hefty price tag, but adoption has been sluggish. According to research from DMG Consulting, however, these solutions are hitting their stride. "Hosted Contact Centers are Ready for Prime Time" contends that 20 to 30 percent of all new contact center seats will be hosted by 2007. The hosted contact center market can be traced back to more than 20 years ago with the Centrex service, which is still available, according to Donna Fluss, principal at DMG Consulting and author of the report. The hosted solution includes basic ACD functionality suitable for organizations with minimal call center capabilities, she says. But for organizations with more advanced call routing and queuing requirements, the report declares that the sole option was to turn to a premise-based system if they decided to keep these functions in house. The newer crop of hosted solutions is functionally and architecturally strong enough to be options, according to Fluss. For instance, the architecture of hosted contact center applications enables multiple tenants to run on the same server, increasing scalability and functionality. The TCO is also considerably less than that of premise-based applications, as the burden of installing and maintaining hosted apps is shifted off the end-user organization. "It used to be that the hosted contact center offerings weren't great and were functionally inferior, but that's no longer the case," Fluss says. Vendors including Avaya, Cisco, Contactual, CosmoCom, and Telephony@Work provide TDM and IP-based offerings and feature routing and queuing functionality, IVR, CTI, and email response management. As the market evolves, however, the size of the organizations that are deploying these applications is also expanding. "In the last couple of years [people] thought that the real demand would actually come in the small and midsize [space] because it basically democratizes the market in that it gives the smaller players the same power of a full-fledged switch," she says. While that sect is still experiencing an uptake, Fluss maintains that enterprises also are adopting. "If I'm a big bank it used to be that if I wanted seats in my branches it became a problem on an ACD, but now I can have my branches and I can have my home agents tied in," she says. "Of course, some of it is enabled by IP, but the rest of it is enabled by the multitenant architecture." For organizations that have not yet selected a hosted contact center solution, the report also offers advice for evaluating these applications. The selection process is two-fold, as organizations must choose both a service provider and the underlying technology. "The service providers are going to offer a service, but the organization still has to take responsibility for taking a look at the underlying technology," she says. "Some of the classic decision criteria is still in place and just because you're going with a hosted offering doesn't mean you can just walk away." The overall takeaway is, "if you are shopping for a new contact center infrastructure you should include the hosted offerings in your selection process. This is going to change the whole marketplace." Related articles: Hosted Applications and VoIP: Ready for Contact Centers?
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