Virtual Contact Centers Are Connecting
The penetration of VoIP into the contact center, although continuing to improve, has been sluggish, but substantial uptake is on the horizon according to a report by Yankee Group: VoIP adoption in North American contact centers will jump from about 17 percent in 2005 to more than 47 percent by the end of 2007. The findings of the report, "Migration Costs, Vendor Loyalty and Need for 'Agents Anywhere' Define Contact Center VoIP Adoption Plans," are based on Yankee's survey of 351 contact center decision makers in the U.S. and Canada.
The forecasted adoption rate of more than 47 percent is attributable to the additional 21 percent that plan to adopt within 12 months and the 9 percent that plan to deploy within 24 months. But another 38 percent of respondents are researching and investigating VoIP, according to the report, which indicates that the VoIP penetration rate will grow even more dramatically as these investigations drive future conversion decisions. "It shows a difference from 'should I implement VoIP' to 'when should I,'" says Ken Landoline, customer centric strategies senior analyst at Yankee Group. The remaining 15 percent have no plans to adopt VoIP.
As expected, smaller contact centers appear to be the segment size least attracted to VoIP. Sixty-six percent of centers with fewer than 15 seats and 56 percent of centers with 15 to 50 seats haven't deployed VoIP. As center size increases, though, so does interest. Centers with 51 to 150 seats and 151 to 500 seats each contend that about 32 percent of them have no VoIP activity, while 28 percent of centers with more than 500 agents have no VoIP deployments.
The primary motives behind shifting from time division multiplex (TDM) to VoIP environments, according to survey results, are to more cheaply and flexibly manage networking multiple sites, connect remote agents, and boost agent utilization across multiple sites--essentially creating an "agents anywhere" environment, Landoline says. "They want the ability to have agents anywhere and tie them together in a unified manner. When a call comes in you can get that call to the proper agent no matter where they are in your system--call center A, call center B, or working remotely from home."
Aside from deployment plan findings the report also examines vendor selection implications. Forty-four percent of respondents selected hardware/software vendors (like Avaya, Mitel, Nortel, and Siemens) as their preferred channel of purchase, followed by telecommunications companies (like AT&T and Verizon) with 40 percent. Cisco (almost 50 percent), Nortel (31 percent), Avaya/Lucent (25 percent), and 3Com (20 percent) were mentioned most often as likely to be involved in VoIP implementation efforts in the next three years. Siemens/ROLM and Alcatel each received slightly more than 10 percent of the vote.
Although the projected uptake in VoIP implementations looks promising, end-user organizations still have concerns: The top-three among survey respondents are high upfront costs associated with migrating from their traditional systems to VoIP, uncertain voice quality, and security concerns. Landoline says, "Vendors selling VoIP products and services need to emphasize and clarify those points in their presentations to the customers."
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