Virtual Customer Contact

If BT and Avaya have their way those mirrored suburban office buildings filled with contact centers will soon be a thing of the past, as employees scatter across smaller centers and work from home. The telecom giants paired this week to launch BT Avaya OnNet, a service that hosts contact center technology offsite for larger companies. OnNet customers will typically be companies with about 750 contact-center seats and with sites in different countries and regions, according to the companies. The managed service can shoulder a company's contact center architecture by melding BT Group's and Avaya's software, hardware, and telecommunications networks. Because customers will be essentially contracting out their contact-center architecture, they can quickly scale up--or scale down--the centers as needed and configure distributed centers on a dime, as technology can be quickly linked in myriad ways as consumer demands change. The monthly pay-as-you-go service also means call center capacity and geographic location are flexible. One month, several employees might work from home, another month the same company might establish a series of small contact centers in various locations. "With this service, the days of the contact center big buildings will soon be behind us, ushering in the future of networked, virtual contact centers across smaller sites or even homes," says Morag Lucey, Avaya's vice president of marketing for Europe, Middle East and Africa. The model should be particularly useful to businesses with seasonal contact-center needs such as financial service providers, retailers, and utility companies, says Tom Craig, president IP networking, BT Global Services. The pay-as-you go arrangement also saves customers capital costs otherwise rolled into the buildings that house centers on in updated technology, says Robert Rosenberg, president of telecommunications analysis firm Insight Research. "They're squeezing capital costs out and virtualizing the call center so it's no longer just voice," he says. "They'll be doing Web chat and telephone calls and transacting contacts over the Internet as well." The offering is yet another example of BT's successful shift from monopoly to entrepreneur, Rosenberg says. He calls the OnNet offering the tip of the iceberg and predicts more such hosted-technology moves from BT and Avaya in the future. "BT's vision of the future is that the telecommunication carrier's greatest strength isn't the network but the applications it provides on that network. And in this context, that's about developing a series of applications for larger businesses' call centers." Related articles: Avaya Begins an Ascent
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