• November 1, 2014
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Work-at-Home Solutions Are Transforming Call Center Operations

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Ann Ruckstuhl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at LiveOps, a provider of cloud-based virtual call center software. "Everything can be provisioned through servers in the cloud."

The result, she says, can be "a zero-footprint contact center from end to end."

Having contact center systems and software positioned in the cloud "is the way to go if you're going to allow people to work at home," adds Jennifer Waite, product marketing manager at inContact. "The cloud gives you the ability to have technology with you wherever you are. You don't have to set anything up. [The system] just needs to know where to route the work."

Research firm MarketsandMarkets expects huge growth in the cloud-based contact center market, predicting growth from $4.15 billion today to $10.9 billion in 2019, representing a compound annual growth rate of 21.3 percent.

As the figures show, the cloud has seen strong demand and growth in the contact center market for the past few years, particularly in the areas of automatic call distribution, interactive voice response (IVR), dialers, agent performance optimization, computer telephony integration software, analytics and reporting, and workforce optimization (WFO), according to the firm's research.

Also continuing to gain in popularity is the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) softphone. Though traditionally used with desktop and laptop computers, new capabilities are making it possible for agents to turn their mobile phones into VoIP extensions that can be used anywhere.

Lon Baker, chief operating officer at VirtualPBX, a provider of hosted VoIP phone services to small and midsized businesses, says updated softphone technology means that high-quality calls can now be made over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi networks. He says the softphone is a "breakthrough" technology that is often offered at little to no cost and provides all the functionality of traditional desk phones, including business caller ID.

Phone systems like these are on a sharp climb, while sales of premises-based phone systems have been stagnant to declining for the past few years, according to Infonetics Research.

That's not expected to change any time soon, particularly as Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC), an open-source gateway that allows for video and voice communications between multiple computers over the Internet, takes hold.

WebRTC has already expanded the possibilities for the work-at-home contact center agent. "In the past, you needed a phone and Internet connection," Ruckstuhl says. "Now, with WebRTC, you can even get rid of the phone. You can take phone, email, chat, and social interactions right from a browser. You don't need hardware or installed software. Everything is very seamless and frictionless," she adds.

Agents require little more than a browser and Wi-Fi access, according to Ruckstuhl, who notes that WebRTC transforms a browser into a full-featured agent desktop with a phone. Calls, she explains, are routed directly through the Web browser.

Turning to LiveOps' WebRTC Solution, Intuitive Solutions, a managed contact center services provider for pizza franchisees, was able to employ work-at-home agents as needed, eliminating the need to build additional contact centers to handle call spikes. In addition to handling inbound and outbound calls, LiveOps WebRTC offers skills-based multichannel routing, advanced business insight with real-time and historical reporting, and seamless integration with the company's workforce management software.

Intuitive Solutions has reported a 50 percent savings in total cost of ownership for its contact center as a result of the WebRTC technology, while also improving agent productivity and workforce utilization.

"With WebRTC, you can see what's happening in real time and do something about it," Ruckstuhl maintains. "You do not have to look at it in the rearview mirror, when it's too late."

Among the other benefits, WebRTC has yielded better speech quality for call center, analytics, biometrics, and call recording applications, according to Val Matula, senior director and head of emerging technologies at Avaya.

But, for all its promise, WebRTC has not taken complete hold of the industry, because some of the bigger names in computing have yet to 

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