Dispelling the Myths of Hosted Service Providers

The new look of today's contact or call center may be full of high-tech bells and whistles, but increasingly it's someone else who is managing and providing the technology. Across the board, hosted or on-demand services are growing in popularity for several reasons, starting with the increasing adoption of a pay-as-you-go model that lets customers pay for only what they use. Additionally, hosted service providers help improve network and staff utilization during seasonal or other peaks and valleys of business activity, ensuring customer service levels are not being compromised. Hosted services should deliver quick deployment, seamless integration with existing systems, and simplified operation without traditional on-site hassles--this is especially important for companies with contact/call center needs. As a result, companies no longer have to double their IT/Telecom staff every few years to evaluate, integrate, operate, maintain, and test solutions in the middle of the night. Also eliminated is the need to track new technology offerings, software and OEM licenses, guarantees, hardware assets, maintenance agreements, and spares. With all of these tasks gone, companies can concentrate on their core business, rendering differentiated, premier service levels to customers. Although skeptics still like to point out the common concerns with hosted services, these myths are easily dispelled when considering diverse types of companies with contact/call center needs. Myth # 1: "I can build the contact center for less." This is a traditional response from a prospective customer. Taking all costs into consideration, a hosted solution typically represents only a fraction (10 to 20 percent the first year) of the cost it takes to build and maintain a premise-based contact center solution. Comparing the costs over 3 to 5 years will still favor hosting, with the cost of IT personnel being a major differentiator. Myth #2: "The risk is too great to trust someone else." Risk management involves gathering information about hosted service providers while exploring alternatives to internally operating the contact center. Today, service-level agreements can guarantee solution uptime percentages, typically 99.9 percent. That's a high level of trust. Myth #3: "I lose control with a hosted solution." A quality hosted service solution provides the end user with the ability to manage and control the contact center environment. Since integration of all components is accomplished at the hosting facility, management of the end user environment becomes easier than a premise-based solution, and new flexibility is created for both users and management that was impossible to achieve with premise-based call centers. Myth #4: "VoIP transport is just not ready for prime time." VoIP technology is widely adopted by many organizations to deliver voice and data supporting contact center applications across a distributed enterprise. Adoption is growing because VoIP now delivers performance, stability, security and, importantly, scalability. The bottom line with VoIP: you pay for the transactions you use and not for bandwidth you don't need. Myth #5: "A hosted service solution lacks adequate security." Whenever new or different access is added to any enterprise, security should be questioned. But hosted services can actually bolster the overall security. A hosted service provider ensures your applications, configurations, and data are safe within the hosting facility, while giving you access whenever you need it. Providers also have the ability to lock down communications, Web, email, and chat servers in their facility, enhancing security. Working with a qualified hosted service provider typically means the vendor provides 24 x 7 x 365 monitoring of the solution-a big help for an internal IT staff that's already overburdened by monitoring and maintaining a secure network. Myth #6: "I need comprehensive reports that a hosted service can't provide." Obtaining accurate, timely, useful reports is key to effectively measuring and managing contact center performance. Most hosted service providers understand this fact and can deliver a complete set of reports and reporting tools. Some providers offer more in-depth reports that blend statistics from various subsystems such as the PBX/ACD, IVR, and e-media servers, providing a consolidated end-to-end view of activity across the enterprise. Myth #7: "A hosted solution cannot deliver the customized solutions I need." Contact centers in all industries typically require some customized solutions, and certain hosted service providers are becoming very good at delivering them. Vendors begin with a best-of-breed infrastructure within their hosted environment that delivers the system flexibility to meet the most robust system requirements. Beyond the core contact center solution, some of the more progressive providers can interface to existing databases or CRM applications and provide applications, such as a knowledge base, case management, and outbound telemarketing. Myth #8: "The buy-versus-rent numbers favor a buy solution." The costs of constructing a multimedia contact center from the ground up can be quite an eye-opening experience. Buying, building, integrating, and maintaining a service and support center with an industry standard functional baseline carries a considerable $2.8 million price tag, according to Deloitte and Touche. Working with best-of-breed service providers can deliver the functionality as services for $583K. Myth #9: "A hosted solution cannot deliver the complete multimedia contact center solution I expect." Providing a multimedia contact center is what many hosted service providers claim, but few deliver. The secret ingredient is to work with a vendor that keeps abreast of evolving technologies and regulations and quickly supports them. No hosted service provider can be an expert in all platforms and applications. Therefore, make sure your vendor has strategic partnerships that truly signal best-of-breed in telecommunications, communications integration, contact center software, and telephony. About the Author Vincent Deschamps is CEO and chairman of the board at Echopass, providing overall direction and operational leadership. Deschamps is a proven manager with rich sales and marketing experience, and has excelled at several of America's leading telecommunications and hosted services companies. Please visit Echopass
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