According to Datamonitor, by 2008, the global market for managed and hosted contact center services will have more than doubled, reaching a value of more than $5 billion. So the odds are good that if you haven’t already implemented a hosted solution in your contact center, that you will soon.
But once you make the decision to implement a hosted solution, finding the right service provider is critical. What should you look for? Here are five areas to investigate:
1. Experience And Capabilities
The vendor’s ability to provide a complete solution is as important as its ability to execute the solution.
A service provider offering a hosted solution should deliver a full, robust suite designed for the hosting environment. It should include advanced analytics that track and measure all elements of the contact center at both an operational and business level, interaction channels with universal queue, and an agent desktop that provides a universal view of the customer.
Companies can gain insight into the capabilities and support the company provides by checking customer and partner references.
Most importantly, companies must understand the hosting infrastructure.
2. Functionality And Security
As the demand for hosted solutions rises, traditional vendors have begun to retrofit their premise solutions to offer them as a service. The buyer should be cautious of these solutions, as they may not have the same benefits as a solution that was built to be both hosted and on-premise. Understanding the functionality of a hosted solution is key to understanding the vendor’s ability to customize, integrate, and provide security for your existing resources.
A multi-tenant architecture can improve the operation of a hosted solution. It is an inexpensive and comprehensive method of providing a shared architecture down to the last table. With a multi-tenant architecture, multiple clients with distinct needs, tools, processes, customizations, and workflow can all reside in the same infrastructure – each with its own completely separate, completely unique set of processes.
A Net-Native Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) solution can eliminate the need for client/server applications on user desktops. Additionally, it utilizes the internet as a global delivery system for maximum uptime and flexibility while ensuring full security.
Integration should use a common platform based on open standards. This easy-to-program, goes-anywhere framework can summarize data from any system (transactions, interactions) and transmit it to agents using a single, web-based interface.
Secure data transmission is also very important. Solutions should provide best-of-breed hardware, redundant firewalls, restrictive internet protocols, good authentication, and secure virtual private network (VPN) lines between the client and the service provider. With the multi-tenant architecture, core tenants of the security framework for hosting keep everything separate.
3. Scalability And Flexibility
Having a hosted solution that can grow with your business is critical to long-range success and a long-term partnership with the service provider.
The solution needs to be flexible and customizable to your business. The ability to configure and adjust communication channels, workflows, processes, knowledge and application access, desktop presentation, and configurations are all critical.
A hosted solution should also offer a variety of deployment and financing options. Purchase a license and let the service provider manage the logistics and infrastructure for you, or start with a hosted version and confirm that it works for your business before investing in a licensed version. Or stay with the hosted model indefinitely.
4. Processing Speed And Availability
As hosted solutions physically reside outside the user’s network, companies should ensure that the service provider is able to meet processing-speed and availability requirements.
The service provider should have a commitment to meet service-level agreements and the solution architecture and infrastructure to do so.
To ensure redundancy, the service provider should have multiple data carriers.
The internet service provider must provide adequate bandwidth, as well as meet latency and reliability requirements.
5. Feedback And Measurement
Business intelligence functionality provides the insight necessary for managers to make informed business decisions. Thus, analytical functionality has transitioned from being a luxury to being a necessity for decision-makers in the enterprise.
The hosted solution should provide real-time or near-real-time reporting that provides managers with immediate access to logical and intuitive reports based on the company’s operations.
Flexibility in the controls of data manipulation is also important. Not only should the vendor offer standard reports, but it should also give managers the capability of creating custom reports that meet specific needs. Companies should look for online analytical processing (OLAP) capabilities that allow business users to flexibly manipulate or “slice and dice” operational data, using familiar business terms, in order to provide analytical insight.
If you fully investigate these five areas, you should succeed in implementing a solid software solution for your unique customer service needs.
About Randy Saunders:
Randy Saunders is the Marketing Director for Cincom’s Customer Experience Management products, with more than 25 years experience working with partners, Fortune 1000 and small-to-medium-sized businesses. Previously Randy has held marketing, sales and management positions at BusinessLabs, Gannett, SmartStar, and The Kroger Company.
Cincom Systems delivers software and services to simplify complex business processes. For more than 43 years, we have empowered thousands of clients worldwide to outperform their competition by providing ways to increase revenue, control cost, minimize risk, and achieve rapid ROI.
Published: Friday, March 16, 2007