For years South Africa’s contact centre industry, its promoters and its detractors have focussed on telephony as the single biggest cost facing operators. We’d like to argue that this is a red herring: yes, South Africa’s call costs are high, but they have been coming down steadily for several years. If they ever were, they are no longer a burning issue.
One advantage of a focus on phone bills, apart from the temptation to blame Telkom for all our woes, is that they’re easy to measure. Another advantage is that it’s easy to sell lower call costs, which explains why industry suppliers have kept the issue alive for so long.
When people aren’t focusing on call costs, they tend to concentrate on technology costs – hence the popularity of open source-based PBX systems. But if one takes a step back to look at contact centre costs in total, a very different picture emerges. In reality, 60-70% of the costs at most contact centres are staff-related.
To put it another way: contact centres are people businesses, not technology businesses. To run them effectively and profitably, operators need to focus most of their attention on the people, not the technology.
The technology is a critical tool, of course, but it should always be approached strategically: what does it need to do? More specifically, what does it need to do to help the business earn money?
Approached this way, the question becomes not how many bits of equipment described by three-letter acronyms suppliers can sell, but what functions the technology needs to support.
Thinking of technology as a service, not a collection of equipment, enables operators to move beyond the old "buy or rent" dilemma. A combination of technical evolution and the increased availability of bandwidth mean it’s now possible to buy technology services from a hosting provider on a pay-per-use basis. The hosting provider is responsible for managing issues like integration, maintenance, upgrades, backups, licensing and all the other things that otherwise tend to eat up contact centre managers’ time.
Not only does hosting allow managers to focus on where their efforts will have the best results, it also works out cheaper. Spreading the cost of hardware, software and skills across a larger user base enables lower per seat or per hour cost. Finally, it also dramatically shortens time to market: instead of waiting up to three months to go live with on-site technology, it can be done as soon as people can be found to fill the seats.
The core business of a contact centre is communication, not technology. Hosting allows operators to keep their focus where it should be.
1Stream are providers of Hosted Contact Centre technology. The hosted or “software as a service” model offers affordable, pay-per-use access to world-class technology including a complete range of multi-media applications to route, record and report on any contact centre activity. 1Stream also offers ongoing support and consulting services to help clients extract maximum value from their technology services.
Published: Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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