- Hosted contact center features are gaining a more prominent role in carriers’ business-class telephony solutions.
- Hosted contact center solutions fit well with carriers’ hosted voice solutions from the enterprise to the mid-market.
As business IP telephony services continue to evolve, hosted contact center features are playing an important role in carriers’ cloud-based voice solutions. Business is increasingly conducted online, and the contact center function is a critical element in business communications with customers. Hosted solutions being marketed by contact center specialists today include fundamentals such as automatic call distribution (ACD), intelligent call routing (ICR), and interactive voice response (IVR). However, these services can also include integration with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, chat, click to call, reporting and call analytics, and mobile customer engagement. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook also play an important role: Businesses need to be able to monitor and respond to customer complaints that may be posted in the social media universe. Some of these hosted contact center specialists have teamed up with carriers, letting carriers sell services that include these new features. For example, in late 2011, Verizon announced that it was partnering with inContact for its new Virtual Contact Center offer; the partnership lets Verizon offer a more sophisticated, comprehensive suite of services to its customers. Similarly, AT&T’s Hosted Integrated Contact Services, based on the Genesys platform, include multichannel capabilities for e-mail, chat, and social networking.
Historically, the carriers’ target market for contact center services has been large enterprises. The beauty of these newer hosted contact center solutions is that unlike premises-based equipment, carriers can scale these offers down to meet the needs of mid-market and smaller enterprises. This customer segment may not have the financial or technical resources to manage a dedicated premises-based contact center box; hosted contact centers offer a flexible option, potentially improving communication with clients and building brand loyalty through improved customer service. For carriers, hosted contact center services fit alongside their hosted IP telephony, converged voice/data services, and network connectivity. Verizon, for example, has noted plans to extend Virtual Contact Center to the small and mid-size businesses (defined here as companies with 25-500 employees); XO is working with hosted contact center provider LiveOps to deliver contact center services to customer care centers with 25-400 agents under its newly launched Concentric Cloud Services offer; and Qwest (now CenturyLink) partnered with Angel.com back in 2010 to deliver hosted contact center features.
An enterprise’s decision-making process regarding whether to adopt a hosted contact center solution is complex, taking into account ROI, integration with existing infrastructure, long-term upgrades, and support, among other factors. However, enterprises should expect to see carrier offers incorporate more sophisticated features into their hosted solutions, and smaller enterprises should also see more alternatives to premises-based, big contact center solutions.