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In the past companies had two basic choices in how to provide call center services: internally or by outsourcing the service, typically to a company based where labor costs are low. Recently some companies have supplemented their in-company resources with home-based agents, and a growing number of providers offer outsourcing services in-country, for example, in North America. From a technology perspective as well, companies had two choices: on-premises or the outsourcer using its own technology. Here also a third option has opened up as technology vendors provide their systems “in the cloud,” housed at the vendor’s premises and accessed by users over the Internet. One of these is Alpine Access, which offers an alternative to third-party outsourcing through home-based agents and cloud-based technology.

The company has three core services: virtual business process outsourcing (vBPO), virtual recruitment process outsourcing (vRPO) and virtual learning process outsourcing (vLPO). Using a combination of these services, Alpine Access helps customers recruit home-based agents from anywhere in North America and Canada train them, and then it provides the technology that delivers calls to their homes and enables access to the customer’s in-house systems over the Internet to help the agents resolve callers’ issues. It provides services to manage the agents’ time – many work part-time – so the right numbers of skilled agents are available to meet the company’s demands at any time. It also provides extensive security software to ensure that the approved person is signing on to the service and accessing the system from an approved location. Since the agents are “virtual” and are accessing all the systems over the Internet, it doesn’t matter if the client company’s systems are based on-premises, in the cloud or in a combination of both. Alpine Access also makes its recruitment and e-learning processes and systems available as stand-alone services for companies that want to do their own recruitment and training.

Ventana Research’s benchmark research into agent performance management shows that it is very important for companies to have appropriately skilled agents available at any time to handle customer interactions. Contact centers managed in-house often have issues in recruiting, training and retaining enough skilled agents to meet the increasing demands of customers and in matching their availability to unpredictable call volumes. While the traditional outsourcing model often seems cheaper, those providers tend to have problems recruiting agents with the right profile of skills to match customer expectations. The Alpine Access model overcomes many of these issues by tapping into a pool of skilled home workers, many of whom can’t work full-time or don’t want to, but whose availability can be managed through  text messaging and activating them remotely. This can produce better matching of agent availability to demand and better customer experiences because the agents are more experienced. The cloud computing model almost makes location irrelevant, and agents and systems may be scattered over a very wide area.

How do you recruit and train your agents? Are you following the trend to use home-based agents? Please tell us more and come collaborate with me on social media.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research

In the past year various vendors have begun to offer some or all of the systems required to build and run a contact center through a cloud-based service. I recently came across another one, Echopass, which has a different operating model than I am used to. Its core services are provided by products from two vendors that as yet don’t provide their products in the cloud: Genesys, which supplies call routing, intelligent front-door and intelligent back-office workflow, and Verint for workforce optimization (WFO). Echopass supplements these with other vendors’ products, such as Voxify’s speech platform, speech engines from IBM and Nuance and Microsoft .Net and SQL services. Along with a number of in-house developments this array enables Echopass to offer what is in effect a best-of-breed suite that is integrated to create a unified offering.

The key to making the whole thing work is the base platform that Echopass has developed to allow these products to run in the cloud. This consists of three components: a multitenant services delivery engine, business continuity services and an automatic fail-over management system. Together these support a highly scalable, resilient and reliable service, including full disaster-recovery facilities, that is designed to run in the cloud. Working with an extensive ecosystem of technical partners, systems integrators, outsourcers and telecommunications carriers, Echopass is able to address the specific needs of its customers by combining the expertise of its partners with software development and systems integration services. It also takes advantage of research and development being carried out by its core product partners so that its customers get both up-to-date products from some of the leading contact center product providers and new developments directly carried out by Echopass.

This value-added service comes at a price, and so Echopass targets large companies whose contact centers have more than 300 seats and are addressing complex business issues. This in turn means that Echopass has a slightly different value proposition than most that offer a contact center in the cloud; while it offers the benefits of a cloud model (such as monthly charges rather than upfront capital costs, low-impact maintenance and built-in disaster recovery), more importantly it demonstrates that adopting a contact center in the cloud can facilitate a radical change in both the way companies interact with their customers and the operating model for their contact centers.

As I recently wrote, it is time for companies to change their approach to contact centers, not least because they need to support more channels of communications with their customers and address the impact social media is having on customer service. Companies can choose to implement these changes in several ways: by adding to their on-premises contact center architecture, by supplementing their existing systems with best-of-breed products in the cloud, by choosing one of the emerging integrated systems available in the cloud, or by adopting the Echopass hybrid model of best-of-breed products in the cloud that can be integrated with existing systems. A key part of the decision is to find a vendor that has the expertise and track record in helping companies address complex business issues associated with multichannel customer service and that can demonstrate success in helping to transform customer interaction-handling and contact center operations. Echopass fits this bill and so should be one of the vendors given serious consideration by companies that have large, complex contact centers.

Have you thought of moving your contact center systems to the cloud? If so please tell me more as we research the contact center in the cloud to educate the industry.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

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