When asking call centre managers how they go about choosing the technology that supports their business, the answers are invariably the same. They are approached by vendors who sell solutions, or perhaps they turn to analysts’ opinion. And sometimes, they rely on their internal IT departments to make the final call, says Jed Hewson, director of 1stream. 
When asking how important that technology is, the answers are more mixed. Everyone knows that it is essential for the daily efficiency of the business, but users rarely realise how important it is until it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.
In other words, when technology is failing and all of the time is spent trying to fix it, users quickly realise how crucial the technology running in the background is to the success of the business. This begs the question: who is responsible for buying and maintaining technology?
Many call centres look to a small component of in-house IT staff (with a tight IT budget) to take charge of the technology they employ, often expecting one or two IT professionals to take charge of the entire organisation’s IT infrastructure. This does not work – for a number of reasons.
For one thing, it is extremely difficult to find local IT professionals with experience (and expertise) in the call centre space. For another, even the most experienced IT professional will struggle to maintain an entire call centre if their department is understaffed or otherwise under-resourced. Time constraints alone can hinder progress.
This is where managed service providers (MSPs) can play a significant role. Hosting provides a better solution: a model whereby IT is procured as a service, rather than a product. Usually, this will result in a reduction in costs and an improvement in quality, because due to economies of scale, the hosted provider has the buying power to acquire best-of-breed software – even for small call centres.
DMG has said that cloud-based infrastructure is the fastest growing area in the call centre industry, doubling between 2013 and 2015.
The proportion of call centres seats in the cloud will reach 18% by this time, up from just 2,2% in 2008. Initially this was driven by the financial pressure from the global recession – but as the functional gap with premise-based solutions narrows, it is being seen as the most logical alternative, rather than just a viable substitute.
Sadly, often IT professionals are the most resistant to this model, partially because it is seen as a threat to their existence. Hosted technology can complement existing IT efforts and run certain crucial functions – such as upgrading software or security needs – entirely, alleviating the pressure on staff and on their budgets. In short, a hosted provider will reduce the complexity that IT managers have to face.
The in-house IT department is not endangered, but it will have to adapt to a changing marketplace.
Looking at the typical tech used in a call centre, it would be ACD, automated dialing, quality assurance, workforce optimisation tools, customer relationship management tools and multimedia plug-ins. All of these solutions have one common goal: they contribute to successful people management.
Essentially, technology costs make up about 10% of the total cost of a call centre – and that is usually where business owners cut their budgets. But that 10% directly affects the cost and management of staff, which account for about 70% of the budget and is 99% responsible for the success of the business.
IT needs to be a dependable enabler for call centres, who require flexibility in order to deliver and compete. They need to easily make changes, expand or even relocate. The more premise based their IT is, the harder it is to manage. Likewise, it is no good having sophisticated technology in business, but not the means to install, manage or optimise it.
If the IT department can partner with a provider that they trust and that will be willing to support them with reliable, accessible service delivery, it will prove to be a win-win for all parties concerned.
The cost-saving benefits of hosting call centre technology is not just about recession-beating. It’s a guaranteed service measured against a SLA, which means that a call centre manager would ultimately spend less time worrying about technical issues and more time focused on the people that drive the success of the business.