Logistics, costs and complexity – the contact centre has faced an entirely different challenge in 2020.

When the pandemic was first felt in the shape of lockdowns and remote working, many companies were able to rapidly iterate and adapt. They moved their people into remote working scenarios and did what they could with what they had to keep the business running.

For the contact centre – the epicentre of customer care and engagement – this sudden move was not as simple.

The logistics of remote contact centre support were far grittier and required a lot more detail. For one thing, there was the need to ensure that agents had access to the tools and technology that they needed to do their jobs. For another, these tools and technologies were expensive, entrenched in office blocks and difficult to move.

This reality hasn’t changed. The pandemic is still a reality, staff numbers are limited in contact centre environments, and customers still want top line support. There are plenty of statistics that point to the value of engagement and delivering solid customer support – most of them highlight what happens when these factors are not in play. Customers leave.

“Contact centres have to balance the needs of the business against the regulatory requirements of the pandemic,” says Xavier Nel, head of product at CloudGate. “This means that they need to invest into long-term solutions that won’t cost them unnecessarily, that have applications outside of pandemic restrictions, and that tick key boxes in terms of functionality and capability.”

Contact centres need to give their staff the necessary tools that can immediately be installed and used in their homes and allows for the same comfort, ease of use and efficiency as they have at the office.

Traditional PCs and contact centre systems are far too weighty to simply pick up and move – especially with staff now rotating in and out of the office. Laptops are also far too expensive and come with more features and components than are strictly required by call centre software applications and also do not offer a true desktop environment – which is far more productive.

The cost of large scale laptop deployment adds up quickly and these devices are fairly delicate which means that they can be expensive to maintain and manage.

“Mini PCs have become a solid choice for many contact centres due to their small form factor and their accessibility,” adds Nel. “They are far easier to install and manage compared to standard PCs and laptops, and they have fewer components so they’re less hassle to maintain and repair. Another added bonus is that they are extremely simple to deploy.”

Mini PCs have evolved considerably from their original form factor and feature sets. Most of them come with solid state storage and up to 8Gb of RAM and offer CPU performance that is easily capable of handling standard call centre software applications.

They also have built in wireless so the end user need only attach it to their home screen, keyboard and mouse and they are instantly connected and working. That’s ease of deployment. The next benefit is cost which is, of course, the most relevant for most companies right now.

“Mini PCs price tags are notably lower than standard PCs or laptops, offer the right levels of performance and they are cost-effective to maintain and manage,” says Nel. “They only run on an average of 15W of power so they instantly reduce the electricity load anywhere – be it the home or the office – and this has the added advantage of making it far easier to keep them running in the event of load shedding. A UPS and a Mini PC can keep agents online and connected even when the lights go out.”

Costs are cut on deployment – being only a fraction of the size of a desktop PC – transport costs are cut down significantly – and once the teams have moved back into the office these Mini PCs can be mounted to desks or the back of screens to improve available space.

“The Mini PC takes up less space so agents have more room to move during the working day, if it fails it can quickly and easily be replace, so there’s less delay and stress for IT departments and less downtime for the agents,” concludes Nel.

“Simple, useful and scalable, Mini PCs have the potential to reduce a significant burden on any contact centre looking for a sustainable solution to the pressures of the current Covid-19 crisis.”