By Jon Heaps
The steady march toward the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model finally is catching up to the contact center market. Adoption of hosted contact center infrastructure continues to grow as an alternative to traditional installations, presenting both opportunities and challenges for the channel.
The opportunity lies in the ability to resell SaaS-based contact center services to offset declining premises-based deployments, expand the prospect pool to customers who cannot afford a premises-based solution and/or add contact center offerings to your product portfolio without having to handle fulfillment. The fact that the hosting provider handles setup as well as service delivery opens the door to solutions providers — dealers, VARs and system integrators or even telecom agents — who lack the resources to take on another high-maintenance product.
The challenge involves identifying the prospects most likely to be receptive to a cloud-based platform. While nearly any company can be a candidate, the most productive approach is to target those with financial, technical or operational pain points that can be relieved only by leveraging the unique capabilities of a SaaS solution.
Consider the case of a video game vendor that needed to replace a 10-year-old phone switch and related call center equipment. The company receives tens of thousands of calls from November through January, but just a few hundred per month the rest of the year. Buying a conventional installed switch would have required purchasing for peak capacity and letting most of the ports sit idle for nine months.
The hosted option allowed that company, figuratively speaking, to avoid building a 10-bedroom house when they needed a bungalow. Ports can be added or subtracted based on call volume, and standard premises-based features like skills-based call routing, screen pops and CRM integration are included. The company also supports an outsourcer on the same system — a feature available only by moving into the cloud.
The fundamental appeal of hosted contact center technology for any customer is economic. The total cost of ownership is low because the SaaS strategy eliminates the need to purchase and maintain in-house equipment such as automatic call distributors (ACDs) and interactive voice systems (IVRs). All back-end hardware and software is instead installed, updated and monitored at the provider’s data center. Everything from call routing to call recording is delivered over a broadband connection.
This model reduces upfront capital outlay as well as in-house IT overhead. Monthly per-seat or per-user subscription fees come out of the operating budget instead of the capital budget. For most companies, the opportunity to avoid capital spending in favor of pay-as-you-go pricing is a powerful incentive to go the SaaS route.