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Contact centres: Five questions to consider before going ‘virtual’

3rd Oct 2012
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The trend towards virtual contact centres looks set to continue but that doesn't mean every business should move to the Cloud, says Jeremy Payne.

Businesses are increasingly migrating from physical bricks and mortar-based contact centres to virtual centres. However, moving to the Cloud will not be right for every business. Here are five of the main factors organisations need to consider before they take the plunge. 

1. What is the size and scale of your business and how many users do you have?

Businesses choose the size of their contact centre based on the size of their customer base, the business model and contact strategy they choose to adopt. The challenges of creating a cohesive and relevant contact strategy are broadly the same whatever the size of the centre. What changes is the management challenge. It is more difficult to align, motivate and manage 1,000 people than 50, especially in a dynamic environment like a contact centre.

2. Understand your demographic. Do you have a high proportion of customers who want to interact with you using mobile devices?

In making their choice of contact centre, companies need to consider their customer base. Mobility has become one of the key factors in customer interactions, particularly for the young. People are increasingly choosing not to use voice to contact the centre. They may switch channels at different times of day perhaps from a tablet at work to their laptop at home. They might want to open a chat window or strike up a video multimedia conversation.

Currently, most contact centres are struggling to keep pace with these developments. Many still haven’t picked up on the fact that the younger generation, in particular, are far more willing to self-serve; to look on the Internet or the company website to find out what they want without interacting directly with anyone from the company itself.

3. Do you need people to be able to access the system remotely from home?

The provision of fast and efficient answers is a must. As a result, virtual contact centres need to consider making use of remote workers to ensure that a service is provided at all times. With the Cloud-based approach, organisations will have far greater flexibility to bring staff on stream to help service the virtual contact centre at busy times then effectively ‘switch them off again’ during quieter periods.

For companies that are geographically dispersed and may have worldwide offices, or remote staff working from home, Cloud-based contact centres can provide a raft of benefits to allow a flexible ‘follow the sun’ model.  The on-going migration from traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ contact centres to virtual Cloud-based centres helps to provide the 24x7 service that makes this possible.

4. How complex and sophisticated are the enquiries you receive likely to be?

Moving to the Cloud will not be the right choice for every company. Many Cloud solutions are by definition delivered over a “common” platform which is great if you can achieve what you need within the boundaries necessarily imposed by the approach. If you need ‘heavy customisation’, though, you may be better off thinking about ‘going down a different route’, especially if you have a complex operation and are likely to incur expensive programming for necessary customisations to the core system. Equally, the Cloud may not always be the best option for companies where security is paramount and there is a combination of high call volumes and complex procedures to manage. Corporate banks processing high value transactions, for example, probably will not want all this information stored in the Cloud.

They may instead prefer to keep it behind their own firewall as part of an on-premise configuration and have their own highly skilled in-house security staff running this kind of a system. Many companies may also have ways of working, business models and internal policies and procedures that are unique to them. In this context, the Cloud is effectively a one-size fits all approach, so users can potentially lose a degree of customisation and flexibility.

5. What regulations do you have to comply with? This is often a particularly important issue for firms operating in the banking and financial services industries.

Organisations operating in highly regulated environments like the banking and financial services industries might want to consider a more hybrid approach. In these kinds of scenarios, we can expect to see more seamless transitions between the core company and external business process outsourcers.

So, for example, a bank with multiple product lines would typically want its own staff to deal with high-value heavily FSA-regulated products like mortgages and man its own contact centre or interaction platform. For lower value products, though, it may make sense to push the engagement out to a third-party company that is allowed to use the bank’s technology, systems, platform, infrastructure and business processes.

Looking ahead

Going forward, the on-going migration of contact centres to the Cloud looks set to continue, driven by a combination of convenience; cost-effectiveness and scalability. The decision about whether or not to ‘go virtual’, however, should never be seen as an automatic one. The choice inevitably depends on the nature of the company making it, the particular industry sector in which that company is operating; the level of customisation and sophistication required and most important of all the needs of the customer.


Jeremy Payne is international group marketing director at Enghouse Interactive.

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