The Virtualization of the Call Center

By Ari Sonesh

Lowering costs while providing better service within the call center environment is a desirable yet elusive goal. The problem that call centers have faced is a “no win” situation. They have been forced to choose between two seemingly mutually exclusive options. The first is providing callers with excellent service through staffing for peaks, which is expensive and may drive a business to losses. The other is staffing lean for economy, which results in lackluster service and can, in turn, also drive the business to losses. Either way, it is “no win.”

The solution is virtualization of the call center. Virtualization allows adding skilled resources whenever and wherever they are needed. In every enterprise, there are capable personnel ready to help out when needed with call center shortages. Those capable personnel should always be readily available and deployable when they are needed. Furthermore, with the advent of high-reliability broadband connectivity and enterprise mobility, the best qualified personnel can often be reached on mobile devices. These skilled employees, distributed throughout the enterprise, are actually informal, casual, part-time call center agents.

Virtualization does not only refer to staff and communication channels. It also encompasses access to caller information. Formal call center agents and informal ones alike need customer information screen pops. Further, as the contacts are intelligently routed, transferred, and rerouted through the enterprise, the information must travel along with the call. This is only possible if covering personnel are truly part of the call center technology infrastructure.

Virtual call centers require not only appropriate technology, but also appropriate licensing schema for that technology. While high-speed broadband IP networks and IP call centers are making virtual call centers possible, it takes special casual agent pricing to make it practical and economically viable to have a large number of people participating in a part-time way in the call center.

With virtualization, every employee can become part of the call center. The increased recognition and validation of virtual call center models will lead to the re-engineering of the call center as we know it. With this change will come a greatly improved customer experience. We will be seeing a fundamental remodeling of the entire customer contact process. Today’s technology as we know it, will be replaced with the virtual contact center.

Ari Sonesh is President and CEO of CosmoCom, an enterprise contact center technology company that enables organizations to unify and intelligently route multiple customer communications channels including voice, video, email, voicemail, and Web

[From Connection Magazine June 2006]

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