Top 7 Targets for Hosted Contact Centers

The challenge in selling hosted contact centers is in identifying prospects most likely to be receptive to a cloud-based platform. Here are seven hot customer profiles.

Channel Partners

August 11, 2010

7 Min Read
Top 7 Targets for Hosted Contact Centers

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 providers 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. 

In addition, SaaS-only capabilities such as on-demand scalability and easy home agent and multisite support can solve specific problems encountered by many contact centers in deploying premises-based systems. Heres a quick rundown of the best business opportunities for a hosted service, based on matching customer needs to SaaS benefits. 

1. Startups or established companies with first-time call centers. This is the ultimate greenfield opportunity. Startups in particular typically are cash-strapped, unable to hire IT personnel to manage call center equipment and unable to predict call volumes in order to determine their equipment needs. An existing company launching its first call center faces similar challenges.

Cash requirements for a hosted platform are minimal, no paid service contracts are required, and agents can be added quickly to accommodate growth without adding infrastructure. Deployment cycles are typically a few weeks instead of a few months, enabling rapid ramp up. These factors, plus the fact that first-time operators are not accustomed to on-premise equipment, usually simplify the off-premise purchase decision.

2. Organizations with highly variable call volumes. As illustrated in the earlier video game vendor example, a hosted call center solution is also a good fit for prospects with extreme seasonal or emergency-related fluctuations in call volume. Instead of buying an installed switch capable of handling 100 active agents during busy periods when the normal head count is usually 25, for example, a cloud-based platform shrinks or grows as needed and allows companies to pay for the number of seats used in a given month.

With this usage-based pricing model, companies can contract for a minimum number of agents, increase or decrease their port allotment when required, avoid an expensive equipment investment and save on monthly fees during slow times. Its a compelling sell for customers with predictable peaks and valleys in call flow.

3. Companies with at-home agent needs. Many businesses and non-profits are using or considering work-at-home agents because of limited physical call center space, insufficient local talent pools, the need for 24/7 staffing and/or initiatives to reduce agent attrition by offering a better work-life balance. Since remote agent capabilities cannot be added easily to premises-based contact center systems, these organizations are promising targets for a hosted solution.

With the SaaS model, there is no need to deploy SIP phones, specialized routers, client software and other gear to outfit home agents, and the technical complications of linking remote users to an installed ACD or IVR system are completely avoided. All that is needed is a standard phone, computer and Internet connection, making a hosted platform a clear choice when some or all agents work at home.

4. Businesses with multisite contact centers. For companies with multiple call center locations, a hosted infrastructure offers the benefit of easy centralized management. This can be achieved without the difficulties of connecting disparate premises-based switches to a centrally installed ACD and trying usually unsuccessfully to merge all call handling and reporting functions.

A hosted ACD enables unified routing for all agents regardless of location. Agent skills can be configured centrally and calls can be routed to people instead of buildings, eliminating overstaffing and other problems caused when each center operates independently. Any number of locations both in-house and outsourced can be managed through the same system with standardized reporting and quality control. These are strong selling points for multisite prospects.

5. Companies needing to upgrade obsolete legacy systems. Replacing obsolete or end-of-life switches, ACDs, IVR systems and other components with new premises-based systems can cost millions of dollars even for a medium-sized facility. Here again, the economic benefits of a hosted solution provide solid sales opportunities by eliminating the huge capex requirements of conventional call center installations.

In this scenario, customers can retain their legacy switch until it fails and use it simply to supply dial tone. Hosted ACD, IVR or other applications such as call recording and workforce management can be activated with no need for equipment purchase, in-house training or consulting fees, lowering costs while also providing flexibility.

6. Companies that want to eliminate outsourcers. Another target customer for a SaaS-based call center infrastructure is the company that has been outsourcing its contact center needs and wants to bring call handling in-house. The usual cost and rapid deployment advantages of the hosted model apply, eliminating upfront capital expenditures, ongoing in-house maintenance costs and lengthy rollouts that would be required with on-premises implementations.

7. Organizations with 100 percent uptime requirements. For operations ranging from 24/7 help desks to airline booking agents and 211 community information referral services, downtime is not an option. Yet small and midsized contact centers are unable to provide the physical security, fire control, backup power, systems and network redundancy and around-the-clock network monitoring to ensure continuous availability of an installed system. Even larger operations are limited in their ability to provide these disaster contingency/recovery features. Hosted contact centers again step into the breach, offering high availability and other protection through the providers data center with an infrastructure that only very large enterprises can afford to duplicate.

There are a few scenarios where the SaaS model of contact center deployment may not make sense, depending on the service provider youre using. Some providers may have difficulty supporting international customers, for example. Some will discourage selling to pure outbound telemarketers because of predictive dialing and regulatory issues. Others may not be able to scale sufficiently to support very large deployments, although there are in fact contact centers with thousands of seats running on cloud-based infrastructure.

But the exceptions are few, and the market drivers so compelling that forecasts by industry analysts like Ovum consistently have shown cloud-based contact center deployments to be outstripping premises-based implementations. Focusing your sales efforts on prospects with solid reasons to embrace the SaaS model is a productive way to start building this new revenue stream.

Jon Heaps is senior director channel alliances for


, a provider of cloud-based contact center software and agent optimization solutions.

Read more about:

Free Newsletters for the Channel
Register for Your Free Newsletter Now

You May Also Like