Future's Bright for IP-based Hosted Contact Centers

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

In recent times, there has been a huge shift from call centers to contact centers and increasingly to hosted contact centers. According to Bharti, the size of the Indian hosted contact center market is an estimated $50 mn. Additional research from Frost and Sullivan approximates a CAGR of 45% over the past 5 years.


While the initial focus of the industry was on building a strong and reliable backbone and using technology as a selling point, today BPOs are increasingly using technology infrastructure as a differentiator highlighting better QoS and hence, better delivery. Today, ITeS and BPO industries are moving towards IP based next generation core networks and Indian and MNC IT services and software companies are expanding their presence in India. On the other hand, prospective customers evaluate a delivery center's maturity making it imperative for BPOs to spruce up their applications and networking infrastructure. Customers dictate technology investments in the BPO business; hence it is imperative that these centers offer state-of-the-art technology, at par with the most advanced centers in the world.

Technology is driving the evolution of the traditional concept of a call center, and in today's consumer-driven, internet enabled world, customers aren't just contacting organizations by a phone call-they want to reach a company via email, IM, text, and more. In short, the call environment has seen evolution from a voice based platform to context-sensitive, collaborative, voice and multimedia contact centers that allow enterprises to anticipate, automate and accelerate customer interactions. They enable companies to reach out to customers proactively by combining historical and real-time contextual information about a customer to improve the quality of interactions, optimize agent utilization and productivity, and enhance supervisors' ability to manage performance to deliver superior customer experience and drive sustainable business growth.


Communication solutions saw major shift from a communication platform perspective. Movement from TDM to IP transformed the way call center business was conducted. In addition, communication solutions moved from decentralized to centralized and business operations moved from local to global. The entry of many telecom service providers created robust fiber infrastructure taking business to tier-2 cities. A new market in India has emerged from outsourcing of IT operations in the country. This includes contact center deployments coming from the domestic contact center outsourcers. The established players are into a consolidation and optimization phase in terms of contact center technology deployments to align with business needs of the enterprise.

Going the IP Way

Call centers today are seeing an urgent need to shift from traditional TDM technologies to those on an IP based platform like converged web and voice, considering the needs of customers who demand a unified communication platform today. 3G which works on the IP backbone, and has enough bandwidth to pushmails and voice simultaneously, can work on a smartphone and act like an agent console, with the help of an app It can also aid in rural telephony, with an application to log into the main server of the call center virtual agent from anywhere.


IP contact centers on the cloud is a trend that is slowly catching up, though it will take sometime for it to go mainstream, due to issues of integration, security, and control on data, which are real barriers for the cloud in general, and applicable here as well. IP contact centers on the cloud will allow for more interfacing, and from a definition standpoint, the service delivery mode will change, though there will be no apparent change in the end-user offering. In addition to bringing the benefits of converged voice, mobile and data services to every desktop in the organization, the offering allows businesses to dramatically reduce upfront investment, while accelerating the adoption of unified communications on a global scale.

Hosted Focus

Going forward contact or call centers will have to transform themselves into high performance multimedia contact centers if they need to protect and grow their businesses. This change is being driven by the widespread use of social media tools today. There is a corresponding trend for new channels of support service systems, and businesses will have to invest in these modes of technical support to avoid dissatisfaction among customers during their interaction. Unified communication tools are now popularly used in many contact centers. A majority of simple contact center calls are taken care of at IVR level, hence complexity at agent level is moving, and multi-channel requirement is gaining popularity. Contact centers are responding to the changing needs for multimedia access, first-call resolution and enhanced outbound capabilities-balancing customer service and revenue generation requirements.


Cisco has tied-up with bharti airtel and Servion to launch the hosted contact center service that enables firms to get access to technology without having to separately buy software licenses. The service provides companies pay-per-use technology without buying software licenses, hardware or building IT infrastructure. Hosted contact center solutions are faster and less expensive to implement than customer premise based contact centers, and require no ongoing capital equipment or maintenance fee investment.

The focus today is clearly on providing an integrated, context aware, high-performance contact center environment which puts the customer at the center of the interaction and enables a single session to resolve the customer's query with multiple agents and processes accessible through the communications medium of the customer's choice. Cross sale and sale became the hygiene of the contact center SLA on customer satisfaction became more evident. The contact center has moved from traditional reporting to business intelligence for identifying synergies between different domains to improve customer experience. New solutions have been developed to rope in social media interactions as well for instant feedback and improvement in services.


Role of 3G

3G plays an important role in offering contact center executives the flexibility and capability to manage access remotely. Solutions that extend the corporate network to mobile and home phones, allowing agents to remain as connected as they are in the physical corporate premises, are essential to safeguarding India's position as the global backoffice. With introduction of 3G, video will become integral media of a contact center, where customers will be able to see the agent they are speaking to, allowing for a better customer experience. Rural telephony will also increase, creating more remote call centers. However this will take time, as managing home agents remotely may pose a hurdle. Tech Mahindra sees 3G picking up in contact centers in roughly 18-24 months.


Research commissioned by Avaya shows that 71% of employees surveyed claim that they are more productive when they have more flexibility, and 75% would be willing to see a reduction in remuneration in exchange for this. Employers too see the benefit, with 60% stating that flexible working increases employee productivity. This is especially true in a contact center context, when the ability to have agents available round the clock is paramount. The benefits of having a distributed workforce during off-peak hours, saving significant sums in building HVAC and security implications while allowing employees the flexibility of working from home in an 'on call' type environment are significant. Overcoming the challenges of bandwidth, multi-vendor access, and availability of contact center systems to remote workers means that what was once a distant dream is now a reality with clear benefits to companies, customers, and employees.

Emerging Trends

3G, SIP, unified communication solutions and convergence, data, and network security are some of the most apparent emerging trends in the contact center industry today. Enterprises will move beyond contact centers to a customer interaction network with hosted contact centers for both enterprise customers and service providers. In a central office or data center, service providers will host the contact center infrastructure software, which will be shared by multiple business customers. Subscribing business customers will have IP or TDM infrastructures, or a combination of the two.


Location independence is also emerging as a key aspect. No matter where agents are physically located, as long as they have access to the corporate WAN they can still function as if on-site, receiving and responding to customer inquiries as appropriate.

Competitive forces have rendered simple telephone support inadequate-customers now expect to be able to choose from web collaboration, text chat, email, or video communications as well.

Another trend is moving to IP as a platform for deployment of contact center solutions for various business benefits such as lower cost of transport with IP as medium of transport, enterprise wide contact centers vis-à-vis disparate contact centers, virtualization of contact center resources, adoption of SOA architecture as the way forward, and adoption of VXML self service to dynamically implement self service solutions by using the power of the IP network.

In many cities across Asia, social networks have emerged as the preferred mode of communications for customers to voice their opinions, recommendations, and complaints.

Video based contact center is a key driver for business and emerging contact center solution. This deployment will catch global business eyes to enhance customer experience and retain customer base. Businesses can deploy end video kiosks across locations, which would enable a customer to interact with a live video and voice to give a personal touch and an experience of a local store/service center.

There is a growing domestic demand from SMEs, as well as in the government, retail, travel, and hospitality sectors. Strong growth in the customer base for banking and telecom sectors in India is also spurring demand for self service applications including video. The growth of hosted contact center applications in many markets has spurred adoption from telecom service providers for multi-tenant solutions.


The life cycle of most technology equipment from inception to retirement is reducing due to new requirement, demand, as well as fast development, leading to pressure on operational cost. SIP is one of the technologies which will help in this regard, matching and scaling requirements, while leveraging on existing technology. Network security is another challenge, and call centers are looking at unified threat management, and data network encryption to overcome these threats. Contact center trends indicate a renewed focus on the customer experience and virtualization of operations to remote locations and external experts.

Improving customer service will be the key challenge and priority for the call centers in 2011. In addition, current architectures based on CTI and point-to-point routing are unable to meet the evolving consumer preferences. This implies that contact centers will need to think outside the box and adopt a new approach.

Beryl M