Navigating the complex hosted market – which provider is right for you?

The call centre industry is changing at a faster rate than it has for years.

November 12, 2013

By Bruce von Maltitz, 1Stream

The call centre industry is changing at a faster rate than it has for years. The introduction and widespread adoption of cloud computing, improving infrastructure, rising customer support costs against the backdrop of the global recession and the age of the connected consumer have played in a large part in transforming the industry.

The move into the cloud, which meant that developers and providers no longer need to gain direct access to expensive, on-premise hardware to build a solution has meant that a wide range of competing providers have entered the market – some relying purely on open-source PBX and VoIP gateways to build their product.

Bigger “household” name technology brands are also giving way to smaller entrepreneurial firms. At the opening address of the Gartner Symposium in Cape Town, analysts were very clear – selecting a technology provider is not as easy as it was 10 years ago when most businesses could buy IT equipment and software from one of a number of mega-vendors and feel absolutely secure in their choice. Now, the most important suppliers a business may have in the future is likely unknown to them, and large software companies are realising that the products they have been selling for years are not what their clients actually need. The “feature war” of the 1990s has been replaced by the managed service model, whereby product and service components are unbundled, allowing clients to mix and match and only pay for the elements they want to use.

This “democratizing” of the industry has left call centres with a dilemma: how does one discern a good provider from the bad?

A better question would be whether or not the provider you are partnering with is helping you achieve your call centre goals – and whether or not you can access the capabilities you will need as your call centre grows. Some providers merely provide you with a link and a little box and are off on their way – the DIY version of call centre tech, with no frills, and minimal support. One could argue that is the last thing anyone would want, but for some small call centres, it’s perfectly adequate (provided that the underlying technology is good enough).

Unfortunately most companies require a lot more than a simple “drop-and-go” offering in the long-run. A simple solution will work well if the call centre has an in-house IT expert at their disposal, who can help them add functionality as their needs develop, but for most enhancing a simple solution to meet the needs of a more complex environment will prove arduous at best.

Call centres have already experienced the need for real-time data in order to reduce customer churn and improve call centre performance and security will feature heavily on customers’ agendas in the future…both elements require expertise that cannot be bought “off the shelf”. It’s best to partner with a provider that can offer both the technology and the service levels required to meet the demands of the call centre as it grows.

After all, the capex model of business where technology was sold as a product has come and gone. It pays to buy technology solutions, that not only include software or hardware but also access to skills, consultancy and the flexibility to change the suite of features as required over time.

Hosted providers that make use of the “pay-per-use” model have a vested interest in ensuring that their clients succeed and keep coming back, and should demonstrate a willingness to consult with your call centre to ensure that their technology can change as you do. Make sure that whoever your call centre partners with offers the best balance of cutting-edge technology, with speedy and efficient service and you’ll never get left in the lurch.