Entrusting the technology.

Author:Read, Brendan
Position:CRM, BPO & Teleservices

Hosted contact center solutions, also known as cloud or software as a service (SaaS), from third party vendors can and does deliver a widening range of functions from ACD to workforce optimization. It does so with minimal or no capital and support costs and with fast ramp ups/downs, ready updates, assured business continuity and heightened security compared with premise-installed solutions while using best-of-breed solutions from OEMs.

Having applications hosted requires contact centers to entrust the technologies that their operations are dependent on to outside firms, which means taking a thorough look at the offerings, issues entailed and at potential partners. To that end Customer Interaction Solutions interviewed several leading hosting firms. We asked them questions on:

* Changes in hosted value proposition and demand

* Purchase trends: entire platforms or portions of them

* Security, portability and interoperability

* Changes and new offerings they have made and are planning to make to their solutions

Contactual (www.contactual.com)

Wendell Black, Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Marketing

Awareness of hosted solutions has increased dramatically in the marketplace, due in large part to the immense success of the hosted delivery model for other core business applications such as CRM (salesforce.com) and ERP (NetSuite). The demand for them among contact centers is chiefly coming from existing centers moving from on-premise to hosted solutions. We expect this trend to continue as existing premise-based systems require significant upgrades or approach end-of-life. The demand is also coming from organic demand from new contact center deployments.

Demand has also quickly evolved beyond small and medium sized organizations that saw the hosted model as a way to gain contact center functionality that had been out of reach primarily to financial limitations on their ends. Today enterprises and larger contact centers are discovering the numerous benefits a hosted solution can deliver to their organizations and are frequently mandating that hosted solutions be considered.

Many customers were previously managing multiple vendors and applications for ACD, IVR, e-mail and web chat interaction management and other similar functions. They are thrilled to consolidate everything down to a single application from one vendor. The Contactual OnDemand Contact Center is a fully integrated solution so customers purchase the entire platform, although some portion of the feature set is optional.

While security, portability and interoperability concerns have been raised, much has also been written by analysts and other industry leaders about how these concerns are really persistent myths; myths that were also present in the hosted CRM and ERP markets. The hosted contact center marketplace has matured and evolved in such a way that most of these myths have since been debunked.

Contactual has passed rigorous security audits by numerous Fortune 500 companies and as such we are able to quickly overcome this concern. Hosted solutions also offer a great deal of flexibility and extensibility through integration and interoperability with other applications. In many cases, pre-built integrations exist for numerous business applications, such as CRM solutions.

Customers continuously look for flexible ways to acquire and deploy technology. This has led us to offer basic packages that allow customers to start with smaller feature sets that are more in line with their immediate needs and add options later as they see fit.

Our CRM customers have asked for, and we are delivering, a new Campaign Manager for outbound dialing integration that helps streamline business processes for sales and customer service followup activities. They like our "One Click" integration with CRM applications like Salesforce CRM and we are bringing out new additions to our supported CRM list with this "One Click" model.

Five9 (www.five9.com)

David Van Everen, Vice President of Product Management

Larger enterprises are increasingly recognizing the value of cloud-based call/contact centers. In...

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