Jason Alley
Jason Alley, founder and president of SmartContact Consulting, is a consultant and industry analyst focused on customer interaction.Jason has both...
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Jason Alley | March 03, 2010 |


A Cry for Turnkey Contact Center Solutions

A Cry for Turnkey Contact Center Solutions Suppliers and enterprise customers alike took their eye off the ball. Enterprise customers, re-focus your resources and decisions; suppliers, heed the cry of your customers.

Suppliers and enterprise customers alike took their eye off the ball. Enterprise customers, re-focus your resources and decisions; suppliers, heed the cry of your customers.

The contact center was founded on two fundamental Ideals:1) Deliver great customer service, and

2) Optimize the financials of the business.

The above will be referred to as "the Ideals."

In an effort to deliver on the second Ideal, traditional TDM-based contact center suppliers evolved solutions to be more turnkey in nature. Rockwell, Aspect and the traditional telephony vendors (Avaya, Nortel, Siemens) offered enterprise customers rock solid solutions that were fairly simple to implement and maintain. Not that contact centers were vanilla--advanced applications and custom integration still introduced complexity--but core platforms were a known, trusted entity.

As enterprise customers seek to manage costs in today's recovering economy, a loud cry for the return of turnkey contact center solutions can be heard echoing in the halls of the enterprise.

What happened to turnkey solutions? What can be done to bring them back?

What happened to turnkey solutions In a nutshell, suppliers and enterprise customers alike took their eye off the ball relative to the Ideals. The race to innovate Particular technologies, to acquire Particular new capabilities and to migrate to Particular new platforms and business models took priority. Particulars were pursued without a healthy regard to the Ideals. As stated in the SmartContact report, Evolution of the Contact Center Market:

...logic soon gave way to emotion and a frenzy of acquisitions. The broader financial market spun out of control in terms of valuations and expectations around (short-term) growth and profit margins. Hardware was out of vogue and everyone was racing to mirror the financials of an entrepreneurial software company...The general sentiment was that if you didn't get on the train you would soon be left behind. We saw some crazy things during this time, including companies being valued at the multi-billion dollar level even though they were brining in low double-digit revenue and had yet to turn a profit. We saw companies selling off stable, profitable businesses as they caved to Wall Street's pressure to deliver higher growth and profit margins. We saw companies investing well outside of their sweet-spot in an effort to expand market reach and reinvent themselves so they wouldn't be branded as 'traditional' or 'legacy' providers. Funny money was flying freely in a way we will likely never see again.

One of the greatest Particular diversions was VoIP. In a brilliant market move, Cisco led the charge and forced the hands of traditional suppliers who eventually took one of two approaches: (1) develop new IP-based platforms or (2) evolve TDM-based platforms to run in an IP environment. How successful Cisco and the others were at delivering IP-based platforms is a topic for another blog. The important point here is that suppliers frantically developed, and enterprise customers aggressively implemented, VoIP solutions without a healthy focus on the Ideals--applying significant resources in a way that, for many, really didn't optimize the financials of the business or enable great customer service. What we are left with is much the same functionality that existed in the TDM world, delivered in a less integrated fashion, running on significantly more complex technology infrastructures. We are left with an industry where most systems are far from being turnkey.

What can be done to bring back turnkey solutions Demand will drive supply. Enterprise customers, re-focus your resources and decisions towards the Ideals. Demand that suppliers show you how they are going to help optimize the financials of your business. Demand that they deliver simplified solutions that are less costly to implement and maintain. Demand turnkey solutions.

Suppliers, heed the cry of your customers. Don't wait to react until you see your customer base slipping away. Work proactively to help your customers simplify existing platforms, and then build upon them. Help your customers optimize their financials by reducing the cost to implement and maintain your systems. Deliver turnkey solutions.

Conclusion It's obvious that Raphael didn't paint The School of Athens with the contact center in mind. However, we can learn something from the two men highlighted in the center--Plato (on the left pointing upward) and Aristotle (on the right with palm facing downward). Plato looked to Ideals for answers. Aristotle looked to the Particulars. Perhaps it is the relationship between the Ideals and the Particulars that is most important? Let's resolve to work together to do a better job of ensuring the Ideals drive behavior around the Particulars. Let's choose to place a priority on Particulars that are going to have the biggest impact on the Ideals--such as a move to turnkey solutions. Let's learn from teacher and student alike.

Suppliers and enterprise customers alike took their eye off the ball. Enterprise customers, re-focus your resources and decisions; suppliers, heed the cry of your customers.


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