J.R. Simmons
J.R. Simmons has over 30 years' experience as a full-services independent consultant providing planning, design, analysis, implementation management, troubleshooting, and...
Read Full Bio >>

J.R. Simmons | September 22, 2016 |


Contact Center Feature Use Evolves

Contact Center Feature Use Evolves The way in which businesses want to use contact center technology is changing -- but will the vendors foster or stifle that change?

The way in which businesses want to use contact center technology is changing -- but will the vendors foster or stifle that change?


For several years, the call center and the associated supporting technologies seemed to be designed for a single corporate goal: Find the lowest cost way to deal with the necessary call volume. Frequently clients came to me looking to find out how to get even more calls handled by even fewer staff. But in all my years of teaching traffic engineering, I haven't found a queuing formula that fixes an under-staffed call center.

Self-service emerged and was seen by contact center organizations as the golden egg that would decrease call volume. That, coupled with efficient use of technology, was supposed to somehow make it possible to provide adequate customer service with minimal staff. Ultimately, it felt like a "race to the bottom," with everyone trying to get by without investing in solutions that improved performance, instead turning to solutions that lowered total expenses. Even as smaller business units sought to leverage routing and queuing to improve call handling, the focus was on using technology to do more (calls) with less (people).

The results of this cost-focused approach are well known by everyone. If we actually make it into a queue (I'll get to this in a minute), we are told to wait and that our call is important to them -- but it doesn't feel that way. Firms use the technology to tell callers that it is a busy time for them and they should call back later (when it is convenient for them). Better yet, they tell callers to go to the IVR or the webpage, and figure it out themselves, please.

That is not to say self-service is unappreciated. In fact, customers both accept and even prefer a quick self-service answer to easy or routine questions. But when a call is necessary, most do not want to be browbeaten or made to feel inadequate because they were unable to find an answer through self-service and need to talk to a person.

Often the worst use of technology is the supposedly smart (natural language processing) IVR that will happily handle your every need if you just utter the correct phrase or two. Sometimes, you already know what you need does not match the fixed categories, but you end up with a two-minute "conversation" with a machine that seems to be doing its best to keep you from talking to a human. And you know what is next. Is there a single caller out there who has not experienced the multi-layer deep auto attendant asking for precise information and detail, only to dump you into a generic (long wait) queue where you are asked to repeat everything anyway? It feels like some companies have set up a Please Don't Contact (us) Center. And this is on top of companies that don't take calls at all -- we have all visited websites that are absent of any phone number or options to actually talk to someone.


But we are starting to see a significant change...

Now, my clients are asking, "How do I leverage contact center technology to be better than my competition?" and, "Can we align the technology to our business model?" At last, the questions have shifted from a focus on lowering costs per call and cutting staff to improving the customer experience. Some firms are starting to see that when a customer takes the time to call, they either want or need something that can make or break the long-term relationship.

Organizations want to take advantage of the power of the modern contact center, but it is not as simple as buying all the options; proper implementation focused on how to apply the features is needed to produce the desired results.

In parallel with this adjustment in philosophy is a desire by the business to take advantage of contact center functionality throughout the organization. Call centers used to be implemented only for the large customer service centers where call volumes demanded efficient call distribution methods and management reports. Contact center technology is now sought after by many large and small business units that want to leverage queuing, multi-media, client-driven routing, automation, and better information so that they can do a better job for all customers. Furthermore, many clients want to put casual, infrequent participants (such as support engineers) into the contact center pools to aid in tracking responsiveness to customers and to leverage call routing, screen pops, call recording, and even work force management to improve customer service.

However, the contact center industry has not quite figured out how to properly accommodate such clients. The pricing mentality remains that a premium cost is justified for anyone who might receive an "ACD call" or a contact. The software licensing (for premises-based / Capex systems) or the monthly user fee (for CCaaS / Opex solutions) remains the key chargeback mechanism and at a premium rate. I worked on a project recently where our customer had hundreds of engineers participating in the call center activities, even though they would only take a couple of calls each per week. However, every contact center solution proposal they received was priced on either the number of named agents or the number of agents logged in at a given time. As a result, the total cost for a comprehensive solution was enormous. This just goes to show that the vendors have not yet figured out a good way to charge based on volume of contacts processed, rather than simple agent counts.

This will continue to be an issue as other types of contacts, such as emails and texts, are routed to various resources within the organization. If the only way to determine availability and track resolution is to make each recipient/participant an "agent," it will undermine the concept that "everyone in the organization is part of customer service." It may be a good sales pitch for improving responsiveness and first contact resolution, but it must be cost effective. Few businesses can afford to designate the vast majority of employees as "agents" when it carries a premium rate that reflects the old mentality of the dedicated service rep taking calls all day long.

The contact center solutions vendor that figures out the right pricing model to meet these evolving business needs may be able to jump ahead of the competition by helping businesses apply the contact center features that have expanded outside of the dedicated call centers of yesterday.

"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.