Family-Friendly Vegas is Now Call Center Friendly, Too

New findings show that Las Vegas is among the top cities in the U.S. when it comes to the number of call center companies setting up shop there. Good for workers, not so much for the companies trying to hire them.

New Canadian Data Center Highlights Cloud Contact Center Growth and Security

The trends are undeniable. Enterprises seeking to upgrade their customer experience capabilities are increasingly moving to cloud and hybrid solutions as features, cost-efficiencies and enhanced security drive the market. In addition, the North America continues to be a major growth opportunity both North and South of the U.S./Canada border.

Major Cloud Contact Center Performance Management Software Upgrade from TouchPoint

Greg Salvato, CEO of TouchPoint One in commenting upon the latest upgrades stated: “Adoption of Acuity has gained tremendous momentum in 2014 and customers are starting to realize the broader scope of how it can be leveraged to better align, equip and engage contact center employees and partners.”

Wheelings & Dealings: Qualfon Acquisition of Center Partners get nod as Small-Market Deal of Year for 2014

For those who are frequent visitors to the Contact Center Solutions Community, you know that we like to report on recognition that community members get. However, recognition can cover a lot of ground so not always does it involve a company receiving an award for providing great customer services.

Outsourced Call Centers Cutting Back on Technology Investments

November 20, 2014

A on the Asia-Pacific Contact Center Applications Market found that in terms of employment and revenue numbers, the contact center industry in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region has been pretty strong. There was growth in the number of contact center seats, and revenues are expected to grow the next few years.

In spite of these positive findings, the industry has shown some reluctance to invest in application technology and is putting more effort into improving customer experience. This will result in limited growth in revenue for vendors providing call center technology.

The APAC contact center applications market earned revenue of $676 million in 2013 and is expected to earn $1.1 billion in 2020, a CAGR of 7.2 percent. Revenue from core applications like call distribution, monitoring and IVR is declining.

The two factors that will have the greatest impact over the next few years are the move to an omni-channel system of customer interaction and analytics that track operations. According to research conducted by Ogilvy ( – ) & Mather, the number of social media users in the APAC region is expected to increase from $970 million this year to $1.23 billion in 2017.

This increase, along with a boost in mobile device use, will lead to a shift toward an . Customers will expect retailers and other businesses to communicate by text, email and social media as well as by phone or in person.

They will also expect that when they bring up an issue on one channel, they will seamlessly be able to resume the discussion on another channel seamlessly. Demand for self-service applications is also increasing as a growing number of customers prefer some autonomy over resolving issues. This suits the customer support centers just fine, since it reduces CSR labor costs per customer.

The results of Frost & Sullivan’s ( – ) report would seem to be a mixed bag of positive and negative news, but such a conclusion is too simplistic. It’s more accurate to say that what was previously a relatively untapped market for mobile devices and social media is growing in both these areas. The APAC region is following the same trends of other regions, and businesses that want to have lots of happy customers need to change the way they provide support if they want to remain competitive. 

This Time, Contact Centers Ready for Health Insurance Queries

November 18, 2014

Following last year’s launch of the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment issues, all eyes were on the start of the same period this year. About 100,000 people went ahead and submitted their applications for health insurance on November 15, the first day people could do such a thing under the ACA this year. Sylvia Mathews, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said that so far, the relaunch has gone quite a bit better than one year ago.

“The vast majority of people coming to the site were able to get on and do what they intended to do,” Burwell said, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to the 100,000 people who actually submitted their applications, another 500,000 logged onto the site and browsed around for potential insurance coverage.

While those numbers were impressive, it stands to reason the more impressive numbers were the people who reported having significant issues getting on the site and navigating it. While the number is probably not zero, it doesn’t appear there have been any significant spikes in those having basic problems. That’s a huge win for the administration and people looking for insurance. While a lot of the problems have come on the federal level, state healthcare exchanges have had their own brand of . States like had been working overtime in the lead-up to the relaunch in order to have their call centers and exchanges up and ready to go.

The government said that if there were some login issues, most of those stemmed from people who had not reset their passwords from earlier in the year. When the Heart Bleed virus was an issue this summer, the website had told people they would need to choose a new password. Those who didn’t had their passwords deleted and would have had problems getting on the site on Saturday. Other than that, the Obama administration is crossing its fingers and hoping this year’s launch is indeed going to continue to be a smooth one.

ConnectSolutions Partners with Reseller to Install its MeetingCloud Solutions for Lync

ConnectSolutions announced recently that it was partnering with Enabling Technologies to setup its Meeting Cloud for Microsoft Lync.

San Francisco-based ConnectSolutions (CoSo) provides Adobe Connect and . Customers can choose from solutions ranging from turnkey installations that are up and running quickly to more complex systems that have numerous requirements and need more customization.

MeetingCloud solutions come in three different plans. The low-end version, TeamUp Complete is designed more for small and medium businesses. It will integrate with PC and Mac desktops, as well as the Android and iOS mobile devices. The likely customers in this area are SMBs wanting a system that is simple to setup and use. They also don’t want to be bound by contracts.

TeamUp Premium is CoSo’s mid-range solution that integrates with Active Directory and Skype. The customer can setup and use the solution on a temporary basis before committing to purchase a license.

TeamUp Custom is at the high end of the market, but is the most customizable of the three. It can be fully integrated with the customer’s installation, offers more security than the other two options and supports hybrid environments.

Glen Arm, Md.-based Enabling Technologies Corp. (ETC) is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that assists customers with setup and installation of UC and related products, especially those on the opposite end of the spectrum from the turnkey solutions.

One of its greatest success stories comes from the work it did setting up a meeting system for architecture and engineering firm . The company has three offices along the East Coast and one in Southern California. ETC set them up with a meeting solution that saved $20,000-$30,000 annually over the previous Cisco-based solution.

The relationship between CoSo and ETC seems to have great potential for success. ETC has demonstrated with installations like the one at Ewing Cole that it can deal with challenging projects, something beyond the scope of CoSo’s skill set. The popularity of Lync and UC in general should keep both firms occupied for the next few years. 

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When Outsourcing, Be Sure Everyone is on the Same Page

November 13, 2014

The “holiday season” is just about here, and stores are already gearing up for the annual influx of Christmas shoppers. There is so much competition for the consumer dollar that many retailers begin their Black Friday ( – ) campaigns so far in advance that . In the race to beat their competitors to the punch, these businesses are losing sight of one of the important aspects of their success: offering a great customer experience.

According to a report in CRM Magazine, about one-fourth of online revenue is lost because of a . You can attract all the traffic you want, but it does little good if customers leave your site and go to competing sites.

One example the article cited was Air France, which had a serious problem with abandonment. The airline company upgraded to a system that examined customer activity on its site. With this information it was better equipped to respond to site problems and fix them. As a result, abandonment decreased significantly.

This year represents a big shift in consumer purchasing habits. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) predicts that 41 percent of shoppers will spend more online this year than last. Forty percent of shoppers fall into the category; they do most purchasing-related research online and will buy items online when it is cheaper than doing so at a brick-and-mortar store. Another 32 percent of are primarily online shoppers; the remainder prefer to shop in person.

With this large a shift in purchasing habits, retailers must support seamlessly if they are to remain competitive. If the customer initiates a purchase on the website and arranges for in-store pickup, representatives must be aware of any issues with the customer’s interaction online and be prepared to address them. In 2014, reducing the aggravation factor as much as possible may go further toward a retailer’s success than any Black Friday specials ever could.

Contact Center Outsourcing: Soon to be Gone for Good?

November 11, 2014

Call centers may be obsolete in a handful of years. Online services such as help desks and intelligent websites could transfer all areas of service to the domain of the Web. So much for a multichannel approach; what businesses and customers may have on their hands in the next few decades is a reduction, a distillation to simpler times.

This largely appears to be the mindset of Australian telecommunications company Telstra ( – ). Its CEO, David Thodey, notably commented that traditional call center jobs would be obsolete within a few years. The company has been sending much of its call center work overseas, and its customers are reportedly not happy with that move. However, Thodey’s comments in August to that concern Telstra’s future may have raised even more concerns.

“You think about how you interact with a bank today,” Thodey said to “You don’t go into the bank branch that often and that’s going to be the truth, I think, about many of the traditional service-related jobs. It’s going to be more and more digitally done and I think as difficult as that is to face, we have to… the off-shoring is a temporary sort of step.”

As correct or incorrect as he may be, his comments may have been somewhat premature. Business Insider Australia reports that, , he said call center agents must be good at their jobs – no matter where they are located. He said many of the Telstra jobs are in Perth and justifying those positions “because we’re a multicultural society and often the criticism is around language or communications skills.”

That is an arguably good point that any call center owner could make. Agents should be able to effectively communicate with their customers; likely no one would deny that. Thodey is not completely backing down, though, and also recently bolstered his August comments with this statement:

“I do fundamentally see that contact centers will decline in the future,” he said.

“More people are going online, and they prefer it as a better experience.”

Thodey’s words are not the end of commentary on the subject. Business Insider also states that David Tudehope, the CEO of Macquarie Telecom ( – ), has taken the opposite position and contends that the offshoring call center positions are not always the best idea. He explains how an internal bidding process allowed the company to consider its call center operations as a core part of overall operations.

“We thought that contact centers were noncore but when we thought about it, if we believed customer service was the key to our business, how can we not do contact centers ourselves? It’s a very important part of how we touch our customers. Outsourcing it just didn’t make sense,” Tudehope said.

There are likely many business managers from all industries that will fall on one side of the debate or the other. For some companies, offshoring could be the correct course; for others, that will not be the case. Either way, if Thodey ends up correctly predicting the future, many call center employees could be out of a job in the next couple of decades. Customer service operations could shift entirely from traditional call centers to remote workers that operate entirely through online portals. Ultimately, though, it may be up to the public to decide the future of those positions because they are the ones that demand exceptional service. They may continue to demand services which only call centers can provide.

Seattle Company Brings Call Center Work to the Disabled

November 06, 2014

By , Web Editor

It would seem like a perfect fit: Willing, disabled American veterans looking for work and an industry in need of employees would welcome a job and stick with it.

That’s what inspired Direct Interactions President and co-founder Matt Storey to utilize a cloud-based virtual contact center solution to create home-based employment opportunities for disabled veterans and military families.

“I wanted to prove that with the right technology and opportunities, I could compete as a knowledge worker in today’s economy,” said employee Tom Gonzalez, a seven year veteran of the Navy SEALs. “With Direct Interactions, I am part of a team solving problems for customers and setting an example that just because a person had a disability, it doesn’t mean we can’t excel in the modern workforce.”

The story begins back when Storey and and his business partner, CEO Jonas Nicholson, had set up a number of offshore call centers in the 1990s and realized the same technology could empower Americans with disabilities and military families by enabling them to work from home.

Today, the company’s 200 agents do work from home, providing customer support for technology companies, city governments and organizations interested in demonstrating their commitment to corporate social responsibility. But they’re not stopping there, not by a long shot.

Over the next three years, Nicholson plans to expand its workforce to 1,000 agents nationwide. He also said he hopes other companies will be inspired by Direct Interactions, which has been recognized by the State of Washington and various nonprofits for its efforts in creating jobs for people with disabilities.

“Working from home is a winning trend, and so is hiring people with disabilities,” said Nicholson. “We would like to see more companies copy us.”

All it will take is someone with vision, and a desire to help.

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