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Cisco calling

In our 2003 issue of InterComms, Cisco provided a paper describing how service providers can address the growing demand for Managed IP Telephony services, targeting the Enterprise and Small/Medium Business sectors. This year, InterComms talks to Cisco’s Kaan Terzioglu, Director of Advanced Technology Marketing about a key application, which can form a compelling part of a service provider’s Managed IP Communications portfolio – the Cisco Hosted IP Contact Centre (IPCC).

Q: What is attracting Enterprise and SMB customers to IP Contact Centre services?
KT: Businesses are looking for increased productivity in the form of operational cost savings, reducing bottom line expenditure, and new services to increase top line revenue growth. The multi-channel IP Contact Centre directly improves both of these. A great example is from one of our largest IPCC customers, Shop Direct, the largest catalogue retailer in the UK and owners of Reality and Littlewoods. They migrated their disparate call centres into a single virtual contact centre of over 3000 agents, using Cisco IPCC, provided as a managed service by Cable and Wireless. One of their key drivers was the intelligent routing of calls based on the individual skills profiles of the agents who are logged in. Agents can be anywhere on the IP network, so this gives complete geographical freedom for agent resourcing and skill sets. It also means that companies like Shop Direct can raise productivity by sharing agents with particular skills across various parts of their customer contact business, rather than dedicating them to a specific call centre group. Another benefit to Shop Direct was the ease of introduction of new services, like telling customers where they are in the call queue. The standards based nature of the solution enables services to be implemented very rapidly.

Cost savings for IPCC are also achieved through efficiencies in daily operations. An example is business continuity – the call centre intelligence is no longer based on a large switch, which requires a hot standby location with a second large switch being constantly maintained, it’s based on clustered servers, with IP phone and PC endpoints which can be brought online dynamically as agents log in to a particular location – whether that’s a large central site, a small remote site, or a home office. This also means that remote branch offices now have access to the same level of CRM integration as main offices, without the need for additional hardware and software.

Q: So what are the main limitations of traditional call centre solutions?
KT: The main limitations are geographical dependence, limited ability to scale and to integrate applications or multi-media. These are very critical issues for call centers today and the reason why a majority of CRM projects have not achieved their aims in the past.

Q: What are the business models available to corporate customers who want to take advantage of these types of applications?
KT: The great thing about the portfolio that Cisco brings to the table for IP Communications and specifically for IP Contact Centre, is that it allows the customer to choose from a range of delivery and management models. IPCC Express, aimed at SMB, and the IPCC Enterprise Edition enable a customer-premise solution for IP Contact Centre. This is typically self-managed, but operations and monitoring could equally be out-tasked to a service provider. The Hosted IPCC solution enables a service provider to create a managed service from within their core network, with the efficiency benefits of shared infrastructure for multiple customers. Elements of the solution can still be located in the customer premise, if that better suits their needs in terms of data and application integration.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for the Service Providers on how best to leverage Hosted IPCC as a managed service offering?
KT: Hosted IPCC is a very powerful standalone application for multi-channel customer contact management including telephony, email, text, video and web content push. As such, there should be an element of standalone sales and marketing around this as a managed service to customers who can benefit from the cost savings and additional features – this is relevant to all major vertical sectors: Finance, Public sector, Retail, Manufacturing.

However, a bundled offering with other IP Communications services could potentially be even more powerful. For example, this would enable an existing managed IP Telephony customer to have access to Contact Centre capabilities, simply by increasing their monthly fee to the service provider. In the Cisco Business Voice Solution, any IP Telephony endpoint (IP Phone) can become part of a "virtual" distributed contact centre, simply by an agent logging into the IP Phone. This type of bundling is particularly attractive to small or medium sized businesses that wouldn’t otherwise want to invest in the deployment and operation of a sophisticated IPCC infrastructure, but is also relevant to larger enterprises adopting an out-tasking strategy, focusing their resources and capital on their core business.

Q: How is your IP Contact Centre meeting the current and future needs of the market? How does this differ from previous offerings you have made?
KT: Cisco has made several enhancements over the past two years: IPCC is now scalable down to under 10 agents. The same product line can be implemented in a multi-tenant service provider network that delivers call centre services to many customers and tens of thousands of agents in a Hosted IP Contact Center and provides true multi-media capabilities which includes video.

IPCC is an application, which forms part of Cisco’s Intelligent Information Network (IIN) strategy. IIN enables applications like IPCC to be resilient, integrated and adaptable. Specifically this enables efficient end-to-end routing, queuing and multi-media with quality, security and manageability.

Q: Is the case made for VoIP or do you as a provider still have to promote and build confidence in Quality of Service issues?
KT: I think everyone is now convinced that VoIP and IP Telephony are the way forward. We have invested a lot of time and resource, evangelizing to the market about the inherent benefits of IP Communications and we now have widespread adoption across all business sectors. Service providers are also seeing the benefits of IP Communications and are deploying high quality hosted and managed solutions which are attracting major customers. Managed solutions are making the benefits of IP Communications accessible to a much wider customer base, including for example those businesses who don’t want to manage their own technology migration. Another great proof point of VoIP adoption is the fact that every major manufacturer of communications equipment has all but ceased investment and R&D in traditional (TDM) equipment, opting to put all future resources behind a full IP telephony architecture.

Q: Can you quantify the savings to the customer from using an IPCC platform?
KT: Migrating to an IPCC platform, customers can expect important OPEX savings in the areas of equipment maintenance & support, telecommunications and specialist labour costs. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The key savings usually come with increased agent productivity and efficiency. The agents’ workforce typically represents 70-90% of the contact center operations budget. IPCC removes many of the technology barriers that are impeding a contact center’s ability to maximize its agents’ performance. IPCC can unlock productivity gains that can reach about 10% with some TDM based contact centers. Virtualization, Multi-Skills Routing, Unified Queuing, Inbound/Outbound Agent Blending and Reduced Agents Churn are key elements.

For example, if a contact center has limited pre/post routing capability, virtualization has a huge impact as it optimises load balancing between the sites. A contact center running a campaign or service across multiple sites with 10 to 50 agents can expect an increase of 12 to 25% of productivity with IPCC.

In terms of reducing agent churn, I’ll use an example from one of our IPCC customers who deployed Cisco IPCC in year 2000. As part of a company wide re-organization the customer reduced the number of locations from 8 to 4 in 2003. Since Cisco IPCC is geographically independent the agents could easily be moved. In a traditional environment the customer would have to carry out a big infrastructure project including the replacement of all 8 TDM based ACDs.

Q: Do Cisco use IPCC solutions internally?
KT: Absolutely. Cisco consistently adopts its own technology to leverage productivity benefits in all aspects of our business - employee productivity, sales and customer service. Examples include IP Communications using Cisco Call Manager which gives us mobility and efficient centralized management of applications, Wireless LAN using our Aironet Series, Storage networking with the MDS 9000 Series, Security for the network and desktop, and of course IP Contact Centre.

Contact centres are crucial for both customer and employee support and services. We have over 600 customer service agents, handling over 100,000 calls per week from around 30 sites, as well as email and web requests. The Cisco Technical Assistance Centre (TAC) implemented Cisco Intelligent Contact Management (ICM) software with Web Collaboration in 1999. This connected our geographically distributed sites, with intelligent call routing, creating a virtual contact centre able to route phone calls and web queries to the best available agent. From year 2000 we evolved this to a full IPCC environment as we migrated from TDM PBXs to IP Telephony using Cisco Call Manager, across the entire organization. Increased use of collaboration tools across both phone and online queries, giving agents comprehensive pre-call customer information, have enabled us to decrease average talk time for service calls dramatically, while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction. Also, through driving increased use of web collaboration, we’ve driven down total call volumes by almost 50% which leads directly to cost savings.

For more information, please visit: http://www.cisco.com/go/ipc


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