The virtual contact centre holds enormous promise for South African business. This is the word from Grant Allan, business manager managed services at Intelleca.
"The virtual contact centre is delivered through a hosted model, where a client does not have to invest in hardware and software," says Allan. "This makes it possible for companies to gain access to the world's leading technology, quickly and affordably.
"This model holds multiple benefits. There is no capital cost up-front for contact centre on demand customers. Companies pay for a full-feature, full-function contact centre on a pay-per-use, month-by-month basis as an operational cost, taken off balance sheet. The technology is provisioned as a utility and customers are billed accordingly."
Telemed, one of the country's leading medical aid administrators, went live in 2007 with South Africa's first virtual contact centre on demand (CCOD), designed and delivered by Intelleca.
The contact centre is being run out of both Telemed Pretoria and Telemed Germiston. Based on technology from CosmoCom, which Intelleca represents as the Master value-added reseller (VAR) and integrator in South Africa, the contact centre is unique in that there is no hardware at either of the customer's sites. Rather, all the software and hardware required to power the contact centre is provisioned from Intelleca's hosting facility in Centurion.
"Now Telemed can quickly and easily scale up the contact centre as it needs to, and then scale down if needs be, in line with the business's requirements. Thirdly, it can take advantage of the very latest technology available, without considering the traditional capital outlay required. Fourthly, it can locate its contact centre agents wherever it chooses - they can even work from home, if there is sufficient connectivity linking the agent to their corporate network."
Telemed, whose clients include Eskom, ICASA, Impala Platinum and Telkom, had run its contact centre with a dedicated Alcatel PABX and standard telephone headsets. These have been replaced with PCs powered by an Intelleca CCOD software agent, and USB headsets. The two contact centre sites are connected via leased line to Intelleca's hosting site in Centurion.
"As a business, we are adopting the theory of chase demand," says Telemed operations executive Andre de Lange. "This implies adjusting capacity to meet demand at any given time. As a business, we can reflect on statistical experience and predict future demand, and deploy resources rapidly. Accordingly, we needed contact centre technology that could be deployed very fast, and the CCOD model fitted very well with what we had in mind.
"We now have an instant failover facility, allowing us to switch over to agents anywhere in the event of failure at either of the sites. We continuously balance our staff load and we are now so agile, we can even accommodate contact centre agents at home. In addition, we expect to save significant money, relative to any other contact centre offering."
Telemed has not had to compromise in any way for its cost savings and agility: it has all the functionality it needs, including full interaction recording, multimedia recording, skills-based and priority-based routing, administrator reporting, agent management, service level agreement management and monitoring, and business management for CCOD.
In addition, the Intelleca solution has a comprehensive unified queuing capability: voice calls, video calls, e-mails, faxes and SMSes are lined up as they arrive, and then submitted to the next available agent for resolution in accordance with pre-defined per queue SLAs and priority-based rules.
"In effect, Telemed has leapt into the world of leading-edge technology without a major investment," notes Allan. "As the site grows, we expect to add more capacity, channels and functionality in the near future. Our objective is to ensure an optimal caller experience and call handling process for Telemed clients when engaging with their contact centre."
Telemed's leased line connects the two sites. When a member calls Telemed, the call is first processed through an on-demand IVR (interactive voice response); ACD technology (automatic call distributor) then routes the call to the most appropriate agent, and the member transacts business with the agent.
"Contact centre on demand has changed the nature of service provisioning in South Africa, and has taken delivery of technology to a new level," adds Allan. "Customers for the first time are able to subscribe to a fully managed, fully hosted service offering feature-rich contact centre technology in a scalable and affordable way."