Cutting Costs in the Contact Center with Skype

Updated: February 21, 2008

Issue

If you need to build a low-cost, no-frills call center, Skype can help. The VoIP phone company and service is renowned for its low pricing, global reach and reliable performance, so it seems like a logical choice for businesses that want to deploy a call center without draining their finances. But before you dump your PBX and throw your call center headlong into the world of Web-based communications, take some time to consider some key points.


Analysis


Most businesses contemplating a Skype-based call center will want to use the technology provided by one of the two main vendors specializing in this market: PrettyMay and SKY-click. Both firms offer software-based, low-cost and fast-to-deploy turnkey Skype call-center packages.

PrettyMay's flagship offering is PMCCS (PrettyMay Call Center for Skype). The solution enables SMBs (small- to medium-size businesses) to implement a Skype PBX system with auto-attendant, IVR (interactive voice response), extension transferring, call recording and personalized voice-mail capabilities, among other features. PMCCS is designed to support up to 30 simultaneous Skype or SkypeIn lines without requiring any extra hardware.

SKY-click, meanwhile, promises that its Click to Call Center provides all the functionalities of a professional call center, including agent availability, call queuing, a feedback database and reporting. The product also lets businesses add voice, chat and video support to their Web sites.


Benefits of Skype in the Contact Center


Skype-based call centers offer several advantages over conventional call centers, including:

Low service cost: Using Skype is the absolute cheapest way that any business can create a call center. SKY-click promises it can get a call center going for as little as $10 per agent, per month, while PrettyMay offers a $150 PMCCS package that supports up to 30 lines.

No infrastructure outlays: With both PMCCS and SKY-click Click to Call Center, there's no need to invest in new hardware, landlines or a PBX. Either service can run on an existing IT infrastructure with an Internet connection.

Easy deployment: Without messy hardware configurations to worry about, a Skype-based call center can be set up in minutes. Still, unless a business happens to have a lot of VoIP and IT expertise on staff, it's best to have a consultant design and test the system.

Extensive support: Besides vendor support, businesses with a Skype-based call center can take advantage of the free knowledge and advice offered by Skype's global user community.
Despite these numerous benefits, Skype-based call centers present two main disadvantages:

Variable call quality: With Skype, QoS (quality of service) can be a hit-or-miss proposition. Most of the time, calls will sound perfectly fine or perhaps even better than those sent over traditional telephone lines. Yet there may be moments when calls are garbled or spontaneously disconnect. How often these moments happen, or how long they will last, is anyone's guess and depends mostly on the quality of the Internet connection between the call-center agents and callers.

Limited scalability: It's hard to imagine a Skype-based call center with more than 20 or 30 agents. Piling additional agents on a Skype-based system stretches the limits of the Web-based voice technology, making it necessary to use hardware to direct and manage calls.


Conclusion


Skype isn't suitable for all businesses, particularly those that depend on their call centers to generate an ongoing revenue stream. The technology simply doesn't offer the QoS or scalability necessary to maintain a sizable, mission-critical call center. On the other hand, Skype can be an attractive choice for businesses running support desks, information hotlines and other noncritical call-center operations.

For more information on VoIP and call centers, consult Focus' Buyer's Guide: VoIP Contact Center Solutions and check out this group discussion: "Is Skype a viable option for large call centers?."

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