It was really just a matter of time before Skype found its way to contact centers around the world. After all, Web-based contact centers reduce the exorbitant costs of building a traditional PBX-based contact center. But caveat emptor: Skype has its fair share of limitations when it comes to delivering top-notch customer service.
"Skype out-of-the-box really isn't intended for call center use," warned Mark Tauschek, a senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. "Because there's simply no way to apply quality of service and traffic prioritization over the public Internet, you're going to have problems with call quality on occasion."
But call quality isn't the only obstacle. Additional causes for concern include queuing calls, call recording, and routing calls based on factors such as agent skill sets. For those determined, however, to reap the cost savings of Web-based technology in a contact-center environment, there are solutions.
Take, for example, PMCCS (PrettyMay Call Center for Skype). This software-based call-center solution for Skype lets small- or medium-sized businesses quickly deploy a Skype PBX system with auto-attendant, IVR (interactive voice response), extension transferring, call recording and personalized voice-mail capabilities. PMCCS can support up to 30 simultaneous Skype or SkypeIn lines without any extra hardware required.
And then there's SKY-click. SKY-click forwards incoming calls to the appropriate agent and offers additional functionalities such as agent availability, call queuing, feedback database and reporting. Because the service can run on an existing infrastructure of computers with an Internet connection, SKY-click does not require an investment in new hardware, landlines or a PBX.
With prices in the range of $10 per month per operator, PMCCS and SKY-click promise businesses "considerable savings," according to Tauschek, adding that hosted contact-center solutions typically start at $40 per month per operator. Certainly, properly programming a Web-based contact-center solution calls for the assistance of qualified IT professionals. But these manpower expenses are easily offset with hardware and software savings.
Another perk: sophisticated features. These days, a Skype-based contact center is not synonymous with substandard features. PMCCS, for instance, offers Visual Call-Flow Menu Builder, which lets users create a call-flow menu structure via a simple click, drag-and-drop process. With Call Recorder, all calls between callers and agents can be recorded and saved as MP3 or WAV files to ensure quality control or protect against litigation. And with Call Flow, users can arrange multiple call-flow schemes based on the time of the day.
The very nature of the Internet also lends Skype-based contact-center solutions countless benefits. For starters, it can take as little as an hour to set up and run a Web-based solution. And if it's a hosted solution , companies can fully focus on their core business of satisfying customers rather than on time-consuming contact-center infrastructure operations and maintenance tasks. A service provider also takes care of updates and maintenance, making sure that a company is making use of all the latest tools.
But for all of its perks, Tauschek warns that Skype-based contact-center solutions, with their limited scalability, are best suited for small businesses with 20 or fewer agents. Nor should companies rush to introduce solutions such as PMCCS or SKY-click if they don't have the time or resources to devote to configuring them properly. After all, said Tauschek, "If you implement a Skype-based contact center solution poorly and it doesn't work very well, you could potentially alienate customers even more than had you not put in a call center at all."
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