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SaaS-based vs. Hosted Workforce Management: The Advantages of Web-based Solutions for the Call Center

June 02, 2009

To facilitate increased uptake of their solutions, as well as to introduce new capabilities and features, leading call center software vendors are recoding their applications and offering them on a shared secure platform in the data center to enable the use of software-as-a-service (SaaS (News - Alert)) model.

As many companies have discovered in recent years, the SaaS model of delivery has numerous advantages over the traditional hosted or ASP models of the past. With SaaS call center software vendors can “virtualize” their applications – which means the applications and data can be accessed via any computer with a Web browser and high speed internet connection.

This eliminates the need to establish dedicated connections between the vendor’s hosting facility and the customers’ facilities and greatly simplifies the challenge of providing access for agents and other employees. With a SaaS or “virtualized” call center network, a supervisor or agent can log onto the system from any computer, no matter where it is located, with a secure user name and password. It is thus an ideal architecture for geographically-dispersed centers and for facilitating the much-coveted home-based agent model.

Very often the traditional hosted model means taking a client server application and simply hosting it on a server at the vendor’s site. In other words, the vendor takes an application that wasn’t originally designed to be hosted in the first place, makes a few changes to it and then delivers it to each customer over the Web or dedicated network via a single, dedicated server.

This hosted model has numerous disadvantages compared to SaaS: For one thing, having a dedicated server per customer is much more expensive compared to SaaS, where multiple customers can access the applications from a single server or set of servers. This sharing of computing resources makes delivery many times more efficient and economical, thus reducing the overall cost of the service. What’s more, hosted or premise-based solutions often require the customer to install software on their site in order to secure communications, thus adding to the cost. Whereas with SaaS all communications are already encrypted -- security becomes the service provider’s responsibility.

In addition, the traditional hosted model tends to be less scalable since the customer is limited to the single server that runs the application. If a client needs increased performance for running data intensive forecasting and scheduling scenarios the server might become overtaxed and could incur service disruptions. With the SaaS or “virtualized” model of delivery, multiple servers in the data center can be used for “overflow” purposes (also called “elastic cloud” computing), thus all the computing resources available can be utilized in the event network traffic peaks.

Here are a few of the other advantages SaaS brings to the call center:

Lower upfront costs

In general, the biggest factor driving the adoption of SaaS platforms is lower up-front costs. Companies that adopt the SaaS model initially save by avoiding the need to shell out capital for premise-based equipment and installation services. Instead, they simply “lease” the software on a “pay-as-you-go” basis (either by seat or agent, time or based on a flat monthly subscription). Not only is this pricing model more economical, it’s easier to predict and manage, affording simplified financial reporting: Rather than paying out chunks of capital for upgrades or the replacement of on-premise systems, companies now have the ability to include the cost of their SaaS service in monthly expense reports as a recurring line item.

Reduced ongoing costs

SaaS solutions also deliver lower ongoing costs because the service provider typically takes on the maintenance of the system, including software upgrades, equipment replacement and troubleshooting. This reduces the strain on existing IT staff and also lets companies avoid having to hire specialized IT teams. In addition, services can be added or customized quickly via a single, Web-based interface, without adding significantly to the overall cost of the service.

Faster implementation

Rapid deployment is another advantage SaaS offers. Setting up a new on-premise system can be costly, time-consuming with some hosted solutions causing major headaches in terms of installation and integration.  Today’s SaaS solutions, however, offer fast integration with existing IT systems and support for service-oriented architecture (SOA). Most vendors are now providing pre-integration for legacy CRM and business systems. Plus, support for service-oriented architecture (SOA) helps companies save money by keeping their existing legacy software and servers, yet still being able to access their customer data the same way they always have.

Faster access to new technologies

The SaaS model also means customers can get faster access to new software and features. Customers can quickly access and “trial” new applications as soon as they become available. The SaaS model is also ideal for call centers that are looking to adopt a unified communications architecture.

Enabling the ‘virtual call center:’

As mentioned earlier, SaaS solutions are ideal for facilitating geographically distributed and/or virtual call centers. Perhaps most compellingly, SaaS enables the increasingly popular home agent model to operate optimumly. Additionally, SaaS enables companies with multiple call centers to tailor or customize the solution for each individual center’s needs. The SaaS model is also an enabler of what’s known as the “informal call center,” which allows companies to extend the call center out to other knowledge workers in the organization.

Better control over business rules

SaaS solutions offer the ability to apply business rules across the whole call center so agents can log onto the system only when they are scheduled to; access only the applications and network resources they need to see; or call others within the company based only on their “presence” or availability. Calls can be routed to each agent determined by pre-defined rules based on which types of calls or customers the agent is best suited to handle. Agents can instantly receive custom scripts during a call, helping them to calm an irate customer or upsell /cross-sell at specific junctures pre-determined by management.

Guaranteed 24x7, 365, uptime

For some companies it can be hard to relinquish control of precious IT assets to a third party. But rest assured: today’s service providers have their data facilities fully-backed up and what’s more, they use state-of-the-art security to protect sensitive company information. These data service providers know that just one failure or breach could spell then end of their business, so it’s in their own interest to protect your data.

By the same token, today’s software vendors have a vested interest in ensuring that their applications meet their customers’ needs: If the application performs poorly or turns out to be a bad fit for the customer’s business, the vendor loses revenues. Since SaaS can be turned on and off just like a utility, it’s relatively easy for organizations to switch to another provider in a short amount of time, giving the software vendors all-the-more incentive to roll out tested, reliable applications that help companies meets their business goals.

Workforce management software vendor, Monet Software, offers a SaaS-based version of WFM solution called Monet WFM Live. The solution was designed and built from the ground up as a web-based SaaS solution. It takes full advantage of latest technologies in security, a multi-tenant architecture and high scalability through “elastic cloud computing.” As users' requirements change this architecture allows for instant scaling of capacity without adding physical servers – giving you power when you need it and only when you need it.

With this fully-Web-based version, there is no need to deploy additional hardware or software, nor is there a need for additional IT staff to support the application as the system is 100 percent managed by Monet Software. All upgrades are included, so the technology is always current.

Monet WFM Live offers enterprise-class features in a system that can be used in call centers of all sizes. With the system’s advanced forecasting and scheduling capabilities, call center managers can schedule the right number of agents, based on agents’ skill sets, ensuring that the right skills are available for each channel, for each shift. With these advanced forecasting capabilities, over-staffing or under-staffing can be tightly managed, a major concern in call center management since labor is the single biggest cost facing any call center.

To learn more about other features and capabilities of Monet WFM Live, click here.

Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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