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VoIP right for single-site call centers

While most of the benefits of VoIP seem to center around multiple-site call centers and remote agents, there are advantages for smaller shops, too.

While Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers clear advantages for multi-site call centers and remote agents, there are some key strategic reasons to implement the technology in a single site.

"A single site running VoIP helps the call center move farther into enterprise," explained Lori Bocklund, president of Beaverton, Ore.-based consultancy Strategic Contact.

Regional banks and credit unions have been some of the single-site centers that are early adopters of VoIP. Typically, these companies have one call center and multiple branches. With VoIP installed throughout the company, the branches are more closely connected to the call center. When there's a high volume of calls at the call center and downtime at the branches, calls can be routed to a branch.

Similarly, customer service -- continually struggling for attention, budget and mindshare within organizations -- directly benefits from VoIP's emergence.

VoIP installed throughout the company allows agents to more easily connect customers to people within the company with expertise regarding their specific problem. For example, an agent can quickly connect a customer with a loan question to a loan officer if he can't answer the question himself.

Additionally, single-site call centers are typically smaller companies and aren't hamstrung by existing technology investments. The move to VoIP is made easier when a company needs to refresh its technology, such as a need for new functionality or a version of software that is outdated.

"As single-site center hits those triggers, [it] should ask 'should I use VoIP?'" Bocklund said.

Centers moving to multimedia and handling e-mail should also consider VoIP. VoIP is better suited for a common routing and reporting engine, according to Bocklund. While many of these goals can be accomplished without VoIP, the technology makes it easier and cheaper.

"The interesting challenge is it's not just a technology thing," Bocklund said. "Those require business changes. The nice thing about single sites is they're smaller, more agile companies."

VoIP in the contact center has been slow to catch on, however, Bocklund admits. Quality control when running customer interactions over a network becomes a serious concern for organizations and a lack of large reference customers makes many potential adopters nervous.

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