IP contact centers pose significant challenges

Careful planning is necessary to cross a minefield of issues

That will change how the business operates, and require personnel management tools and training for handling a remote workforce. While not a technology issue, it is one to be faced in order to be successful, she says.

Don't buy more than you need. Depending on the level of sophistication of the contact center, it may be useful to employ the basic contact-center features that come with many IP PBXs, Machowinski says. "If you just need basic functionality, it should be relatively easy to set up," Machowinski says. "You could argue that if you have an IP PBX, a contact center is really easy to set up."

But for better call routing, richer features and integration with caller records and backend platforms, dedicated call center packages are the way to go. They can better tap into customer data bases to provide information that the system or live agents can use to personalize interactions and make them more successful, he says.

Automated features can be also geared to individual callers based on integration with databases. For instance on-hold audio can be chosen to present ads tailored to each caller's known interests as determined by the database.

"The more you know about the customer, the better you can serve them," he says. "You want to spend as little time with customers, and do a good job, and keep the customers happy." This can also reap monetary rewards. If hundreds of agents save a few seconds per day on each call, that can account for a lot of time to take extra calls, he says.

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