Gary Bennett, UK & Ireland Sales Director speaks to Comms Business Magazine about the market of SME – CPE and Cloud based call and contact centres solutions:
Are ‘in skin’ PBX solutions out of their depth in the mid-market?
It’s not so much that they are out of their depth, it’s more that they limit flexibility. With a ‘fully fledged’ contact centre solution designed with open integration standards, it’s easy to integrate with other applications and to add extra functionality.
This is important because we’re currently at an inflection point where everyone is starting to recognise that multimedia capability is becoming essential – we are certainly seeing people who bought contact centre solutions from us in the past, perhaps as a basic voice solution, are now coming back and adding multimedia apps. It’s especially the case for SMEs because they often need to punch above their weight and appear to be larger than they are; they certainly want to come across as an efficient and professional organisation.
There are other reasons why ‘in skin’ PBX solutions are not necessarily the best for SMEs. The first is cost. Pound for pound they are going to get far more functionality from a call centre solution. It’s not just the initial investment either, professional services surrounding installation and upgrades are cheaper and this can have a real impact if they need to make changes throughout its lifetime.
Take a local council, for example. They might have to respond to a crisis within their area such as flooding or a major road closure – anything that causes a call overload. They may want to put up an announcement explaining the situation. There are many scenarios where changes might need to be made.
Mid-market solutions are often architected to make it easy for the business itself to make the changes – and this can often be done without the use of their own IT departments, which can also be expensive to use. A small business or other organisation might not even have their own IT department and so will rely on this flexibility to tweak their system themselves.
So, when you combine this with ease of use and low cost of ownership, you can see why a ‘proper’ contact centre often provides the prestige without the price tag.
The other factor to take into account is that SMEs often know they can’t compete with larger companies on cost, but that their differentiator is their customer service. As such, they are not so interested in reducing call handling time as they are improving both their net promotor score and the customer journey. They are looking for ways to make their customers feel special and to improve the whole customer experience.
Also, a lot of simple transactions are now resolved through self-service, so human-to-human contact is reserved for the more complex cases, whether it’s a query or a sale – the ability to collaborate with the back office, or different product experts, is becoming increasingly important – especially when the contact centre is in essence a help desk or specialist support centre.
Are third party apps the best way forward for SMEs or an expensive diversion?
I don’t think they are a diversion at all – especially if the apps are domain-specific. The way a healthcare help desk handles a customer will be completely different from, say, a small insurance company. For example, emails may need to go through approvals or other protocols to remove patient information, so the ability to integrate with specific apps will be key.
And if the contact centre is from a vendor such as ourselves, they won’t necessarily be expensive, certainly from an implementation perspective. They need a base solution that’s been developed in an open and agnostic way so will fit into any ICT environment and will integrate with any PBX. It must also have open APIs so it will connect to and work with any application or environment
It’s worthwhile though to ensure that a solution is accredited by the main PBX vendors as then an SME has a combination of security, in that they know it is going to work with any system, but also the agility to integrate with anything and potentially save money in the process.
For example, East Midlands Housing Association like many housing associations across the UK uses Enghouse Interactive’s contact centre product integrated with an Orchard system which is a specialist social housing solution.
And if you do go third party, then what is the best deployment model, CPE or Cloud?
I think most vendors are going to say whichever one they offer – although as Enghouse is flexible and not prescriptive, it can provide whatever model the customer needs – on premise, a managed service, opex model, subscriptions based. It really is a case of different customers, different models.
We find that many customers start off with an on premise system but as they grow or want to trial a new office in a new location, for example. They may want to do a three-month pilot in the cloud to test it to see if it works and then decide to continue. So, once again flexibility is the key.
The Enghouse Interactive partner programme is helping resellers to become experts in the field
Enghouse Interactive runs an EMEA Partner Programme which comprises a select group of Enghouse Interactive partners, which buy-in to the company’s strategic vision and roadmap and can align resources to support it.
Members are sub-divided into distributors and value added resellers. The latter category consists of technology resellers, application service providers, OEM providers that rebrand products as their own, and partners focused on supporting delivery to end customers, often as part of a broader solution. The programme also features tiered platinum, gold, silver and authorised membership, depending on the partner’s level of market reach, skills and expertise, revenue generation capability and ability to take on multiple products.
Today, Enghouse Interactive is attaining 55% growth in UK business year on year with its ‘medal’ partners. Moreover, the company is also achieving year-on-year growth of 112% on its mid-market communications centre offering, Enghouse Interactive Communications Center (EICC) through its certified channel partners in the UK.
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