VoIP Adoption in Contact Centers to Soar

Contact centers will dramatically increase the adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology over the next few years, the Yankee Group projects. This long-awaited development will be driven in some part by related growth in the number of home agents.

The VoIP adoption rate in North American contact centers will grow from approximately 17 percent in 2005 to greater than 47 percent by the end of 2007, according to a new report by the research firm. The shift will take place largely in contact centers of 500 or more agent seats, although growth is expected throughout centers of all sizes.

The VoIP penetration rate of agent seats will increase from 16 percent in 2005 to more than 60 percent over the next three years, Yankee also predicts.

The expected increasing levels of adoption are not likely to translate into a radical realignment of market share among the providers of this technology, though.

Traditional telecom companies and telephony hardware/software companies are poised to benefit more from this growth than systems integrators and value-added resellers, notes the report. Also, traditional contact centers are likely to remain the main provider of application sales in the near term.

Remote Agent Factor

What is changing is how contact centers are being used, said Ken Landoline, Yankee Group customer-centric strategies senior analyst.

“More companies are adopting hybrid operations in which they outsource only specific pieces, such as outbound calls or those perceived to be of lower value to the company,” he told CRM Buyer.

VoIP connectivity between the company and the outsourcer would facilitate the greater flow of data necessary to maintain such an operation, he said. It also would better support the use of home agents — a group more likely to be employed in this scenario — and is another trend that is shaping contact center operations.

“VoIP ultimately means a company is able to route an incoming call to the best available agent, whether he or she is at an outsourcer, in-house, or a home-based agent,” he said.

Heard That Before

Many of these developments — such as the rise of the home-based customer care agent — are fairly recent, which might explain why VoIP in the contact center has not developed the traction that so many analysts predicted it would.

A separate report released earlier this year by IDC, for example, forecast the home-agent market would triple to 300,000 by 2010.

The technology replacement cycle in many contact centers is another reason the Yankee Group is betting that VoIP’s time has finally come. “I’ve been disappointed with the lackluster performance of VoIP in the contact center,” Landoline said. “I thought it would have peaked much earlier.”

“We are now six years out from the tech investments of Y2K,” he pointed out. “People are making investment decisions again, and they have become more comfortable with VoIP over the last few years. At the same time, the technology itself has gotten better.”

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