CCaaS Coming to a Center Near You

by Dave Michels

As with most things in life, technology adoption has bell curves too. Typically you got your advanced use cases on one end, and your simple use cases on the other – and most folks somewhere in the middle.  Historically, with contact centers, that’s not the case. Here, organizations gravitate to the extremes. Sophisticated companies use specialized systems that are expensive to acquire and maintain. The rest make do with basic PBX tools such as ACD and hunt groups.

This distribution has not been by choice, but due to a lack of options. Contact Centers are complicated applications and past attempts to make them affordable and accessible for smaller businesses meant breaking features. The size of the contact center should have little to do with customer commitment, but only large centers could justify elaborate solutions.

Hosted services are changing this. For the first time, highly specialized call management solutions are available to organizations of any size, without the barrier of an upfront capital investment. Hosted contact centers are busting into enterprises – typically atop of and unrelated to the primary UC solution for a given enterprise. It’s a huge opportunity because there’s a tremendous amount of small and medium sized contact centers that have been deprived affordable technologies.

Where there’s growing demand, there’s an increase in providers crating quite a few emerging options. The familiar story of disruptive technologies says incumbents give-way to new entrants, but there’s always a few exceptions. This brings me to Aspect  – a vendor of high-end contact center equipment for decades. Aspect today is a very different company than it was a few decades ago, but it’s still focused on contact centers. Last year, Aspect acquired Voxeo in full, but acquired controlling ownership of Bright Pattern. The result of the latter is a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) called Zipwire launched last November. Zipwire provides “the right blend of enterprise-grade functionality, reliability, and scalability not otherwise available in the industry.”

The service is fairly comprehensive, with just a few available add-ons, including the Voxeo CXP IVR. According to Aspect, the service is optimized for organizations with fewer than 250 agents – actually that’s concurrent agents. Zipwire is priced per concurrent agent. The service can include soft phone enabled clients or work with any phone system (same price). The entire solution involves no upfront capital equipment and is completely delivered as a browser-based service. It’s a multi-channel contact center solution.

Many organizations consider cloud services nothing more than a delivery alternative, but they are much more than that. The classic lease vs. buy decision considers different financial models to procure the same good. But a hosted contact center delivers more than just a contact center. It is a robust service that grows and adapts to an organization’s needs. It never requires upgrading, and it won’t leave you stuck with a useless asset (or liability). A hosted contact center solution offers every feature as needed, without having to justify a long-term commitment. Cloud solutions are low risk and easy to pilot. Zipwire offers a 30-day, unrestricted free trial for up to 25 agents.

The contact center is an ideal application as a service. Consider these Zipwire benefits:

  • No onsite hardware: Zipwire is accessed completely via standard web browsers. It can be used with any phone system or with a softphone available within the service.
  • Evergreen: The software is always current. No more downtime for planned (or unplanned) upgrades. The monthly price includes all maintenance and upgrade costs.
  • High availability: Aspect hosts Zipwire in geographically dispersed distributed data centers.
  • Scalability: Expand or downsize the contact center in response to business demand. Such fluctuations can be seasonal, advertising-based, or other.
  • Multi-location: Easily implement multiple networked contact centers. This can include at-home agents or even a follow-the-sun model.
  • Predictable costs: All features are included in the monthly rate. There is no need to plan for unexpected software or hardware updates or hardware replacements.
  • No commitment: There is no requirement to sign a long-term agreement. Nor does Zipwire ask clients to commit to feature packs or agent quantities. Additionally, CFOs love Zipwire because all costs are treated as operating expenses.

It is hard to come up with clever names for high-tech products and services. However, Aspect did reasonably well with Zipwire. The name, a play on zip line, conjures images of a fast downhill ride. That may seem like a stretch for a contact center solution, yet it does take less than a minute to create an account, complete with a working telephone number. Not once during the entire setup process is it necessary to deal with Sales Representatives or anyone from IT.

CCaaS will experience rapid growth. The space is seeing a lot of new entrants, from established contact center and telephony vendors to a new crop of vendors out of CRM and other sectors. Not all of these providers will make it. Although multi-channel is important, most centers are still voice dominant, since the established vendors have voice nailed they will likely capture most of the CCaaS growth. It’s nice to see Aspect well positioned.