The unprecedented pace of technological change, coupled with maturing customer service expectations, is driving a transformation in the way that organisations source, implement, manage and support technology in contact centres, according to Dimension Data.

This change is less about the capabilities of the new technology, than about the infrastructure's ability to deliver the highest levels of availability, flexibility, agility and mobility, it said.

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The big challenge for many contact centres is they are already wrestling with ageing technology, which is expensive to maintain and upgrade, whilst they are under increasing pressure to deliver customer service through a multiplicity of channels and customer contact points.

These findings form part of the results published in Dimension Data's Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report 2012, which surveyed 637 contact centres in 72 countries.

General Manager of Customer Interactive Solutions, Robert Allman, said, "These results highlight the need for organisations to develop customer service strategies which provide usability and simplicity for customers.

"Call centres are increasingly widening their scope and the mobility and agility of consumers today, means organisations need to embrace technology trends to provide optimal customer service."

According to the report, 'service availability and business continuity' has replaced 'convergence' as key contact centre technology trends, with the latter slipping from first to fourth highest position. Meanwhile, 'consolidation of technologies' and 'consolidation of vendors' -- up one place to second and third respectively -- remain important technology trends not only where organisations are simplifying their legacy technology estates, but also where they're integrating new channel technologies.

Given the complexity of existing technology environments, it's not surprising that 'integration', 'lack of flexibility' and 'upgrades too expensive' are the top most common challenges being experienced in today's contact centres.

Dimension Data said the mix was further complicated by a progressive move away from applying a dedicated contact centre technology strategy to incorporate it into the wider enterprise customer management strategy.

It said investment for upgrades and enhancements are harder to authorise and are driving the need to consider alternative sourcing models for specific functionality that will include Cloud-based solutions on a pay-as-you-use operating expenditure model.

For many contact centres, there's an apparently large gap between the capabilities available from the infrastructure and actual requirements: 11.5-16.1 per cent of organisations do not believe their core infrastructure components will meet their future needs; 12-16.6 per cent don't believe the existing solutions to meet current needs.

When sourcing new infrastructure components or enhancements, organisations should consider both current and future requirements. Vendors and service providers should share their roadmaps and specific investigations of modular enhancements to prevent an additional need for major upgrades in the future, Dimension Data said.

Already, 30.4 per cent of contact centres reported they had no, or only a limited, involvement in the design of business requirements for new technology solutions. Of these, 7.2 per cent stated that it's purely a contact centre decision. For 'sourcing', it's 40.2 per cent as the enterprise technology strategy takes hold.

The report concluded these results clearly highlighted an industry transition point in terms of accountability and responsibility for contact centre business requirements and the sourcing of technology.

It warned there was a real danger that the specific needs of contact centre get lost. Just 59 per cent of participants believed their current core infrastructure components (includes CRM, CTI, routing, self-service and workforce optimisation) meets their current needs, while for future needs, the figure dropped considerably to 13.8 per cent.

The report stated the deployment of IP has progressed well and traditional IP-based contact centre functionality has a high level of success in meeting current and future needs at 64.7 per cent and 13.5 per cent, respectively. Flexibility and compliance with enterprise wide technologies were seen as the main benefits of IP-based solutions.

Andrew McNair, Dimension Data's Head of Global Benchmarking said, "Cloud is here to stay, and many organisations are beginning to recognise the benefits of Cloud-based solutions. It has doubled in its importance from the 2011 results.

"As organisations will need to find a way to use, re-use and upgrade existing technologies, the inevitable migration will likely be gradual using a hybrid approach, with an appropriate ownership model selected for each application. Cloud is not an all-or-nothing decision."