By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: TeleTech made the shift to private cloud–based architecture seven years ago. What do you think has been the cost impact of this architectural change on your 67 global data center or delivery center configurations?
CK: Let me give you a couple of different views which may be different from other CIOs who you may have talked to. Let me start at the business level, where we saw gains. Our business really is about associates handling calls on behalf of a client, fulfilling a client and customer request. We saw gains in our ability to have fewer people handle the same volume of traffic because with private cloud adoption, we were able to get a large team around the globe as opposed to in traditional call center environment. Let us say at the automatic call distribution (ACD) level, you end up doing some level of percent allocation, say 10% to one site, 10% to another site, and 10% at the next site. You may have people sitting idle on one site, whereas there may be other people at another site who are red lining. With private cloud–based infrastructure and management, we are able to see efficiency from an operational standpoint. We have large teams available anywhere on the globe on the same scale, on the same program now, and we are seeing operational efficiencies tied to that.
SM: So, one of the benefits that you gained with private cloud adoption was better scheduling of calls and utilization of the workforce for dealing with the same or higher level of call volumes, right?
CK: You got it. We were able to manage our occupancy levels better, we improved our average speed of answers, and we were able to increase customer satisfaction because of that. In addition, just through agents’ scheduling, without increasing our team size, we are able to create more efficient schedules by optimizing our agent shifts. In terms of overall staffing, we have the same call volume, better smoothing of the load, and we were able to see benefits.
SM: What do you think of the ROI, and what quantification can you provide?
CK: In the base case test control, we saw improvement in the range of 8%–10%.
SM: Do you think that number will improve as you go along? Is there more efficiency to be gained out of this move to a private cloud, and is that fully deployed at this point at TeleTech?
CK: I think it depends on the client that we are serving. It is fully deployed at TeleTech, but I think depending on the client, what you get to realize varies. We operate at a scale of 40,000. If you look at some of our clients, those whom we sell technology to, you could see anywhere from a 12% to a 25% improvement.
The number varies depending on where that client base is. If you don’t have that scale and you had true inefficiency, it could be a larger number. You know, I would never go on record saying there is a 25% improvement, but I would say there are cases where people are just inefficient in how they have to route calls. If they have one center sitting completely idle and another where people are just redlining, you can see that kind of efficiency improvements that happen in real life.
SM: In other words, you are taking on certain clients who are running their own call centers that are inefficient call centers today. You offer them your expertise, scale, and optimized architecture. With that, you can deliver much better gains to your clients because of these kinds of inefficiencies, correct?
CK: Yes. This leads to another question that you have. With our on-demand offering, what we are able to do is bring the power of the technology and the ability to run that technology globally. We run our Cisco environment on steroids. This Cisco environment that we run is one of the largest use cases that Cisco has in deployment in the contacts-center space. Also, TeleTech is a large Avaya client. I am able to bring the power of enterprise-scale, best-in-class technology, but I have a world-class team at TeleTech that can manage ‘99.999’ service uptime, down to the agent desktop. I can bring this level of service to a company that would never be able to deploy technology at the level of sophistication that we have here at TeleTech. Not only does our architecture help clients, but the business offering, the finished managed service offering that we have, empowers them with a capability that they just can’t afford to do themselves.
SM: What is the scenario in business outsourcing in customer service? How does your offering compare with the rest of your industry and some of your colleagues who are operating at that scale?
CK: I would say a few have made the kind of investment in technology that we have. But there are [only] a few of them. There are many who are still operating from that old architecture that we evolved out of. You can check where we are in the learning curve and in the growth curve at Gartner. I wouldn’t say this myself, but go check Gartner. At TeleTech, we have chosen technology to be a cornerstone differentiator for us in business. We have made an investment in it. We live it and breathe it in our own company, and we now sell it to others. I don’t think in BPO that there are many that have a commercially available offering of technology such as our own. There are other businesses, other enterprises that don’t tie to BPO, that are backing into this space, but they are completely different companies. Does that make sense?
SM: Yes, absolutely. I was particularly curious about what is happening with the Indian call center industry; there is a very large scale to that industry. It is obvious that at least some companies are operating at the kind of scale that you are operating at, and I am curious about what is happening there.
CK: So would I be. Taking you through my experience, let me just put it this way. My experience is that they have spent more energy on platform transformation. So, the type of platforms, maybe not even server but platform transformation, as opposed to the entire customer care infrastructure application platform stack. That is my experience. I don’t know if that is a fact.
SM: What does platform transformation mean?
CK: It was TATA (now TCS) in the 1980s that would take a business process, outsource it on transaction basis, and apply a transformation box drive and then drive improvement in the cost structure and then negotiate cost savings. When I say that, I mean they have spent more time actually making the transformation at the BPM layer, the transformation layer, than at the contact center automatic call distribution (ACD) layer, which is where we operate.