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5 tips for integrating modern contact centres

A contact centre must work seamlessly with a business and its people and it should not come with an unrealistic price tag. 1Stream’s BRUCE VON MALTITZ and JED HEWSON outline five steps to integration success.

Investment into contact centre integration doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. Not anymore.

For the business that wants to expand its footprint and engage its customers, investment into a contact centre can singlehandedly tick the box of strategic technology investment while expanding customer engagement and sales.

Every organisation wants to grow. Most are staring down the economic barrel with trepidation. Fluctuations in market and confidence are impacting on most organisations and introduce a fine balancing act between caution and innovation. A recent global analysis found that growth and technology are the two biggest balls that the Chief Financial Officer has to juggle. They are expected to research and invest in innovation so the business can evolve, but they also have to ensure budgets remain smart so they can survive within the stony grip of recession.

The struggle between growth and constraint has never been more relevant.

The contact centre is the ‘you have arrived’ of the corporate GPS. Still, even with that accolade, it must work seamlessly with the business and its people and it should not come with an unrealistic price tag. Want the benefits without the drama? Here are five steps to integration success.

  1. Get cloud

Cloud is the ultimate ‘try before you buy’ that doesn’t  require investment into heavy hardware just to get a taste of its potential. The ability to truly assess the capabilities of a system before spending plenty of money on it is something that wasn’t possible in the past, but allows for enormous freedom of investment and opportunity.

“If you wanted to introduce web chat into your call centre you would have to go and buy all the kit, put it in and then, if it didn’t deliver business value it was too late – you’d spent the money anyway,” says Bruce von Maltitz of, 1Stream.

To ensure that investment into the call centre fits within corporate requirement before it is wedged into corporate budget, the CFO should consider trying it out before buying it. Technology is on a relentless innovation cycle so it is essential to ensure that it works with legacy systems and expectations.

  1. Invest in trust

“Another step is to ensure that the company used is one that has a proven track record,” says Jed Hewson of 1Stream. “There are plenty of providers pushing all types of technology, so go and see it in a live environment and confirm that it will deliver. Don’t just look at the brochure and sign the deal.”

  1. Read the fine print, again.

Ensure that the cost savings of the investment are real. You may need to reallocate a portion of your staffing budget (which usually makes up 70% of your overall contact centre expenses) to your technology budget (which is normally only 7% of the overall costs) to give your contact centre a 10% saving through a rise in productivity or reduction in staff.

“You should be looking to bring in systems that make the call centre more efficient rather than trying to constantly save money,” says Bruce. “It is worth spending on the technology if it helps to make the people more efficient as they make up most of your operational costs.”

  1. Assess integration

Be careful when weaving new technologies through the business. Look to systems that allow for add-on functionalities that can be integrated fully. If you tack on different functions, such as email or telephony, and these are not comprehensively integrated, then the reporting and the consolidation of data has to be done separately. Next thing, you have to hire someone who spends their time trying to add one solution’s report to another. Make sure you understand the knock-on consequences of adding new technologies into the call centre.

  1. Get an expert on board

“Finally, beware of the homegrown IT guru that haunts every business hallway,” concludes Jed. “They can put your contact centre together and do it cheaply, but the challenge is that you can end up running out of the features and functionality you need, just when you really need them. Then either the industry or the guru move on, and suddenly nobody knows how it works or why it suddenly stopped working.”

Call centre technology is a critical business function and therefore needs the same care of investment and quality as any other core functions. Instead of leaping for cheap, focus on cloud solutions that allow you to try before you buy and implement the one that’s ideally suited to the dynamic nature of your organisation. It may sound complex, but thanks to the ubiquity of technology, it is far simpler to find the perfect call centre platform right now that it was a few years ago.

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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