Thursday, November 29, 2007

Contact Centre and the Environment

My attention was caught today by an article on the CCF website ("Contact Centres Going Green"). In many ways this struck me as a long overdue area of comment. Given the increasing focus of the European Union on the Environment, I'm sure that green issues will soon become a high priority for European Contact Centres.

My colleagues who specialise in data centre have been working on green issues for a while and their part of the Cisco website has a whole series of free videos on demand about energy efficient data centres. Similarly Cisco provides some good white papers on the use of technology for energy efficient facilities management. Interestingly, the knowledge for both these areas has come from Cisco's own efforts to reduce carbon footprint and you can find out more on Cisco's environment page.

Of course, datacentre has particular issues with power consumption, heat and hardware disposal that are not always directly applicable to contact centre. The CCF article rather highlighted this, by illustrating that unlike data centre most green initiatives involving the contact centre are enterprise wide initiatives. Even more interestingly, Voice over IP was highlighted as one of the key technologies, with up to 82% of respondents expecting to adopt VoIP and 83% looking to adopt workforce management tools. This highlights one difference between contact centre and data centre, there is a lot of scope in contact centre to become greener by using people more efficiently (through better workforce management and call centre virtualistion through the use of IP Convergence).

This confirms one of my suspicions, namely that for achieving green objectives in contact centre the focus should be on changing business processes and while IT should not be ignored, it should not necessarily be the starting point for change. My starting suggestions would be:

  • Virtualise - By moving to an IP contact centre (and using a technology like Cisco's ICM) you can divide work more efficiently between call centres, which means fewer people and workstations.
  • Location - It's traditional to locate contact centres in remote areas (cheap land prices). I've blogged previously on why this may not always be ideal ("City Centre Call Centers - A European quirk?"), but specifically on green issues, remote areas tend to require the workforce to drive while a city centre location allows shift workers to take public transport.
  • Thin client - Delivering applications through a browser reduces your dependency on PC hardware for performance. Although you may still need to upgrade servers, that is usually a lot greener than replacing hundreds (or even thousands) of PCs.

Of course this is just the start of a list and I'm sure there are many more things to put there. Suggestions welcome.

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