SMB Call Centers: Open Source, Virtualization, and Cloud Computing Meet the Recession.

I just got off the phone with a partner of ours, Performance Advantage, which is doing some great work in the Canadian call center market, leveraging Sugar On-Demand to help smaller businesses gain access to enterprise-caliber functionality via some true cloud computing environments.

Among other topics, we discussed where we see the future of the call center market heading, and in the process, brought up some great points that I thought deserved being highlighted here.

The development of SaaS, more open and VoIP-based tools are making the case for the growth of call centers running in virtual, cloud-like environments, with home-based CSRs that save their businesses tens of thousands in infrastructure costs. The concept of home-based CSRs has been around a long time, but until recently, has lacked the technological capacity to come to fruition.

With unified communications and Web 2.0 being folded into the mix, for the first time, SMBs are being given the chance to field a dedicated CSR force in a cost effective manner. Imagine being able to upgrade or deploy a call center without ever having to bring the software experts on-site? Performance Advantage did just that with one of our customers.

Software-based telephony systems drive out costs and maintenance issues, and allow call centers to exist without geographical boundaries. Today, a small business can build IM into their contact center to allow agents to collaborate on service calls via presence technology, or deploy voice portals, email, and Web chat functionality to work alongside Web 2.0 technologies and UC applications, all integrated with a CRM system being hosted in “the cloud.”