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Driving home today I heard the Customer Services Director of Northern Ireland Water apologising for their handling of the recent water crisis.

At the height of the crisis they received one million customer contacts, on 28 December, there were 403,000 call attempts to the NI Water call centre, of which only 3,334 were answered. They received 10,000 emails and 500,000 website hits, their website was only designed to take 20,000 hits per day.

Their web site and call centre were not built to handle anywhere near this sort of traffic, probably quite logically so. How many companies would purchase capacity to handle 100 times their normal customer interactions, on the chance that it would be needed in an emergency, and still keep their shareholders happy?

The obvious answer is to buy "insurance". But how do you buy "insurance" for your call centre or web site? The answer is SaaS. Instead of buying and running all that infrastructure yourself it makes sense to share your risk with other people so that when the day comes when your pipes burst you can very quickly scale up your customer services operation, turn on more web servers, add those extra call centre agents and handle that exceptional demand.

Flexible cloud-based contact centre solutions let you add those extra seats very quickly. Agents can be additional back office staff, managers, anyone who has access to a phone line and a web browser. You are not even constrained by location, you haven't got enough desks, phone lines or a big enough internet pipe - no problem, send people home and get them working from there, buy a pay as you go mobile and tell them to go to Starbucks - everything is possible.

Now maybe if NI Water's Chief Executive had thought about SaaS he'd still be in a job?

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About Ashley Unitt

Ashley founded NewVoiceMedia to exploit the obvious benefits of putting an enterprise-class contact centre in the cloud, and now serves as Chief Scientist, leading the architecture and research teams.

Prior to NewVoiceMedia he spent ten years at Teamphone.com Ltd developing innovative CTI software solutions including voicemail systems, hot-desking products and an open source gate keeper.

Ashley's blog will focus on security, PCI-DSS and general cloud computing issues.

Outside of work he spends most of his time running around after his two young children. You can follow Ashley on Twitter at http://twitter.com/aunitt.

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