This is not the usual place where I post interviews but I thought I’d share this anyway since it still holds value.

Regardless of your business, customer satisfaction is arguably a high priority in 2009. Industry observers believe this will remain true in 2010. How companies plan and execute strategies to achieve better than ever customer satisfaction is the question to ask.

What is also certain is that this drive towards better customer satisfaction [7] is helping boost the business of contact center operators worldwide. In Asia, it is fueling expansion among the large contact center operators like Convergys.

A Callcentres.net [8] Asia Pacific survey [9], touching more than 2,100 consumers across six countries in Asia Pacific, suggests that customer service is a key differentiator today. The survey found that over 58% of respondents identified receiving polite and friendly service, having their calls resolved efficiently and receiving the right information from agents were the most important factor in driving ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ Customer Service.

Contact center associations recognize this and continue to promote it through education, training, recognizing and rewarding the best in the industry. At the 10th annual Hong Kong Call Centre Association [10] (HKCCA) Awards [11], 61 individuals and companies were recognized for their achievements across a broad spectrum of innovation including customer service, training and development, and corporate social responsibility. Among the winners were call center operators from Southern China and Macau.

No one argues that 2009 was a very challenging year for all businesses. Despite rhetoric from the Obama administration about making it tougher for US companies to outsource jobs that could be filled by local hires, outsourcing to low-cost locations remains a strong and viable alternative for many US and European companies looking to cut cost and keep afloat in a volatile global market.

According to Paul Chen, systems engineering director for Avaya [12] Asia Pacific, productivity, efficiency and customer service excellence were key concerns in the contact center industry in 2009. She notes that while the technology is available to help businesses to transform their contact centers into strategic assets that enable them to deliver better customer service more profitably, there are still companies out there which are outdated in their approach. (more…)

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Some credit the dotcom boom as the birth of software-as-a-service or SaaS (and all the succeeding xxxx-as-a-service offering). Back then it was called ASP or application service provision. Today, we call is SaaS and there are trends indicating it might eventually called cloud service in the very near future. Before you mis-quote me, let me be clear… ASPs are NOT SaaS vendors. There is a difference.

Around 2002 if you were to asked around the vendor community how many had any SaaS-like offering, you’ll be surprise at how few would admit to this. In fact most traditional on-premise vendors tout the importance of customization and keeping your data close to you.

Today, its hard to find any major software vendor who doesn’t have a SaaS strategy somewhere. Some even dare to say that the only future is a SaaS one?

Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, a provider of infrastructure for delivering cloud services, says there are lots of SaaS-wannabes and you should learn to spot these from the genuine McCoy.

Andrew Antal, senior director of Marketing in Asia Pacific Japan at MessageLabs, notes that not everyone can be a SaaS vendor. It takes more than just adding the SaaS label in the product literature.

Ask your SaaS vendor to look you straight in the eye and tell you that their SaaS offering isn’t the same old product they used to sell with but with a web UI bolted to it and served up at an ASP-style data center.

According to purists, a true SaaS applications is built for the web. Being web-ready or web-enabled does not mean SaaS. So if a vendor approaches you and tells you they have a SaaS offering just right for your business, dig very deep into their history before you commit to anything. You might just become another ASP victim.