Cloud-Based Contact Centers: The Sky's the Limit
For contact centers, 2015 was the year of the cloud—last year the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market hit its stride on a worldwide basis. Acceptance and adoption continues to grow in North America. In Western Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, the number of cloud-based deployments is increasing rapidly and picking up momentum. Germany is showing strong interest, and the market in Australia features all types of cloud-based solutions. Users in Japan and China are slow to adopt but are starting to come on board. Elsewhere in Asia, the results are mixed; businesses in the Philippines are investing in cloud-based contact center solutions, but the economics in India, for example, continue to make this model a challenge.
Regardless of region, cloud-based contact center solutions are no longer just for small and midsize organizations. Given the flexibility inherent in cloud-based services, larger enterprises also find this model appealing, even if it is difficult for them to financially justify investments in these solutions if they are going to keep them for more than three years.
CARRIERS ARE ON BOARD
The carriers/network service providers (NSPs) are giving a boost to this market. These vendors have slowly caught on to the cloud's potential for growing their revenue and expanding their services. Early on, NSPs viewed cloud-based contact center solutions as a way to retain their carrier minutes, and some still do, but others are realizing that this market can allow them to add new and "sticky" services for their customers. Some also see it as a way to expand their offerings on a worldwide basis, as a growing number of enterprises are asking their local NSPs to provide a fully interconnected set of cloud-based unified communications (UC)/private branch exchange (PBX) and contact center services for their employees.
Worldwide, the vast majority of NSPs use a third-party cloud-based contact center infrastructure solution, although a few carriers have purchased and offer their own technology platform. Some NSPs offer a variety of cloud-based contact center solutions in order to provide their customers with options suited to their size and functional requirements. A major challenge for the market, though, is that many of the NSPs still think like they are selling carrier services and do not understand what is expected of them when they deliver cloud-based contact center services to enterprises. In too many cases, the learning curve is long and painful for both enterprises and their NSPs, who are struggling to become more customer-centric. While it's taking way too long for the carriers to get it right, DMG expects them to make the necessary long-term investments in resources, best practices, and technology.
Small and midsize organizations have been the earliest adopters of cloud-based PBX and contact center services, but certain trends are making the cloud attractive for larger enterprises as well. Globalization is forcing many companies to look for a cost-effective approach to establishing a regional presence in a variety of countries. In the recent past, companies had to rent offices abroad, acquire the necessary technology and platforms, find resources to install and maintain their solutions, etc. But this is no longer the case when it comes to dial-tone/PBX and contact center functionality, as it is available in the cloud from domestic and international providers. (There are legal issues surrounding the delivery of calls between countries, but this is a separate issue.) Even better, some local carriers have international reach through partnerships, which can simplify the process of establishing a worldwide telephony infrastructure. Therefore, a company that wants to set up a regional office can do so without buying anything, and it may not even need to rent office space, as companies are increasingly using at-home employees and agents.
A related trend is that companies are providing contact center functionality to employees who are not traditional agents sitting in a contact center. Recording, workforce management, quality assurance, and many other capabilities are being extended to employees in offices, at branches, and at home, and many of these services are being delivered by carriers offering cloud-based PBX and contact center functionality. DMG expects to see a great deal more of this activity in the next few years, expanding the opportunities for carriers.