The Contact Center Revolution

The 2014 North American Call Center Survey reveals that while 78 percent of contact centers today are premises-based, the vast majority (70 percent) plan to move to the cloud. Did someone say revolution?

The contact center space has long been overdue for a makeover. For decades, voice has been the primary means of communication between businesses and their customers, with complex and expensive on-premises servers providing the infrastructure. Fast-forward to today and the arrival of some drastic changes, with many companies struggling to meet their clients' changing needs and communication preferences. More importantly, as businesses increasingly adopt the popular subscription-based models (SaaS, etc.), the need to retain clients by providing best-in-class customer service has never been greater.

Enter the cloud.

With the need for flexibility, scalability, and cost efficiency, cloud has rapidly become the quickest solution to many of the challenges facing contact centers, including leveraging multichannel communication, managing big data, increasing client retention, and lowering initial cost of ownership, among others. But adopting a cloud solution is in itself a significant change requiring some planning. How can you address the issue strategically?

A few thoughts:

1. Prepare. Moving your contact center to the cloud without proper prep work will not provide a silver bullet solution to whatever challenges you may be trying to resolve. In many instances, companies making the switch fail to think about the differences between traditional contact center solutions and cloud-based ones, often leading to the conclusion that cloud doesn't work. One consideration, for example, is the security difference between an on-premises solution and a cloud-based one. This disparity needs to be accounted for when you consider your business objectives and any possible service provider. Know what your business has but also explore what it lacks, how you would address those gaps in an ideal world, and how a cloud solution would help you. Remember, a primary benefit of the cloud is the flexibility it provides, so come prepared to state your business and how you need the cloud to complement your needs, not the other way around.

2. Leverage the benefits. Everything is moving faster these days. For the old guard manning the contact center space, the new environment that comes from having always-connected customers can be difficult to understand, let alone service. However, with a cloud solution, the flexibility to keep up is at agents' fingertips, and can be available within a turnaround time of a few weeks, rather than months. In addition, it doesn't have to come at an increased cost. So by all means, leverage the benefits that a cloud solution can provide, but make sure to consider the many options—product origin, pure cloud versus a converted premise system, the reliability and maturity of the solution, public cloud versus private cloud versus a data center—and make a point of knowing the difference between each and how they can affect your business.

3. Integrate CRM, workforce optimization (WFO), social media, and multichannel capabilities. A cloud-based contact center solution, by itself, fails to truly take advantage of the broader cloud environment and what it has to offer. With the added benefits of integrated CRM software, WFO software, social media monitoring, and multichannel capabilities, you will have effectively brought your contact center into the modern age. However, simply integrating third-party applications will not singlehandedly boost your reps' productivity or your business' top line. If you are not careful, it could complicate what was previously a fairly straightforward business model. So when choosing a cloud-based contact center solution, keep in mind vendors' experience with integrations, and review the strength of their architecture and what they offer as part of their core-product versus third-party partnerships.

Cloud-based contact center solutions are here to stay. With that in mind, it's not so much a matter of jumping on the bandwagon as it is doing so without painfully falling off.

Robert Killory is the chief customer officer at 3CLogic, a provider of cloud-based contact center and enterprise solutions. His consultative experience includes developing and implementing contact center solutions at Leading Edge Technology Solutions, TouchStar Software, and JPMorgan Chase, where he led the evolution of its 3,100 call center seats.

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