Cloud Contact Centre Growth Surges Past 20%
As Companies Realise These Benefits
“Knowing how to properly integrate ones social media channels within a Contact Centre workforce, in an efficient and cost-effective manner can be challenging. “Someone who knows how to address a caller may struggle with SMS and chat or may not be up-to-speed on video communication skills. All of which could mean your services could become inefficient, or worse customer satisfaction drops.”Craig Ashmole
Cloud Based Contact Centres
One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based contact centres is flexibility, both in scalability, and hub and spoke delivery, but the ability to add Contact Centre services on the fly in-house or outsourced can be ‘game changing’.
Companies Are Starting To Realise These Benefits
A recent report by Markets and Markets noted that the cloud-based contact centre market is expected to grow from $4.15 billion in 2014 to $10.9 billion in 2019 at a CAGR of 21.3 percent during the period, with North America taking the lead and with emerging economies in the rest of the world catching up in the future.
LiveOps’ CTO and VP of Engineering, Keith McFarlane, stressed that, in the last decade, the cloud has become a permanent fixture on the technology scene and has displayed significant benefits, changing business processes and collaboration forever. “Initial sceptics may have doubted the cloud’s reliability, security and flexibility, but even concerns over security standards have subsided with the establishment of trusted cloud providers,” he said.
Tim Pickard, SVP Marketing at NewVoiceMedia, said that businesses of all sizes are leveraging cloud contact centre technology in order to deliver a more unique, personalised customer experience and drive a more effective sales and marketing team. McFarlane said that those in the contact centre industry have seen first-hand the shift that the cloud can bring about in a market.
“Traditionally, contact centres were located on-premise, and companies were faced with upfront capital costs to establish the contact centre infrastructure, as well as the expense of maintaining hardware and replacing technology that was frequently obsolete within a year,” he said. “With overhead expenditures of licensing, deploying and updating software for each new user, as well as management costs, including inbound call routing and customer service inquiries, the infrastructure of a traditional contact centre model was both inefficient and costly.” The cloud has and is changing all of that.
“If your vision conflicts with that of your supplier, or worse still, they aren’t able to accurately convey what that vision is to you, then alarm bells should be ringing!” – Tim Pickard
David L. Papp CEO and Founder of Comforce and its U.S. subsidiary CloudAgents said that there are two key drivers behind the growth of the industry: double digit spending growth in global cloud-based IT solutions, which is driven by mobile devices, and the growth in the acceptance of home-based work.
Papp said that one of the advantages of cloud-based contact centres is in home-shoring. ”In the last decade, approximately two million American jobs were outsourced to India and the Philippines,” he said. “There is more pressure from the US government on companies who have chosen to outsource, to bring the jobs back to America; however, due to the difference in labour force costs, it is financially difficult.” But, Papp said, as a result of cloud technology, home-shoring customer service using cloud-based contact centres is a realistic alternative.
“Generally, native speaking agents who can understand the American culture and provide a higher level of quality customer interactions can be employed, technically anywhere,” he said. “To meet financial budgets, agents can be employed from rural areas in the native country. In the case multilingual customer interactions are required agents can be hired in Latin America or Eastern Europe.”
Papp said the model is a win-win for staff and outsourcers. Agents, especially those in the younger generation, “want to work wherever they want, they want to work whenever they want, they want to save money on commuting, clothing and food, they want to be guided instead of controlled, and they want a more balanced lifestyle,” he said.
The advantages for the outsourcer, Papp added, are: higher quality of service, better language skills and access to a larger talent pool, uninterrupted service (in case of strikes, war or natural disasters), and cost saving flexibility that enables increasing and decreasing the number of resources when the call volume changes.
Ben Rafferty, Head of Hosted Services for Semafone, agreed, saying that one of the biggest advantages of cloud-based contact centres is flexibility, both in scalability, and hub and spoke delivery—meaning that you only pay for the services you need, when and where you need them. “This allows organisations to easily adjust for seasonal spikes, unexpected events or changes in legislation. You can add or remove agents as and when you need to across multiple premises nationwide, including employees who work from home,” he said.
McFarlane listed the six main benefits of cloud-based contact centres as:
- Cost Effectiveness: Cloud computing and the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model of distribution have eliminated the need to buy and maintain hardware like phone switches, automatic call distributors and interactive voice response systems. This has made the technology accessible to small-to-medium-sized businesses as well.
- Redundancy and Availability: The cloud provides companies with redundant data storage without the cost of duplicate data centres. It also allows companies that are located in regions susceptible to natural disasters to store their valuable data in other areas throughout the country.
- Flexibility and Scalability: Business needs and contact volumes are not always predictable; with the cloud, however, businesses are able to instantly scale up or down to meet seasonal and spiky customer demands. With the cloud, companies are simply more agile, lean and effective.
- Ease of Management: On-premise contact centres are often fragmented, with agents assigned to specific channels and workstations running multiple applications that must be updated constantly. Cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, enable IT managers to deploy software updates automatically across all users with no downtime, compared to the time-consuming task of updating each workstation individually. New features can also be enabled in the cloud, cutting out the need to install them on individual workstations.
- Security: cloud computing has matured, rules have been established and the issue of security has been put to bed; reputable cloud providers are held to, and can satisfy, the most rigorous of enterprise security requirements.
- Agent Productivity: No longer bogged down by system upgrades, failures or administrative tasks, agents have been able to maximise their time with customers and often turn a customer service query into an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell.
Charles Studt, VP, Product Management and Marketing at IntelePeer, said that with a cloud-based solution, businesses can do intelligent routing cost effectively, while at the same time achieving a higher customer satisfaction with more responsive customer service and higher customer satisfaction scores.
“From a consumer perspective, it doesn’t matter if you are using voice/text/SMS/Twitter, etc., because of the holistic routing capabilities, end-users will enjoy a much more pleasant and integrated experience,” he said.
There are pitfalls, however. Rafferty warned that trying to secure payments across multiple locations is challenging, especially if remote agents are required to take payments over the phone. He said that it can seem impossible to control security or implement any kind of “clean room” environment to prevent the unauthorised recording of card data. He stressed that it is essential that the right technology is in place to protect both the agent and the customer from the threat of fraud.
Rafferty said that a telephone payment solution for a cloud-based contact centre needs to:
- Avoid the need for the call centre agent to see or hear any card details, while allowing them to track the progress of card entry and authenticate that the card details are valid.
- Prevent any sensitive card data from entering the IT systems or call centre infrastructure.
- Reduce the need for costly high scrutiny background checks on contact agents and support staff operating the environments.
- Be provided by a PCI DSS Level 1 accredited Service Provider and Level 1 Visa merchant agent.
McFarlane added that while the cloud has matured, security is still a key issue. He said that, when choosing a cloud provider, it is still imperative to research each company’s security offerings in three specific areas: physical, network, and system/Applications.
“Because data resides in a network operations centre hosted by a vendor, physical security must be verified,” McFarlane said. “Data centres must be protected by several layers of physical security mechanisms, including mantraps, surveillance cameras, and background checked and bonded security staff.”
McFarlane went on to say that a breach of network security is one of the biggest threats to corporate data. “To be considered secure, vendors’ networks must be protected by multi-layer firewalls and intrusion detection systems, and must be monitored by a 24x7x365 Security Operations Centre (SOC),” he said.
Lastly companies must look at System/Application Level Security. According to McFarlane, security must be an integral part of how a potential platform vendor has designed and built their contact centre technology through every stage of the software development lifecycle – not an afterthought. “The security system should be thoroughly tested to prove that their solution adheres to, or exceeds, industry-standard security requirements,” he said.
He added: “This trifecta of security found in the cloud enables companies to always be focused on the customer rather than being slowed or distracted by security concerns.”
Pickard added that a business is dependent on the reliability of the cloud vendor’s servers and thus, should also ensure their cloud vendor has support available 24/7 should you have any queries. He advised that when choosing a service provider, businesses should look at whether their shortlisted providers meet their critical requirements today, as well as where they are going to be in five years’ time. “Find out what their vision is, how they see the market evolving and whether they are leading the market or following what others are doing,” he said.
He went on to say that “if your vision is aligned with that of your supplier, then as long as they have the ability to execute, you should be in good stead. If your vision conflicts with that of your supplier, or worse still, they aren’t able to accurately convey what that vision is to you, then alarm bells should be ringing!”
Studt cautioned that, for traditional contact centres, the challenge is looking at how to leverage the cloud, when working with various social channels. “For example, a traditional contact centre solution may work fine for voice, but adding modalities such as SMS, chat, or video may be difficult with the existing architecture. So, the challenge is how to integrate everything together from a legacy PBX system within a cloud model,” he said.
Studt added that knowing how to integrate these social channels within a workforce, in an efficient and cost-effective manner can also be challenging. “Someone who knows how to use SMS and chat may not be up-to-speed on video which means that the system can become inefficient,” he said.
Provided companies understand the potential pitfalls and are clear about how best to leverage the benefits, cloud-based contact centres may have a great deal to offer. As McFarlane said: “Cloud computing has come a long way in the last 15 years, and its potential in the contact centre is still being explored and discovered. What is certain is that companies should no longer fear the “unknown” of cloud computing technology, and instead should embrace the benefits of a contact centre that is cost effective, disaster-proof, instantly scalable, easy to manage and secure. Moving to the cloud will ultimately increase agent productivity, strengthen brand/customer relationships, and boost customer lifetime value.”
“Interest in cloud-based Contact Centre solutions is growing as Technology leaders begin to accept the security aspects, but is not quite mainstream yet.” Stated Craig Ashmole, Founding Partner of London based IT consulting CCServe. “Geographically cloud-based Contact Centre deployments are still concentrated, with North America leading the way and European markets catching up fast. Although it’s still early adoption stage, with only 15% of enterprises moving from a traditional solution to a cloud solution.”