As businesses look to be ever leaner yet with high customer service standards, moving contact centre operations into the cloud is an increasingly attractive proposition.
The use of cloud solutions is now widespread, says Xabier Ormazabal, director of product marketing at Salesforce.com, and no wonder when he explains the business benefits. “In the contact centre space, cloud solutions are easy to use and deploy,” he says. “You can simply plug into your existing applications and also integrate easily with social media.”
At online classified advertisement portal Gumtree, Salesforce has enabled customers to upload pictures directly on to a self-service portal. Customers can also use webchat and email, as well as telephone, resulting in some 25 per cent of calls now being deflected online.
“The best processes are already built in as are pre-integrated channels, management information and interfaces to other applications,” says Peter Massey, founder of contact centre consultancy Budd UK.
As well as providing huge capacity, the cloud allows for economies of scale
Although some may see the difference between hosted and cloud solutions as merely a matter of terminology, Mr Ormazabal is keen to point out that, while hosted solutions can require a different data centre for each customer, the cloud is one single system from which many companies can operate simultaneously.
As well as providing huge capacity, with networks able to deal with thousands of calls simultaneously, the cloud allows for economies of scale. Sharing resources and costs across a large number of users means lower costs for all. It also means any systems upgrades or new features can be completed quickly and easily across the whole of the customer base at the same time.
One of the cloud’s chief benefits is its scalability. Consultancy Azzurri Communications implemented and managed a new 550-seat cloud-based contact centre for rapidly growing credit card company Vanquis.
“The cloud offers us flexibility for our contact centres to grow and adapt as our business demands,” says Vanquis telecoms manager Adrian Dorey. “This means, if we expand, we just put a ‘spoke’ in the central hub, so every new site becomes a fully enabled branch office, which is great for business continuity.”
For outsourcers, in particular, this scalability means no wastage of phone lines and data capacity during quieter times as well as the agility to add users when taking on new business or during an existing client’s particular campaign.
Regardless of the size, type or maturity of the business, reducing cost never really goes away as a wider business aim. For start-ups, in particular, cloud contact centres offer an entry point in an area which would otherwise incur significant upfront costs.
For example, by using CloudCallClick from SYNETY, small business Mooveinsurance.co.uk’s 30 staff are able to use low-cost outbound dialling rates to slash their overall communications costs.
“The ability to call customers directly from our CRM [customer relationship management] system has really boosted our efficiency, while call recordings are key to ensuring we are always FSA-compliant,” adds managing director Harjit Moore.
The cloud can also be relied upon in times of disaster recovery. We’ve witnessed the havoc that the recent hurricane had on businesses in North America with power outages lasting days at a time.
“With cloud-based contact centres, both calls and data can be switched to laptops, tablet devices and mobile phones should the worst happen,” explains Adrian Sparks, managing director with technology provider Intelecom UK. “Resilience is increased and ultimately downtime is eliminated.”
The cloud also presents the opportunity to really drill down into the detail of performance as every call that enters the network can be reported on. Thanks to the increased capacity afforded by the cloud, companies can get a clearer look at the true volume of calls, some of which may have previously fallen by the wayside as unanswered or abandoned.
Of course, no decision-maker wants to wade through endless reports produced for the sake of it. The beauty of cloud reporting is its ability to gather information when and where it is needed and fast.
Providing senior management with relevant reporting enables them to make decisions that can have wide-ranging business benefits, from seeing which marketing campaigns have generated the most call responses, to giving HR and operations a view on the impact on performance of a particular training initiative.
Clarity of information isn’t just for internal communication, says Mr Ormazabal. “There’s a huge drive towards letting the customer know what the state of service is.” Whether that’s replying to a tweet, enabling webchat or making a call, the cloud can co-ordinate all these in the same place for a better customer experience.