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Expert's Angle: Contact Centers in the Cloud

Cloud computing has become a hot topic in today’s contact center market. For some suppliers, cloud-based solutions are like a "silver bullet", while others are gravely concerned of the security risks. However, neither of these concepts is entirely correct.

Widespread usage of social media and advanced mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablet PCs, has transformed the basic requirements for customer service. In the past, traditional call centers only supported and used telephony for conversations with customers. Today, multichannel contact centers are using email, social media and video as well.

Multichannel Implementation

The transition to multichannel customer service that many contact centers are making is happening slowly; 70 percent of centers are still offering only traditional "call" center support. The complexity of implementing new communications channels as well as the decentralized and inhomogeneous infrastructure of multichannel centers require much effort and expertise to establish.

In order to ensure customer satisfaction, knowledgeable customer service must be available in all communications channels in the right languages, and as fast as possible. To achieve this service quality, you must create a solid planning base to meet all eventualities, with a scalable system for future growth or consolidation.

Traditional call center providers should consider implementing a cloud solution, because it will help them to migrate their operations smoothly into a modern contact center, while maintaining the flexibility to react to market developments.

The Two Cloud Models

Contact centers can choose between two cloud models, private or public, each with its own advantages. Many prefer the private cloud model due to security concerns, but public clouds from a provider that use the on-demand model are also fairly popular.

In the private cloud model, all data, applications and hardware are contained with the contact center provider or an external data center, and access is limited to pre-defined employees. Operating an application in a private cloud also requires much of your center’s internal expertise and time, unless an external provider is managing it. Public cloud models bill on time-per-use, so the organization can avoid maintenance costs and worries about the application becoming obsolete.

According to recent studies, cloud computing has already exercised a considerable influence on the contact center industry. However, this development is just beginning, and further education - and persuasion - may be required before cloud-based contact centers become the norm.

A few years from now, the private cloud model will become a combination of managed services and dedicated hosting. In the managed-services (public) model, the application will be installed on-site but will be operated, maintained and updated by an external vendor. With dedicated hosting, the application will be handled by the provider solely for the company and cannot be shared with others.

Barriers to the Cloud

Many barriers to the adoption of the cloud remain for many contact centers. The reasons include concerns such as:

  • Fear of not having the application and data in the company’s ownership
  • Fear of hidden costs, and
  • The lack of need for new technologies

However, the primary issue that is affecting the growth of cloud contact centers involves data security. In both the private and public cloud models, there must be some form of external support such as using data encryption and other measures to reach the desired level of security, availability and privacy.

Many organizations outsource their contact centers to different countries around the world, which also raises data security concerns. Multinational corporations must choose global cloud providers with a secure international service delivery platform. These experts know how to meet the availability, scalability and security requirements of multichannel contact centers.

In general, cloud contact center solutions are still not being included in strategic IT investment schedules. However, the contact center market has been warming up to the cloud, and as multichannel contact centers start to show a substantial return on investment, the interest will grow.

Andre Riemekastenis the Business Development Manager at ASC telecom AG.