Contact Centers in the Cloud: A Better Way to Source

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1 Contact Centers in the Cloud: A Better Way to Source By Irwin Lazar Vice President and Service Director, Nemertes Research Executive Summary Contact Center Software as a Service (CCSaaS) solutions provide the benefits of flexibility, agility, support, cost reduction, reliability, and vanguard technology, allowing contact center managers to increase responsiveness, more rapidly deliver new services such as social engagement, and alleviate themselves of the need to maintain their own infrastructures. Mature cloud contact center offerings can deliver resiliency via distribution across multiple data centers, simplified startup, scalability, and the latest features and technology, all without capital costs, a need for in- house staff expertise, or internal resources for maintenance and management. The Issue Cloud contact center deployment is on the rise because of the unique benefits offered by cloud providers. Contact Center Software as a Service (CCSaaS) resolves many problems businesses have with contact centers by simplifying and speeding deployments; accommodating the need to scale up and down in response to seasonal and other business cycles; and the desire to steadily incorporate new features without requiring staff time to upgrade and test a solution. Today, nearly 14% of companies have implemented CCSaaS. (Please see Figure 1.) Determining if CCSaaS is right for a business requires a clear understanding of these benefits versus any internal requirements to maintain control of data. 1

2 Figure 1: Companies Using, Planning or Evaluating Cloud- based Contact Centers Flexibility and Innovation Cloud contact centers offer greater ability for IT organizations to deliver new features, and quickly adjust licensing and payment terms to meet growth or seasonal demand. Because CCSaaS does not require enterprise IT resources to install or upgrade new hardware or software, it allows customers the ability to rapidly deploy new services like multi- channel customer engagement incorporating , text, SMS, and social media transactions, and support for mobile customer, agent, and manager access to contact center applications. Cloud vendors typically implement updates on a regular basis, making new features available to their clients as part of their existing service agreement without service downtime or any need for internal company resources for deployment. This allows companies to focus on their unique business priorities rather than on the technology. Multi- channel access improves customer service by allowing interaction based on the customer s preferred method of contact; by 2015, a solid majority of companies will be using it. (Please see Figure 2.) 2

3 Figure 2: Multi- Channel Contact Center Plans Furthermore, cloud solutions provide the flexibility to reconfigure the contact center platform based on requirements such as seasonal need to add/subtract agents, the need to support new initiatives or product launches, and the desire to rapidly expand services into new markets, supporting new languages. Scalability With CCSaaS, customers can easily scale their contact centers to match company growth rather than investing in large infrastructure platforms that they may not fully utilize for years. Offerings with flexible licensing allow a company to add or drop staff seats in real time. Reliability Cloud providers often offer the advantage of 24x7 monitoring, failover to backup sites, and virtualized servers, together providing an additional level of reliability. Even though many cloud contact centers are designed for high availability using the vendor s cloud- based data centers, managers will still need to work with their vendors to develop a disaster recovery plan and negotiate service level agreements (SLAs). Managers must ask vendors about the level of resiliency they can provide, what parts of the solution may not be available during an outage, and whether failover will be automatic or not. 3

4 Support Companies with a limited support staff may find a cloud- based contact center to be a good fit for their needs. This is especially true of small- to- midsize businesses that may not have any specialized internal support staff for a contact- center environment. Cloud- based contact center vendors can provide all types of support including professional services, training, and application customization and integration, on top of the software upgrades and maintenance folded into the basic service. Many cloud vendors provide a dashboard- like interface to for real- time reporting. And, most CCSaaS providers can leverage their experience in providing contact center services to other customers, thus easing integration and implementation challenges. Cost Control Many companies want to shift expenses from capital to operational budgets, and cloud- based contact center services offer them a way to do so. Cloud- based contact center adoption typically requires little to no upfront costs. Vendors charge a consistent, monthly, per- user cost, making budgeting and paying for these services easier for companies. CCSaaS users can typically avoid paying for annual maintenance agreements, software upgrades and updates, patches, facility and HVAC resources, and costs to support resiliency and redundancy. This is especially important to new or small companies, or any other business that does not have a large capital budget. CCSaaS also helps reduce IT staff requirements by outsourcing implementation and support to the cloud vendor. Faster Implementation Time Speed of deployment is important to companies, and CCSaaS vendors excel at this. A CCSaaS vendor can often implement a cloud- based contact center in a matter of days or weeks, versus the months it might take for an enterprise to roll its own platform. The faster a company s contact center can get up and running, the better the ROI. Security Some businesses are concerned about security in the cloud. The reality is that many cloud providers have systems in place that provide exceptional security in a cloud- based environment. Cloud security providers can offer some of the best protection around, but IT staff must carefully assess the security controls in place, as well as any third- party security and compliance certifications the provider may have, such as SSAE16 (covering auditing procedures) or ISO27002 (information security) certification, to make sure the provider meets the organization s own security requirements. 4

5 Conclusions and Recommendations CCSaaS is an increasingly popular option for sourcing a contact center platform. Businesses can realize several major advantages from cloud contact centers. Cloud contact centers require little upfront expense and usually no capital costs; they are less of a drain on in- house resources; they are quicker and easier to implement, and they are regularly updated, usually with no extra cost for new features; and organizations can have disaster recovery taken care of by the vendor. IT and contact center managers should: ± Choose a vendor carefully based on the organization s needs and the vendor s experience. ± Ensure success by involving the vendor during all phases of planning and implementation. ± Involve IT in determining a migration strategy, any integration requirements, SLAs, resiliency, storage and security needs. ± Ensure the vendor s timeline meets company needs and includes ample time for integration of existing systems and changes in business processes. ± Evaluate the potential benefits of increased flexibility, resiliency, security, scalability, and reduced capital costs. About Nemertes Research: Nemertes Research is a research- advisory and strategic- consulting firm that specializes in analyzing and quantifying the business value of emerging technologies. You can learn more about Nemertes Research at our Website, or contact us directly at 5

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