Technical Benefits of Cloud-based Contact Centers The Advantages of the Model

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1 The Advantages of the Model Overview: Contact centers are increasingly leveraging the technical benefits of the cloud to improve their operational efficiency. This white paper, intended for business and IT decision-makers, highlights the reasons the cloud is becoming more popular in business applications, both in general and for contact centers, and addresses the top concerns some organizations may have about using a cloud-based contact center.

2 Introduction 2 Forecast Calls for Increasing Clouds 2 The Technical Advantages of Cloud Contact Centers 3 Conclusion 5 Introduction Success in business today is determined in large part by the ability to consistently deliver high-value services to employees, business partners and customers. Increasingly, organizations are turning to the cloud to implement these mission-critical services. The cloud can provide a genuine competitive advantage by enabling the organization to become more agile, accelerate innovation and improve customer satisfaction. Indeed, the cloud makes it possible to deliver high-quality business services far more quickly and cost effectively than ever before. The contact center is one area where the cloud has become the preferred solution. Gartner predicts a nearly 60% compound annual growth rate in cloud contact centers 1. Frost & Sullivan summarizes the rationale behind this significant trend as follows: The primary reason is that the hosted model offers clients faced with reduced budgets and capital constraints, an opportunity to deploy contact center on demand (CCOD) solutions with relative ease and speed Inherent advantages such as flexibility, low cost of entry, and scalability drive the deployment of hosted contact center solutions across North America. 2 Given the many advantages of the cloud, Frost & Sullivan predicts that the cloud-based contact center market will nearly quadruple in size from 2008 to 2015, adding that, The days of massive financial outlays for contact center premises equipment are going away. 3 Forecast Calls for Increasing Clouds Cloud-based applications are becoming increasingly popular for some very good reasons, which can generally be classified in three areas: lower cost, broader feature set and, increased flexibility. The lower costs derive from the minimal, if any upfront costs and enormous economies of scale involved. The economies of scale in turn make it possible to implement far more robust carrier class capabilities that would be difficult for an individual organization to cost-justify. As shown in the Model of Cloud Computing diagram below, the cloud architecture has evolved to become quite sophisticated. Model of Cloud Computing ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS BROAD NETWORK ACCESS RAPID ELASTICITY MEASURED SERVICES ON-DEMAND SELF-SERVICES Resource Pooling/Multi-Tenancy SERVICE DELIVERY MODELS SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SaaS) PLATFORM AS A SERVICE (PaaS) INFRASTRUCTURE AS A SERVICE (IaaS) DEPLOYMENT MODELS PUBLIC PRIVATE HYBRID COMMUNITY 1 Debunking Security Concerns with Cloud Contact Centers White Paper, Gartner s Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2010 and Beyond: A New Balance, Gartner, Inc. 2 Strong Industry Growth In Hosted Contact Center Market In North America Despite Economic Meltdown Press Release, Frost & Sullivan 3 Strong Industry Growth In Hosted Contact Center Market In North America Despite Economic Meltdown Press Release, Frost & Sullivan 2

3 Model of Cloud Computing from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Examples of cloud service delivery models range from basic Web-based applications, such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365, to a growing number of targeted as-a-service offerings for Software (SaaS), Platforms (PaaS) and even Infrastructure (IaaS) as shown in the model on the previous page. Virtually every business now takes advantage of at least one of these virtual applications for accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management, enterprise resource planning, human resource management, etc. On the leading edge of this trend are those businesses that now use cloud-based services for a majority of their business applications. As shown in the NIST Model of Cloud Computing, clouds fall into four deployment models: public, private, hybrid and community. The advantages and business benefits of early public and private clouds were so compelling that many organizations are now implementing hybrid and community clouds. Data storage is perhaps the most popular such application for clouds today, and these are increasingly implemented as integrated hybrid clouds. As with many other strategic business needs, contact centers are increasingly being outsourced to one extent or another into the cloud. Some of these outsourcing arrangements are focused on a specific need, while others are capable of handling the entire customer lifecycle from acquisition/sales through account management and support, to billing/collections. Although many Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) offerings operate as traditional brick and mortar businesses with all agents located at a common facility, potentially off-shore, a new business model has emerged: the virtual contact center where a private service provider cloud connects agents working from their homes. In a Frost & Sullivan white paper titled The New Mantra: The Agent Is King, the analyst observes: A combination of market and technology factors the rise in acceptance of the work-at-home agent model, right shoring, and the adoption of VoIP and Web services is creating a real opportunity for organizations to optimize contact center operations If current economic trends continue, Frost & Sullivan believes that the work-at-home agent (WAHA) model could become the industry norm in the coming years. 4 The Technical Advantages of Cloud Contact Centers Ovum s CRM Business Trends 2011 survey assessed both the advantages of and concerns about using work-at-home agents in cloud-based contact centers. The survey found that, not only are home agents more educated and cost effective than facilities-based labor, but costs tend to be lower due to limited overhead costs and historically low attrition levels. 5 Because cloud-based contact centers with agents are relatively new, however, there remain some concerns about their use. The top three technical concerns involve the core and desktop infrastructures, and the agent training platform. But as outlined below, the advantages of a well designed, carrier-class virtual contact center readily outweigh any such concerns. Core Infrastructure The advantages of a cloud contact center derive from its ability to virtualize and pool technologies and resources to serve multiple departments or consumers within a secure multi-tenant model. Simply put: the cloud provides a degree of geographical independence that establishes a higher level of abstraction, thereby enabling transformational changes in business-critical contact center operations. Just as importantly, these changes have been made securely and in full compliance with privacy regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Advantages of a cloud computing core infrastructure for contact centers include: Access to the core infrastructure is not bound by physical geographical boundaries. This provides a consistent agent and customer experience throughout internal, outsourced, offshore and/or agents at a lower cost. A SIP-based cloud computing core infrastructure enables far greater flexibility at a lower cost compared to traditional infrastructure models. Softphones and VPN phones enable mobility of agents from cube-to-cube, building-to-building or brick-and-mortar-to-home. A single platform cloud computing core infrastructure ensures consistency end-to-end throughout the entire network. 4 The New Mantra: The Agent Is King, Frost & Sullivan 3

4 A cloud computing core infrastructure creates a natural shift away from traditional high upfront CapEx investment with ongoing maintenance payments, to a predictable and budget-friendly OpEx model that directly correlates with actual usage. Calls and screens are easily recorded in the cloud to accommodate both security and compliance needs. A cloud computing core infrastructure can meet the toughest needs and requirements for any certification or organization, including both PCI DSS and HIPAA. A cloud computing core infrastructure is rapidly elastic and highly agile and can accommodate any daily, seasonal or event-driven variations in usage and/or volume. Desktop Infrastructure A best practice in cloud-based contact centers is to employ a carrier-class Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) platform (see diagram below) that keeps the applications within the core infrastructure, relegating the agent s PC to equivalent of a browser. Just as with the core infrastructure, the VDI environment is able to meet the toughest security requirements for any organization or certification, including both PCI DSS and HIPAA, while remaining elastic and agile to accommodate on-going changes under the budget-friendly OpEx model. Additional advantages of a cloud-based VDI platform for contact centers include: Cloud computing VDIs are used in conjunction with company-provided endpoints and/or Windows-based terminals. SSL VPNs enable low cost, flexible and secure access for work-at-home agents and satellite offices. Cloud computing VDIs ensure consistency throughout the network, including for outsourced partners and agents. Cloud computing VDIs allow IT organizations to respond to business needs rapidly typically in hours or days rather than weeks or months when changes are needed to existing applications, or new applications need to be rolled out. Web applications, Client Server applications and green screens are all supported by cloud computing VDIs. Cloud computing VDIs allow for LIAs (Locally Installed Applications) to be implemented on secure endpoints, consistent with the goal for most organizations to evolve the number of LIAs to zero. The Virtual Desktop Infrastructure configuration shown above highlights the carrier-class technologies available to ensure solid security, end-to-end, using agents. Training Platform While training in a classroom setting is often perceived as being ideal, advances in technology have made distance learning and elearning techniques just as effective. Indeed, many colleges now even offer such courses that adhere to the latest adult learning theories. In the context of cloud contact centers, the agents employed are usually paid to complete in-depth, client-specific training, and generally demonstrate greater levels of proficiency and retention compared to in-house agents. 5 Ovum, CRM Business Trends,

5 Advantages of a cloud computing training model for contact centers include: Training is not bound by geographical boundaries. This eliminates the need for a specific room and additional PCs to deliver training to students. Training can be delivered to an unlimited number of classes and students at the same time, thereby eliminating the need to juggle resources and schedules. A single platform ensures the consistency of training content and knowledge throughout the network of agents. A cloud-based platform eliminates the need for paper quizzes and tests, which not only saves the planet, but also allows for better searching and reporting. Students can role-play in small groups within cloud-based training environments without the distraction and disruption of a crowded classroom. Because there are no seats in the back of the virtual classroom, there is no place to hide and students are more motivated to pay attention 100% of the time. Training classes and activities are easily recorded in the cloud, allowing for both student and facilitator to review at a later time. Students can review the content and material they may have found difficult to understand, while teachers can review results to continuously improve the training curriculum. Cloud-based training is not negatively impacted by bad weather or other local/regional events. Conclusion Today s successful contact centers are experiencing an evolutionary (vs. revolutionary) transition through the hybrid private-public cloud continuum. As this evolution along the cloud continuum progresses, the dialog will shift from the bits and bytes details to the business objectives and services involved. The dialog will also shift away from one focused on CapEx to the more flexible pay as you go OpEx that serves to minimize the total cost of ownership/outsourcing for contact centers. And finally, the mindset for the business relationship will shift from an us vs. them approach to a genuine partnership between the organization and the service provider(s). Together these changes hold the potential to transform businesses for the better by increasing agility, improving customer satisfaction, and maximizing the return on investment. For over 14 years, Alpine Access has successfully delivered virtual contact center services to some of the world s most respected brands. Alpine Access has earned the trust and loyalty of its growing list of clients by consistently delivering on service level and call quality expectations throughout the customer lifecycle from acquisition and account management to help desk support and billing/collections. Alpine Access has operated in a 100% virtual world from inception and uses innovative cloud-based technologies to power the outsourced virtual contact center services and solutions that are transforming the industry. To learn more about how cloud-based contact centers can benefit your business, please visit Alpine Access on the Web at or call About Alpine Access Alpine Access is redefining the contact center industry through its virtual outsourcing services and solutions. Founded in 1998, Alpine Access powers the customer service and technical support operations of many leading international brands through approximately 5,000 work-at-home professionals across the U.S. and Canada. The company offers a robust suite of distributed workforce solutions and capabilities, including SaaS-based talent management platforms, security solutions in the cloud, and consulting services. Rated the #1 contact center and CRM outsourcer for client satisfaction by the Black Book of Outsourcing, Alpine Access clients include respected Fortune 1000 companies in the financial services, communications, technology, healthcare, retail, travel and hospitality sectors. For more information, visit the Alpine Access website at or call Alpine Access and the Alpine Access logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Alpine Access, Inc. All other trademarks or registered trademarks are the properties of their respective owners. 5

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