The emergence of cloud technology is revolutionizing how customers, citizens, students, and patients interact with and experience companies and organizations everywhere. In fact, 91% of organizations agree customer experience (CX) is a primary differentiator. As a result, call centers are morphing into contact centers. So here, we dive into answering the question: “what is a cloud contact center?”.
We'll also touch on:
How cloud contact centers are different
Benefits and features to look out for
Choosing the best one for your organization
Defining a Cloud Contact Center
A cloud contact center is also known as a Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS).
Regardless of what you call it, it’s a software deployment model that enables organizations to buy only the exact cloud-based customer experience solution they need. As a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, organizations generally pay an annual or monthly subscription fee.
Cloud contact centers come in many flavors.
Some are essentially single-vendor toolkits where you build your own, while others are more comprehensive end-to-end cloud contact centers. In contrast, other cloud contact centers offer limited functionality, and may require multiple vendors to make up what would be a complete cloud contact center solution.
As far cloud deployments are concerned, organizations can choose a multi-tenant private cloud, an app hosted on third-party infrastructure, or even to deploy within their own private cloud.
No matter which type of cloud deployment, a cloud contact center is the nucleus of an organization’s customer experience. This technology includes all customer interactions across the range of communications channels people use today – as well as the valuable data resulting from those interactions.
This makes a great segue into the next part of the discussion: what benefits organizations can expect from using a cloud contact center.
Benefits of a Cloud Contact Center
A lot of great benefits come with cloud contact centers. Specifically,
Flexibility and agility
Omnichannel customer experience
Employee or agent experience improvements
Now let’s delve into how organizations get these benefits.
Cloud contact centers enable new levels of flexibility and agility.
First, organizations can more easily meet shifting customer expectations for omnichannel experiences. As customers adopt new digital channels — like Instagram — it’s easy to add support for a new channel.
Second, as every contact or call center supervisor knows, there are demand spikes. For example, airlines see increased interactions during bad weather, retailers have increased traffic around the peak holiday shopping season, and utilities get more calls during outages. To handle these spikes, supervisors can make workflow changes on-the-fly in a cloud contact, and divert some interactions to machine agents.
Lastly, since cloud contact center vendors are constantly developing new functionality and new releases, organizations can always take advantage of the latest and greatest CX innovations.
It’s easier to scale a cloud contact center.
On-prem call and contact centers have physical locations, software licenses, offices, servers, desk phones, networking hardware, computers, wires, and other physical infrastructure. So, with each new agent your growing organization adds, you have to scale all this physical infrastructure.
And in some cases, you can hit real physical limitations because sometimes there’s neither the space to add them nor the budget for more hardware.
Cloud contact centers offer lower initial investment and operational costs.
Unlike traditional call centers, cloud contact centers don’t operate on an organization’s own on-premises hardware and data centers. Hence, they can cost significantly less.
In addition, because infrastructure is owned and managed by your cloud contact center vendor, you won’t spend precious budget on deploying more servers, storage, and networking hardware.
With cloud contact centers, you tend to pay a set monthly subscription fee for the features and functions you need for a set number of agents. This means that the cloud contact center vendor handles almost everything, including support, underlying hardware, as well as updates and releases.
It adds up to less spent on hardware with specialized IT skills.
Free from managing the expensive infrastructure maze, organizations are better able to develop truly differentiated customer experiences that grow the top line revenue, while saving on bottom line costs.
Offer true omnichannel experiences.
By using a cloud contact center, it’s easier to give consistent, high quality experience with all interactions no matter if it’s on social media, webchat, voice calls, and texts.
Because a cloud contact center aggregates all channel interaction data, agents see a single view of all customer data, enabling agents to eliminate fumbling between different systems and screens. As a result, the customer gets a faster resolution.
In the end, customers, agents and organizations all benefit from more efficient, streamlined processes.
Create a better employee or agent experience that improves retention.
A cloud contact center that operates in a “single pane of glass” makes it easy for agents because they interact with one application that includes all functions, and communications channels. This eliminates the need for agents to flip between systems, point applications, and data sources constantly.
In addition, agents get faster access to all knowledge and customer databases needed to do the job all in one place; a single, unified data environment.
Moreover, that single unified data environment is always up-to-date. This is true regardless of whether a customer first engages on the phone, follows up via text, and then continues to engage by email.
The result is that agents are less frustrated by complex or cumbersome technology. All data and reports are always up-to-date in real time. It all makes for happier, more productive agents.
Next, to truly understand what makes up a cloud contact center, let’s take a quick look at features and functions they generally offer.
Common Cloud Contact Center Functions and Features
Traditional call centers, like the name implies, only handle customer inquiries via phone. Cloud contact centers offer much, much functionality.
Most solutions offer at least some of the following features:
Interactive Voice Response (IVR). This allows your organization to use automation to improve overall agent efficiency. Using speech recognition and automatic voice response enables customers to speak with the right agent most able to solve their problems, more quickly.
Automatic Call Distributor (ACD). With an ACD, agents efficiently handle a high volume of inbound customer calls, and make sure no caller is missed or accidently left on hold.
Omnichannel capabilities. Ability to support customer interactions including email, text, voice, chatbots, auto responses, and self-service.
Browser-based web access. Agents connect via smartphone or computer to a virtual phone system, so agents can work from anywhere.
Call Monitoring. This allows automatic, real-time monitoring of all phone calls.
Call Recording. Usually used for training or compliance reasons, this feature allows organizations to record all phone calls, and allow them to be bookmarked and searched.
Low-code workflow interface. Ability to use drag-and-drop functionality to make workflow changes on-the-fly.
Analytics and Real-time Reporting. Track the real-time status of all cloud contact center services and metrics on a unified dashboard. This could include interaction volumes, service levels, number of queue calls, abandonment time, and wait times to maintain optimized operations.
Use of SIP Connections. Control voice expenses by enabling easy voice offload by transferring phone calls over a reliable internet connection.
Artificial Intelligence. To reduce routine, boring tasks for easily resolved customer issues, these functions provide agent assistance, self-service, and allows automated actions and alerts.
Integrations and APIs. Ability to integrate with proprietary databases, systems, on-prem call center hardware, or SaaS apps easily, to meet existing and changing contact center needs.
Proven 99.999% reliability and uptime. More than just a 99.999% Service Level Agreement (SLA) that lets you off the hook from paying for services that don’t work, there’s five 9s uptime.
Choosing the Best Cloud Contact Center for your Organization.
So now that you know the answer to “what is a cloud contact center”, it’s time to get started on the path to your new CCaaS. All too often, organizations begin exploring customer experience or contact center solution options by shopping for the hottest, new feature or function they think they need like a chatbot or text messaging support.
Instead, to define what your organization needs in a cloud contact center, you need to start with your business requirements.
Follow these Important Steps to Derive your Business Requirements:
Build your current customer journey maps by segment.
State your new customer journey vision.
Prioritize those customer journey issues that need to be fixed now and which can wait.
Map new customer journeys according to prioritized business requirements.
Assign a business outcome metric to your stated business requirements to make it easier to devise technical requirements.
Next, Tackle your Technical Requirements
Scope requirements in deployment, management, operations, and reporting.
Consider trade-offs in how to deploy, manage, report, and operate, to arrive at your unique technical requirements.
This is where your organization takes inventory to make sure you have the right skills, and defines the features and functions your cloud contact center solution should have.
Consider Total Cost of Ownership
Estimate all deployment and management labor costs – for agents, supervisors, and technical teams in all communications channels.
Make an honest forecast of expected consumption for ALL pay-as-you-go services for next 1 and 2 years.
Compare to seat-based pricing solutions.
Armed with full visibility into each of these areas, now you’re ready to shortlist your best CCaaS options. From there, choose the solution that best fits all your business, technical, and TCO organizational goals.
Sounds easy, right?