[BLOG] Cloud-based contact centres of the future - How hosting enables customer responsiveness in small business
With instant gratification a fact of everyday life, a strategy of customer-centricity is a hallmark of competitiveness. Market leaders employ cutting-edge technologies that connect them more closely with their customers, enable a better understanding of their needs and allow shorter response times.
A few well-hyped technologies are often credited for their effectiveness in achieving this. They are social media (connecting with customers); mobile (responsiveness); search; and location-based services (targeted messaging).
“But another development, the hosted (cloud-based) contact centre, has now joined their ranks,” says Rob Lith, Director of Connection Telecom. Bandwidth cost and availability is already a non-issue (and set to improve further). Also, the reliability of cloud-delivered IP-based voice is no longer in question, as cloud communications providers include quality of service and redundancy planning in their service portfolios.
What sets a hosted contact centre apart from an on-site installation is the fact that the infrastructure already exists in hosted data centres, meaning none of it need be replicated on the customer’s premises. This has a number of benefits:
Firstly, the model lends itself to cost-effective delivery of standard contact centre functionality, residing in the cloud and accessed remotely by customers. Moreover, more or less functionality is available on demand. While many traditional contact centre vendors still cling to a legacy model of selling all the bells and whistles of their high-end contact centres, making such services inaccessible to smaller companies, the new generation of cloud-based contact centre providers can deliver on-demand contact centre functionality at much reduced cost. If more advanced features are requested, they are simply switched on.
In terms of extra functionality, Internet Protocol-based contact centres offer unprecedented analytics without complex systems integration, giving contact centre owners better insight into issues like agent profitability, and allowing them to be more responsive to customers – with abilities including call-back of missed in-bound calls. Analytics also enables easier POPI (Protection of Personal Information) compliance, as it reveals classes of customer information that cannot be kept on record.
Thirdly, cloud enables elastic capacity, or the ability to rapidly provision more or less seats. A hosted, virtualised contact centre application can be delivered in whatever service increments to customers, on demand. And it can just as easily be “decommissioned” again, without being saddled with on-site equipment.
Fourthly, provisioning can be done in the space of days (provided no complex integration is required).
It’s a necessity
Having an on-demand contact centre capability, one that can be turned on and off like a tap, runs at a gush or a trickle and grows with you is more than a luxury – it is a necessity for any modern customer-centric organisation.
A time-limited sales campaign, for instance, requires a professional contact centre capability, but doesn’t necessarily justify the large capital outlay that some contact centres require. Business cycles (seasonality, month-end, time of day promos) can also demand different levels of customer-facing capacity at different times. So the ability to provision just enough seats from within the cloud, in keeping with your business flows, is excellent customer service enablement. In fact, the very ability to set up a cloud-based contact centre in a hurry means companies can deal with any crisis or opportunity in short order – which is the essence of customer-centric organisations.
Another cost-efficient characteristic of cloud contact centres is their Web-based location independence, meaning the application can be accessed via a browser from anywhere. Moving premises, for instance, no longer means carting a truck-load of data centre equipment and communicating planned service outages to customers. While one team of agents sets up at the new location, another team continues to man the remote contact centre at the first location. As soon as the new location comes online, the old one can power down for a seamless handover.
Finally, to go with the aforementioned low upfront capital investment of cloud-based contact centres, expenditure continues to be both incremental (small and piecemeal) as well as determinate (largely predictable and dependent on business use). This allows companies – especially smaller ones without IT budgets, to plan their expenditure and devote more of it to core business issues. The fact that cloud contact centres are offered as a managed service further contributes to a greater focus on customer service.
A new age of customer-centricity
As bandwidth issues are a thing of the past, and technology matures sufficiently, cloud delivery heralds a new age in contact centres, in which contact centre owners are geared to deliver true customer-centricity.
About Rob Lith
Rob started out in the retail sales business in London in 1978, returning to South Africa to join Compustat in 1989, soon moving up to Durban to head up its KZN branch. Rob extended his knowledge of the SA technology and Internet business at Internet Africa (which became UUNET, then WorldCom, then Verizon), before striking out on his own in 2003 to co-found Connection Telecom. Rob is a columnist for M&G Tech Leader and The SA Leader