Brands that are considering moving their contact center infrastructure to the cloud are increasing in number. Currently, two triggers are driving interest in cloud solutions for customer service—managing the pace of technology change in an uncertain business environment, which slows decisions on capital investments, and the necessity to improve customers’ experience for higher retention and brand loyalty. Customers, especially digital natives, strongly prefer initiating service requests over social media sites or their mobile apps. This shift puts pressure on customer support organizations to upgrade their current infrastructures to support next-generation customers consistently across all communication channels. Fortunately, cloud solutions offer a sound alternative to on-premises solutions for reliable and uninterrupted customer support.
The pace of change in customer behaviors requires companies to evaluate their current customer service models. To meet the demand for fast and efficient service over multiple channels, brands must make new investments in applications that support integrated solutions for social, mobile, and online channels. As time to market is critical, interest in cloud solutions, which reduce implementation time by several months, has increased.
Cost reduction is a major consideration for companies evaluating cloud customer service solutions. Savings vary and are situation-dependent, so it is important to do a thorough cost analysis to determine the actual difference in cost between cloud and on-premises solutions for your operation. Areas in which you may see potential savings include a reduction in support staff, consolidation of servers for multiple sites, and shorter deployment. Reduced transaction handling time with improved contextual response across all channels represents savings as well.
The benefits of cloud solutions can be classified into three categories: operational, technology, and improved customer experience. All three have value and should be included in a cloud decision matrix.
Operation benefits for cloud solutions include built-in high levels of uptime that support geo-redundancy for continuous service if one location becomes inoperable. However, do not assume that all vendors offer fully redundant operations. It is important to ask your cloud provider for details regarding how they plan to mitigate risk in the event of a major outage. Security is also another major concern for many. Evaluate security procedures for the network infrastructure including application servers and network operation center.
Additionally, review the vendor’s policy for maintaining consistent monitoring and security detection with the latest levels of software. For companies employing home agents, consider additional security measures to ensure their environment and all data is safe.
A major technical advantage of the cloud is its scalability. As business grows or declines, companies using a cloud solution can increase or decrease licenses and adjust to market changes quickly. This prevents loss revenues due to over provisioning or the need to upgrade to a new platform to accommodate growth. Also, cloud solutions support flexibility in integration with existing systems and allow companies to maintain some existing applications while also upgrading to newer cloud services. The flexibility of cloud solutions also enables companies to modify their current applications to reflect their changing business needs.
Improving customers’ experience is a major driver for considering a cloud solution. With the rapid adoption of smartphones, many customers prefer using mobile apps for customer support to traditional telephone channels. Importantly, customers using mobile apps expect two-way communications directly within the apps themselves, and do not want to leave an app to place a service request. In addition the high use of social channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, necessitates that brands interact with customer over social channels and respond to them quickly and accurately.
When selecting a cloud solution provider, decide on the type of services needed in the cloud and on the compatibility with existing applications. To ensure compatibility with existing databases determine if the service provider’s solution supports public APIs or visual programming interface to facilitate connectivity. As with any new agreement, identify all terms and conditions in a service-level agreement with the prospective provider. As maintaining continuous service is essential, decide on the service levels needed for your organization—normal or escalated 24/7.
There are several service providers that support cloud solutions for customer support. Identify those providers with direct experience in the type of services you require with a strong reference customer base in your market. Compare vendors’ offerings and use of technology to determine if the providers you are considering offer the most advanced feature set. Also, determine what levels of customization and changes can be made and at what cost. Reporting and measurements are essential to understand how the vendor is performing, so you need to have a full understanding of the metrics offered and frequency of reporting. Cloud customer service represents a fast-growing trend and will be the new norm going forward. However, taking the time to fully evaluate vendor offerings will help ensure your cloud decision is a good one.