Cloud Computing: Taking the Next Big Step for Contact Center Services



by Tony Zmudzin, Director, TPI

Managers of contact center operations as well as their counterparts in information technology and other areas are looking to the next big horizon in service delivery: Cloud Computing. As they look to take that next step, the key question is whether the “rainbow” on that horizon is true virtualized reality for contact center operations.

The history of this move to the Cloud goes back nearly 20 years. Intelligent Internet use has provided multiple benefits to industry, especially since 1991 when the National Science Foundation freed the Internet for commercial use. As beneficiaries, business and individual users have been progressively moving from pushing atoms — paper letters, invoices and purchase orders — to pushing bits — e-mail, online ordering and billing, and electronic delivery of book content. Businesses have continued to extend their use of the Internet to include hub-and-spoke delivery infrastructures and telecommuting and virtual officing for a substantive percentage of the work force — including adoption of call handling by home-based agents. Both captive and sourced call centers have applied such leverage. Cloud-based services offer a logical and continued extension of the Internet infrastructure to further improve service options and reduce the cost of servicing customer contact.

Providers of Cloud-based services position this virtualized solution as less expensive than traditional solutions (total cost of ownership) and as easy to implement. Cloud-based services offer three primary benefits:

1.    Minimizing or eliminating capital expenditures 
2.    Facilitating quick deployment 
3.    Providing capacity on demand for volume expansion and contraction

We see providers of Cloud-based call center platforms define these benefits using different names. Common terms used to describe the benefits include flexible capacity, flexible financial commitments, instant deployment, quick response to changing business needs, ongoing innovation, low cost of ongoing maintenance, cost-effective disaster recovery, always-on availability, proven security and ease of integration. In the end, the main attraction is the ability to move away from a large capital expenditure to a periodic (monthly or annual) fee.

The market offers something for every buyer, from software-only solutions to “full” infrastructure (hardware and software) solutions providing greater than 99.99 percent availability, inbound call routing, workforce management, interactive voice response, chat and e-mail tools, outbound call handling and dialing, computer telephony integration, agent management, quality monitoring tools, and user-driven reporting and analytics. At times, these solutions are oversold by service providers, so proper due diligence is an imperative phase of a buyer’s sourcing process.

In my next installment I'll address several major factors to consider if you're contemplating the move to a Cloud Computing-based contact center model. Should you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to e-mail me.