If customer service plays an important role in your business, you’ve probably heard the term “cloud contact center.” But if you’ve had a premise-based contact center for years that’s operated well enough, the idea of having a contact center in the cloud might raise a few questions.
Is it secure? Will I lose access to my contact center? Is it the right thing for me to do? How do I migrate to it?
In short, the answers are yes, no, probably and it’s easier than it sounds. This post will help explain why and when is the right time to start thinking about cloud contact center, the difference between on-premise and contact center in the cloud and offer a few best practices to consider during a cloud migration.
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Cloud vs. On-Premise
There are two ways that organizations instrument their contact center technology. One option being on-premise or premise-based and the second being cloud. The primary difference between the two is the location of hardware.
What is an on-premise contact center?
An on-premise or premise-based contact center is the traditional contact center approach in which a company keeps all contact center hardware and software on its own property. Most often, that means storing servers in a data center.
For an on-premise contact center, a company purchases hardware and software. They implement it in their data center, and they manage it from an ongoing support perspective. That includes software upgrades, hardware upgrades and day-to-day management of their operations.
What is a cloud contact center?
A cloud contact center is a suite of software and tools hosted off-site in a third-party vendor’s environment. A cloud contact center is also known for taking an omni-channel approach, analytics support and flexibility to allow agents to work from anywhere.
While some of those features are possible with some on-premise contact centers, a third party helps with hardware and software needs of a cloud contact center. So instead of a business choosing and purchasing contact center tools, they simply host their contact center within the vendor’s hardware.
Then, the third party keeps up with best practices, upgrades and manages the contact center on a day-to-day basis. Because contact center support is their core business, the vendor ensures the software is well maintained and keeps up with industry trends.
So what’s the difference between on-premise and contact center in the Cloud?
The difference between on-premise and cloud contact center is more than just location. It’s two different approaches to management, with on-premise requiring the business to focus resources on managing contact center technology versus cloud contact center being supported by a third party who manages it instead.
These differences must be considered when implementing a contact center solution. And for many businesses, the decision to stay on-premise or move to the cloud comes up out of necessity rather than through long-term planning.
Decisions Driving Cloud Migration
Like any piece of technology, contact center software and equipment doesn’t last forever. So if your equipment is aging, it may be time to make a decision before that equipment reaches end-of-life and forces you to make a quick choice.
Aging equipment brings up three options. Start over and invest in a brand new on-premise platform. Continue paying increasing maintenance costs to keep existing equipment running as long as possible. Or shift from an on-premises system to a contact center in the cloud.
More and more businesses are taking the latter option.
Over the past three to five years, every type of industry you can imagine is now looking at the cloud. Wireless, cable and satellite, airlines, healthcare, utilities. All are moving their contact centers to the cloud.
According to Research and Markets, the number of contact center seats using cloud-based infrastructure grew by at least 20 percent per year over the past couple years, and that growth is expected to continue for the next few years as well. Companies across the board are either now in the cloud or looking to move to the cloud. The migration is here.
So for anyone who is still using an on-premise contact center, here are a few reasons to revamp your strategy and put your contact center in the cloud today.
1. Equipment is end-of-life
Contact center equipment doesn’t last forever, and end-of-life is a huge event for many businesses. Suddenly, they must decide whether to replace their existing system or try something completely new.
But while that may be a stressful concept, it’s a great opportunity to move to the cloud. Every industry is trending toward the cloud, so use this event to make the move yourself.
2. Create an omni-channel experience
“Contact center” has replaced “call center” in our vernacular to match customer expectations. It doesn’t matter what the industry is. They want companies to meet them where they want to be met.
For quick questions, text messages, SMS chat, web chat and similar channels are becoming more and more relevant in contact centers today, and businesses must enable agents to take inquiries in those channels.
To create an omni-channel experience, businesses can purchase and try to manage all these new channels and software on their own, or they can move to the cloud and rely on continuous integration and development from a third party.
3. Focus on your core competency
Thirdly, a contact center in the cloud allows your operations and IT teams to focus on their core competencies. In other words, you can stay focused on your primary business.
Whether it’s an airline or a healthcare provider, they have many priorities to run their business. Managing contact center hardware and software can be a distraction. Allowing that move to the cloud and having a third-party partner manage and bring forth best practices frees organizations to reallocate resources to operate more efficiently.
4. Improve security
Some on-premise contact center managers do a great job keeping up with security. But for cloud contact center providers, security is a core facet of the job. You could hire an entire department focused on protecting contact center data in your data center, or you can use a solution housed in your providers’ data center, which is always up-to-date, encrypted and meets the highest levels of security.
5. Get help with compliance
Depending on your industry, you may need to consider HIPAA, PCI or any other number of compliance regulations. And everyone should consider laws like GDPR in the European Union and CCPA in California.
These kinds of laws, which put strict new regulations in place for safeguarding customer data, will continue to grow in prominence in the future. Partner with a cloud provider who deals with these issues every day.
6. Better scalability
A provider of contact center in the cloud works with many businesses of many different sizes. For example, Intrado works with more than 300 global brands, meaning one in three U.S. consumers do business on our platform.
Contact center providers of this size are prepared to handle your voice and messaging traffic today and if it grows exponentially in the next few years. That size makes a cloud solution far more scalable than an on-premise option, which requires hefty investment in new hardware to respond to the same growth.
7. Workforce management for remote agents
With a cloud solution, agents can work from anywhere. Agents all log into the same program, so it’s easy to track logins, view analytics and manage your workforce without worrying about VPNs or problems connecting to your own data platforms.
8. Ongoing upgrades and optimization
Just as a contact center in the cloud allows you to focus on your core competency, cloud contact center providers focus on their core competencies, too. That means ongoing hardware and software improvements, which benefit everyone using the solution. You never have to worry about software going out of date or hardware becoming end-of-life.
Your provider will keep the contact center running as well as possible, and some providers, like Intrado, can watch your customer interactions and make specific tweaks to make your solution work best for your individual customers.
9. Give personalized customer service
That’s right. Even when taking your contact center out of your physical location, you don’t have to give up the personalized experience your customers want. A cloud provider will modify their solution to meet each client’s needs. That may mean longer IVR containment for one business and a focus on messaging for another. Even though cloud providers work with many clients, each solution is still tailored to meet specific goals.
10. Lower costs, higher return
There’s no need to purchase new equipment. No hardware maintenance costs. No software upgrades. And no electric bills related to contact center hardware. All of those lead to major cost savings for many businesses.
Plus, through all the benefits outlined so far, many businesses see an increased ROI from a cloud solution. One Intrado customer saved $650 million by shifting customer communications to digital channels. With results like that, the contact center pays for itself.
Where contact center meets culture
Many businesses start their cloud discovery process with a lot of questions up front about the technology. How often do you deploy? What does reporting look like? Etcetera.
But even if your technology is end-of-life and you’re ready to put your contact center in the cloud, there’s more to consider. When you’ve been running your operations and your customer service structure for a certain way for so long, it’s not just the technology that’s changing.
A lot of times, the culture of your organization must shift at the same time. So make sure cloud migration fits into your culture with two steps.
- First, get help from the IT team. Make sure you’re asking the right questions around the technology needs and understanding what the IT team thinks of migrating. What would it mean to move everything they have in the contact center to the cloud?
- Second, talk to your agents to really understand their needs. They are the front line to your business. They know what’s been working, where customer behavior is shifting and how they can engage better.
Having those conversations with business owners and contact center leaders is crucial. Many times, they are the voice of the organization’s customer and should be part of the process.
What To Do Next
After completing your technical and cultural assessment, you’ll need to find a partner to actually put your contact center in the cloud. Companies like Intrado host your contact center on their secure hardware.
When choosing a partner, also consider how much assistance and ongoing optimization you will receive. A few cloud contact center providers go beyond hosting to help drive your future customer experience strategy.