Unless your head's been stuck in the metaphorical clouds, chances are you've heard a thing or two about The Cloud.
These days, anything with a digital footprint -- music, photos, video, e-mail and whole software systems -- are now hanging out in this much-buzzed-about binary brume.
Among the latest functions business owners should consider migrating to the cloud is call center software.
Software vendors have been offering certain cloud-based services ala-carte for a while -- things like workforce management, call routing and live chat, for instance -- but the future of the industry is pointing to fully cloud-based systems.
"The future of customer service lies in having a 360-degree view of the customer," Esteban Kolsky, founder of customer strategies advisory firm thinkJar, told PRWeb. "The advent of the cloud demands public platforms that deliver integration, performance, scalability, and services to ensure the 360-degree view of the customer. Vendors that cannot deliver this don't offer compelling enough solutions"
So the question isn't really "Should you migrate your call center to the cloud?" but when and how. Here's what you need to know:
4 Reasons Businesses Love the Cloud
There are plenty of reasons to make the switch from an on-site call center to a cloud-based one, according to an article on InformationWeek.com. These include:
- Flexibility - There's no longer a need for employees to be housed in one place. Using the cloud, contact center employees can work from a home office, field office or even their homes as business; home and mobile devices are all integrated into one network. And because contact center operations don't need to be housed in one place, companies have backup in the event of hardware or network failures.
- Scalability - Cloud-based call centers allow you to pay per agent, per month. This means your call center costs will only grow when your business grows.
- Ease of use - Any time you need to make an update to the design or function of your system, these changes can be made instantaneously with a call to your customer service rep. These systems also better integrate all customer contact -- from phone calls to e-mail to social media -- into one easy-to-manage, easy-to-view, place.
- Lower cost - There are several ways in which the cloud helps lower costs for call center operators. Since employees have the ability to work from home, business owners can save on real estate costs, in addition to other costs associated with maintaining an office -- energy, office equipment, furniture, etc. Large businesses can save up to 50 percent by ditching their on-premise centers, Ashwin Iyer, an analyst for market research firm Frost & Sullivan, told InformationWeek.com.
3 Businesses That Should Switch to the Cloud
Iyer and Mitch Lieber of Lieber & Associates, a contact center consulting firm, said the following businesses would benefit most from a cloud-based call center:
- Businesses that can't afford or don't want to pay for on-site IT support. Legacy contact center systems can be cumbersome and require frequent software and hardware updates, necessitating that businesses pay for tech support. In the cloud, all the technical assistance your business should need for your call center comes from your vendor.
- Startups. Cloud-based contact centers can be contracted on a month-to-month basis, perfect for businesses owners navigating the choppy economy we're in now. In addition to low overhead costs, the ability to grow your call center as your business grows makes choosing the cloud over an on-site center is a no brainer.
- Seasonal businesses. There's no need to pay for a call center to operate year-round, especially if your business isn't busy 12 months of the year. With cloud-based services, you can scale up for the holiday rush and scale back during your summer lull.
How Your Business Should Make the Switch
It's tough for a company that's made a big investment in a legacy system to ditch its current model and head for the cloud. For those who want to wait for the infrastructure they have in place to depreciate -- or who just want cloud-based systems to mature before jumping in with both feet -- there are custom integration options that allow you to take advantage of some cloud-based functionality while keeping your current system in place.
In fact, Adam Honig of Innoveer Systems recommends transferring to the cloud in phases rather than replacing your whole system at once. While the so-called "big bang approach" might work for some businesses, Honig said that trying out new software in stages and measuring the results at each of these stages will give business owner a better understanding of the software's effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) and can help overcome the challenges of user adoption.
To start the process, Honig says to make a detailed list of requirements, then go through and compare "like for like" replacements in your current setup, as well as newer features, such as social service CRM capabilities, to see which will offer the most bang for your buck. "With your plan in place, then play the field - or rather, the cloud," he said.
To learn more about call center software, visit Business.com.
Photo courtesy of Vitor Lima on Flickr