The Call Center in the Cloud
The era of the call center that lives in a warehouse-sized building is fading into the cloud. Advancements in cloud capabilities are enabling virtual call centers scattered across the country, or even the globe, said Colin Taylor, CEO of The Taylor Reach Group. "If you think of call centers as a process rather than a physical location, the call center agents can literally be anywhere."
01/21/13 5:00 AM PT
Call centers are increasingly migrating away from on-premises systems to cloud-based systems, which can save money and give greater flexibility.
Everything from customer data to telephony software is making its way to the cloud, revolutionizing the way call centers manage their operations.
"It's all the buzz now, " Mitch Lieber, principal at Lieber & Associates, told CRM Buyer. "It's especially good for companies that don't have the IT resources because there's less management involved, or if they want to pay by the month. If you're a startup or you're starting a call-center operation, it's a good option."
Virtualized Call Centers
The traditional call center is housed in one location, but the cloud is changing that -- making it possible to have multiple, virtually linked centers.
"More an more people are employing virtual connectivity between sites, and it's been a huge underpinning for work-at-home agents," Kathleen Peterson, founder of PowerHouse Consulting, told CRM Buyer. "The joining of multiple sites is a great advantage of the cloud."
The cloud, in this way, has become what creates a unified call center out of multiple sites.
"Cloud-based systems allow call centers to be geographically independent," Colin Taylor, CEO of The Taylor Reach Group, told CRM Buyer. "If you think of call centers as a process rather than a physical location, the call center agents can literally be anywhere. We're increasingly talking to organizations that are interested in virtualizing their infrastructure."
A Host of Benefits
Ultimately, migrating software, systems, and data to the cloud can save call centers money, even with monthly subscription fees.
"The traditional model was very capital-intensive," said Taylor. "Call centers had to keep installing new equipment and going through that cycle. Today for cloud-based solutions, you pay per agent per month, and it's incredibly scalable. Because it's all pay-as-you-play, you aren't paying for capacity until you have to use it."
Migrating to the cloud offers plenty of other benefits on top of cost savings.
"One of the benefits that has stood out for a long time is that the total cost of ownership can be lower, depending on the factors that go into an on-premise system," Dave Van Everen, vice president of digital marketing at Five9, told CRM Buyer. "Often a cloud-based solution can be cheaper. The emerging benefit that we see in the market has more to do with business flexibility and agility. If it's a smaller company and starting a new venture, using a cloud-based solution lets them get started quickly."
Even larger businesses are beginning to migrate to the cloud.
"The market is shifting," said Van Everen. "Traditionally there's been greater adoption in the SMB space, but over the last few years there's been an increase in enterprise and large-business accounts."
Hosting software and systems in the cloud also allows call centers to update their software and systems instantaneously whenever needed.
"If there are any logic changes or design changes, it's just a matter of calling customer service, and we can program it for you," Martin Field, owner of Press8 Telecom, told CRM Buyer. "We can make changes and teach them how to manage the system if they're interested in that."
Calling Up the Future
The cloud is, essentially, changing how call centers operate.
"Cloud-based call center software is basically modernizing how call centers work," Stephanie Zou, product marketing manager with Zendesk, told CRM Buyer. "Setting up call centers doesn't need to be costly or time-consuming."
Cloud-based systems can even increase communication between a call center and the rest of the business.
"Call centers shouldn't be siloed," explained Zou. "For example, an agent should be able to take a call and follow up with the customer via email in the same support tool. A cloud-based offering makes phone support easier and more adaptable for the ever-changing environment of your organization. It empowers our customers to create a support system that works best for their team and greater organization."
Perhaps the most significant driving force behind the adoption of cloud-based systems is that they allow for greater innovation and flexibility in a changing marketplace.
"You'll be seeing the majority of the innovations coming out in cloud based format, because that's what customers are starting to ask for," Liz Osborn, VP of product and solution marketing at Five9, told CRM Buyer. "It's also a much faster cycle to be able to innovate in the cloud. Most of us in this industry see that as where things are going."
This ability to adapt quickly to new trends and consumer demands may be the primary driving force behind increasing numbers of call centers housing their software, systems and data in the cloud.
"The cloud is dramatically impacting the business agility of the contact center -- how quickly it can shift technology to address market and customer demand," Mariann McDonagh, chief marketing officer at inContact, told CRM Buyer. "So contact centers are no longer weighed down by legacy systems that can't give them the latest capabilities, like mobile or social media. They can meet their customers where they are and focus on delivering a great customer experience by not having to spend time and cycle worrying about managing the infrastructure."