While the cloud is increasingly causing disruption and driving transformation in nearly all corners of today’s organizations, the call center is one of the most interesting and impactful to date.
Call center environments are comprised of a variety of systems including interactive voice response (IVRs), automatic call distributors (ACDs), and outbound dialers, conventionally provided by large technology vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, and Genesys. Traditional call center infrastructure tends to possess all the classic financial characteristics of legacy enterprise IT, e.g., significant upfront commitments, expensive customization and support, inflexibility, etc. Backend software and databases also carry the generally high price tags and requisite customization associated with standard enterprise IT platforms.
As with nearly every enterprise IT category, a new set of vendors that deliver core contact center functionality via software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models has emerged. These include newer market entrants such as LiveOps, EchoPass, and Five9, and legacy players, such as InContact and Siemens. Reseller agreements have also been established, e.g., Siemens resells InContact’s cloud platform.
The cost value proposition for cloud contact centers typically constitutes a no-brainer for both small and large enterprises alike. For example, usage-based pricing, movement from brick-and-mortar to work-at-home or micro call centers, altered training and retention models, and decreased capex, maintenance, and support costs all are major contributors to total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction. Moreover, in some cases cloud service providers can offer enterprises more attractive telco rates than they can obtain on their own. In addition, enterprises comfortable with voice-over-IP (VOIP) performance and reliability can unlock yet another level of value by migrating from pure voice. Taken together, cloud contact centers can reduce TCO for many enterprise call center environments by 30-50 percent.
While the cost value proposition is compelling, the most interesting part of the story is the transformative operational flexibility that cloud contact centers provide. Think agent desktop functionality provided via a browser, ease of moving agents to alternative working environments, and the relative simplicity of modifying and configuring business rules and skill profiles.
Enterprises have historically had two options: operate the call centers themselves, or outsource call center operations to a third party service provider. The cloud offers an interesting third option in which an outsourced recruitment and management model, combined with a new, cloud-based model, creates a unique combination of flexibility, control, and comparatively low non-fixed costs.
So if the cloud-based call center story is so great, why aren’t more enterprises doing it? Three big reasons:
- Product cycles for call center hardware can be 10 years or longer. Thus, many enterprises are choosing to defer migration until they face an on-premise, full asset depreciation decision point. This same dynamic has slowed migration to infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) models in some enterprises.
- No major cloud contact center provider yet provides a truly end-to-end contact center management solution. While the cloud vendors mentioned above all provide core IVR, ACD and call handling capabilities, third-party cloud provider partners must still support areas such as workforce management and scheduling. Integrating multiple cloud services may not deter early adopters, but many enterprises will prefer a more turnkey solution.
- Cloud-based contact centers face the same data security and compliance questions as do other cloud services. That agents are operating in work-at-home environments where managers have less control heightens these concerns in some enterprises. While in most cases cloud vendors can address security and compliance issues, the uncertainty perceptions still exist within many buyer organizations.
Too often, the topic of cloud and enterprise transformation gets stuck in the realm of the esoteric and theoretical. Despite the above adoption inhibitors, cloud call center platforms are refreshing because they provide a clear, tangible path to real transformation.