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Contact Centers: Sitting on a Cloud?

Today's contact center technology decision-makers report feeling pressured by many factors to move to the cloud. An Aberdeen Group survey of 129 organizations conducted in November and December 2013 reveals these as the top four:

1. Improve customer experience 2. Improve business flexibility through scaling contact center activities 3. Improve agent productivity 4. Provide agents with access to better applications than can be afforded in-house


The far-and-away most shared answer -- improve customer experience -- showed a 44% year-over-year increase from a previous study, suggesting technology is a now prime go-to for delighting customers. And it seems to be delivering. The survey indicated cloud-based centers are outperforming in-house centers across crucial operational metrics related to customer experience, including first contact resolution, agent productivity and average handle time.

But what about those who have resisted the lure of the cloud and remained in-house? They, too, showed increased performance in first contact resolution, agent productivity and average handle time, just with smaller gains. But here's the real rub: In-house outperformed cloud-based centers by more than 10% in one critical measure -- growth in customer profitability.

So from a bottom-line financial point of view, the premises-based contact center still reigns. But why?  In addition to avoiding the monthly ongoing costs of cloud-based solutions, the answer may lie in three other areas of focus in which in-house contact centers excel over their cloud counterparts: customized reports, regularly updated agent hiring criteria and contact center manager training. These all help grow customer profits.

Meanwhile, cloud-based centers tend to put more emphasis on things like delivering customer interactions through multiple channels and measuring each interactions influence on customer experience results. This is where the cloud-based technology really excels for customers of all sizes. Now even smaller companies can offer features like web chat (instant online messaging with a live person) and virtual hold (the ability to get off the phone, yet hold your place in line and receive a call back when an agent is free).

While web chat has become relatively commonplace, virtual hold is still a real game-changer for many customers. And for good reason: It can mean the difference between being on hold for 45 minutes or just a few. That can dramatically cut down customer frustration -- as well as the company’s phone bill. And that’s just one of the technological advances at which cloud-based centers shine. But all come at a cost.

So which contact center approach is the better bet for you: in-house or cloud-based?

The bottom-line benefit of the in-house call center will likely shrink as advances in technology continue and increasing competition drives down costs and increases performance. So deciding solely on financial considerations today is probably short-sighted.

Do you have the expertise to maximize your call center performance? If not, cloud-based solutions can help by allowing you to tap into a pool of professionals well-versed in call center setup and ongoing management, while also affording features that set you apart from the competition.

If you do consider cloud-based solutions, remember not all are created equal. The vendor must be capable of supporting the quality you need. One way to help ensure quality is by putting in place a Service Level Agreement with quality markers and guarantees that allow you to break a contract if the cloud provider can’t deliver on promises. Also request a trial period for the service before you commit to a long-term agreement.

Deciding whether to switch to a cloud-based contact center -- and if so, which technology -- is a big decision. Why go it alone? As an independent consultant who has only your best interests at heart, I can help you weigh all factors and make the right decision for you right now.

Contact me today at 309.243.8100 or email for a free preliminary consultation.

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