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What to consider before moving your contact center to the cloud – security, technology and costs

Posted October 12, 2016
Computers connected in the clouds

If research and trend analysis are any indication of truth, the future of contact centers is in the cloud.

Worldwide adoption has climbed to 11 percent, and a 2015 DMG Consulting report found that cloud seats increased 50 percent over the year leading up to the report’s publication. Perhaps most significant – ninety percent of companies who have made the leap are satisfied with the move.

Those numbers beg the question for customer service companies who haven’t made the transition yet: should they make the leap too?

Moving a contact center to the cloud can be a major undertaking, so it’s best to get your ducks in a row beforehand. Here’s what to consider — specifically around security, technology and cost — before making the move to the cloud.

Trust cloud security, but maintain your own

If there’s one aspect of the cloud that makes companies most nervous, it’s security. Hacking horror stories in the news can make it scary to hand over the keys to your business’ safety to someone else. In the past, when cloud security wasn’t as advanced, those fears may have been partly justified (for example, the personal photos stolen and leaked from celebrity cloud accounts in 2014) — but not anymore, says David Linthicum, a Senior Vice-President at Cloud Technology Partners, a company who helps shepherd businesses into the cloud.

“You’re typically going to find there’s better security in the cloud than there is on-premise,” he says. That’s not just coming from his own experience. A recent survey from SkyHigh, a company that assists business with cloud security, found that 65 percent of IT leaders believe the cloud is as secure, or even more secure, than on-premise options.

Companies thinking of moving their contact center to the cloud can be assured they’ll benefit from better security, but they shouldn’t neglect their due diligence. Work with your cloud provider, and your own teams, to determine what you can do to make sure your business remains as secure as possible.

Reap the rewards of new technology, but be prepared for it

It can be hard to keep up with current customer service technology, and the costs that come with it. A 2015 Dimension Data study showed that up to 40 percent of companies’ capabilities don’t meet current needs, and 80 percent won’t meet future needs. “What you find is a lot of legacy technology not able to keep up with the newer communication trends that customers are looking for,” says Michael Ringman, CIO at TELUS International.

That could spell trouble for customer service — but, thankfully, the technology that cloud providers can offer helps to address that issue. Providers are deeply invested in anticipating and constantly updating their services to keep up with industry standards. That gets passed forward to companies who get quick and hassle-free upgrades built into their flat monthly subscription rates.

“If I’m not buying hardware and software every time I need to run an application or process a database, I can provision anything I need in a matter of minutes. That’s a core advantage,” Linthicum says.

Despite the appeal of access to constant state-of-the-art customer support technology, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. For example, you have to make sure your current hardware and bandwidth can handle a move to the cloud. If not, you’ll have to spend money to get them up to speed.

You also have to assess your staff to see who can manage the new tech, says Linthicum. “Most corporations are going to find that 50 percent of their current IT staff has skills that are transferable into the cloud, and the remainder are going to have to sit with the legacy systems.”

Nonetheless, the tech abilities — even if they require prep work and training — that come with the cloud remain a significant benefit for contact centers. And for companies that don’t upgrade? “The competition is going to have leg up on them just based on the utilization of technology,” says Linthicum.

You’ll save money, but will also spend some

Moving to the cloud has been found repeatedly to save companies money. According to the 2015 Dimension Data report, 89 percent of contact center companies said the cloud reduced their costs.

Savings won’t just magically happen after your cloud is up and running, says Ringman. To move to the cloud, you have to assess your business with fresh eyes, and that can lead you to cost efficiencies. For example, consider how assessing your future bandwidth needs will require a look at what you’ve been paying to date.

Linthicum, too, cautions that transitioning your contact center to the cloud isn’t a matter of flipping a switch and immediately seeing profits. Adoption can be a costly and involved process. “We find that people are surprised in terms of how much has to occur, versus the hype from the cloud providers, which makes you think that it’s drop dead easy,” Linthicum says.

First of all, the transition comes with a lot of change management, says Ringman — both in using the cloud and using it for customer support specifically. “You may be forced to change some of your processes for how you deal with your day to day workforce management piece,” he says.

That change can take time, and time — as they say — costs money. “It’s two years to get the first five percent of workloads and data into the cloud,” Ringman says. After that, it does get “exponentially easier” but it’s still a timeline (and cost) most companies aren’t prepared for.

Still, change is scary, but it’s also an opportunity, says Ringman. “The best time to think and engage in change management, process management and workforce optimization is when you are engaged with new technologies,” he says.

In other words, moving to the cloud won’t just benefit your contact center and customer service, but it could benefit your entire business.

Embrace new customer service, but have a plan

Moving your contact center to the cloud has many benefits, but it serves one goal especially: providing better customer service.

This is possible thanks to increased security, technology and cost efficiencies, allowing for a greater focus on enabling excellent support. Most of all, with the new features you can gain from providers, you get access to brand-new tools with which to boost your interactions with customers. For example, Ringman says many offer call analytics that provide detailed information for every customer interaction your company has, and helps better inform future interactions.

With the right provider, you may also gain access to emerging channels — video chat, social media, SMS — that allow you to serve customers in a tech-savvy, modern way. But Ringman stresses that you shouldn’t let the appeal of new features make you overlook the fact that you have to properly plan how to use them in a way that has a purpose. “The problem is that a lot of times these new features and channels don’t tie into a specific strategy, so you leave a lot of your customers stranded in terms of the best way to engage with you,” he says.

The better prepared you are to use the new features, the better the customer experience — so take the time to determine what emerging channels you want to adopt with the cloud, and how you can best employ them to your customers’ benefits.

Cloud adoption is a big move, but it’s worth it

Both Linthicum and Ringman know moving a contact center to the cloud can be an intimidating prospect, especially given everything you have to consider. But neither of them has any doubt that it’s the right call. “I still feel very strongly that moving to the cloud, for probably 90 percent of the organizations out there, is the right decision,” says Ringman.

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