Bibi Bajwa, Chief Operating Officer – EMEA at Ormuco, asks ‘Do We Have Our Heads in the Cloud?’
We’re barely into the New Year but you’ve probably already read a few articles claiming that 2015 will be the year of the cloud. You might even have read similar articles last year, or the year before that.
So what’s the reality? Is the cloud really the answer to every contact centre operator’s dreams, or just a new way of doing the same old things? Is the cloud still to find its “killer app”?
The Pros and Cons
Three-quarters of CIOs and CFOs in a recent survey by CIO Insight said they are missing out on revenue opportunities by not having cloud solutions in place. 70% feared their business would become uncompetitive without investment in cloud technologies and infrastructure.
Clearly the cloud is seen as important, even if many businesses have yet to make the jump. So what’s holding back cloud adoption?
When I was running contact centres – only a few years ago – if someone had offered me a solution that would improve IT and eliminate Capex spending I would have bitten their hand off. With IT moved from fixed to direct costs my concerns today would be data security, ownership of data, data analysis (big data, if you prefer), disaster recovery, lead times to set up new programmes and MI.
While the cloud can enable all those things, security and reliability remain concerns for most business leaders. But these are obviously factors for any IT environment whether it’s on-site, in a data centre, or in the cloud. Indeed, an argument can be made that a cloud solution provider’s entire business rests on them delivering on SLAs, so they probably take security and reliability even more seriously than their customers do.
So, after weighing up the pros and cons, should your contact centre move to the cloud? Absolutely yes, and here’s why.
A Game Changer
Technology is changing our business models and consumer behaviour so quickly that it is almost impossible to know what is around the corner. Just five years ago few would have predicted the impact social media has made. Big data is also a major challenge today.
Moving functionality to the cloud does not, in itself, change what we do in the contact centre. You still have a room full of agents interacting with customers and prospects mainly by telephone, but also by email, chat and (now) social media.
To date, the main thing that the use of cloud technologies has changed is the underlying economics of running a contact centre. Pay as you go models not only enable you to shed many of the costs associated with employing your own technicians and maintaining your own infrastructure, they also allow you to move faster than ever before, with greater agility, and scale your operations more flexibly.
As good as this all is, it is still just a new way of doing what we’ve always done. More efficiently, more quickly and more cost-effectively to be sure, but shouldn’t a shift as radical as moving to the cloud also enable us to do new things? I believe it will.
Transforming the Contact Centre
For me the most exciting thing about working on the overlap of the cloud and contact centre industries is how the former will finally enable us to transform the latter.
Most contact centres have already moved to VoIP / SIP for voice interactions, and as we have seen, many are placing their infrastructure, telephony and even software in the cloud. And yet, in this increasingly hi-tech world, where we talk constantly about the idea of the multimedia contact centre, the experience for customers is little different than it was two decades ago. While most customers have access to a web-enabled device wherever they are, they must still phone us for the majority of interactions, with all the inconvenience that causes them, in call charges, navigating IVR menus, waiting times and so on.
You only have to glance at a few consumer surveys to see that this is not a choice, it is due to a lack of alternatives. Companies that allow customers to instantly interact with them whenever they want, using whichever device and whatever medium they choose will gain a huge competitive advantage.
Web RTC (real time communication) technology, supported by the cloud, allows customers to connect with brands – using voice, video, chat and even screen-sharing – from a browser or web-enabled device with no plugins or proprietary software at either end. If you have a Kindle Fire and have used Amazon’s Mayday service you’ll understand exactly the kind of experience I’m talking about.
This will be the cloud’s “killer app” that finally transforms contact centres. So let me make a bold prediction. Within 5 years Web RTC through browsers and mobile apps, and delivered by the cloud, will supplant voice calls as the main contact channel between customers and brands.
Bibi Bajwa is Chief Operating Officer – EMEA at Ormuco, a leading global cloud, managed services and telecommunications provider based in London. Having worked most of her career in a variety of global outsourcing and technology organisations, Bibi is considered an expert on IT enablement & best practices.
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