Moving to the cloud is often discussed among loyalty marketers everywhere, the pros and cons, the upsides and downsides.

Kevin McMahon, director of global marketing at West Unified Communications Services, believes strongly that companies should move their contact centers to cloud which, among other benefits, will magnify and elevate the customer experience across every channel.

Loyalty360 talked to McMahon about this compelling topic.

Can you talk about the advantages of the cloud from an employee/customer engagement perspective?
McMahon: The Cloud is moving from simply being the most cost effective, pragmatic option to becoming a strategic investment that enables organizations to react quickly to the needs of its customers and design effortless customer experiences across every channel. In the past, the customer journey has traditionally been siloed across departments and channels making it difficult to consistently deliver satisfactory customer experiences. When consumers would switch from the web to the phone, they’d have to re-explain their issue––a time-consuming annoyance. Fortunately, the Cloud makes it easier for companies to integrate their various customer channels, enabling agents to see all previous customer contacts and more quickly solve the problem. Other cloud platforms offer a drag and drop menu that allow contact center managers to map out the best possible customer journey using real-time data - and react within minutes to changed situations.

In this day and age, moving to the cloud seems like the perfect solution for a contact center. Can you just talk about what a company should consider before implementing such a move?
McMahon: According to our study, The State of Customer Experience 2017, customer service professionals recognize that a cloud-based solution is the best choice for their future infrastructure. Before taking the plunge, organizations should carve out some time for migration planning. First, decision makers should recognize that they don’t have to completely remove their on-premises equipment to migrate to the Cloud. For instance, cloud apps like routing software, CRM systems and HR software can all operate in tandem with on-premises systems. By taking a gradual approach to cloud migration, contact center managers can prove the benefits of the Cloud before removing on-premises equipment.

It’s also critical to choose the right provider to help you tackle cloud migration. Creating and maintaining a strong relationship with your contact center technology provider is key to ensuring a smooth deployment and efficient cloud management. For this reason, companies should pick a partner that will offer the support they need.

Perhaps most importantly, IT departments should consider how moving to the Cloud will impact everyone in the organization. If you choose the right partner, your cloud contact center will become a centralized communications platform for everyone at your company. But to strike the right balance, you’ll want to foster a platform that quickly caters to the needs of your customers, partners and suppliers, and supports them through any channel, on any device.

What are the five mistakes companies should avoid when moving their respective contact centers to the cloud?
McMahon: The top mistakes that organizations make when moving their contact centers to the Cloud include the following:

Failing to understand your customers’ communication preferences: Since digital interactions are set to replace the majority of voice communication in the contact center, it’s critical to know how your customers prefer to interact with you. In doing so, you’ll be able to make sure every customer feels valued and that their experience is customized.

Not fully vetting a technology platform: Before committing to a cloud contact center provider, IT departments must conduct thorough research. To do so, use your business requirements to determine if a provider meets all your needs.

Keeping stakeholders in the dark: Moving to the Cloud should be an all hands-on deck effort. Since the contact center will become the strategic hub for all customer interactions, make sure to involve your sales and marketing teams in the deployment process. By engaging users and supervisors from the onset, organizations can dodge problems down the road.

Failing to clearly communicate the difference between opex and capex business models: The Cloud allows organizations to embrace a more cost-effective opex model–a more attractive approach that gives companies the ability to pay for the technology via operational expenses. At the same time, make sure that all the functionalities you need to fulfill your business requirements are included within your cloud contact center. 

Choosing a cloud platform that’s not future-proof: In effort to keep pace with customer demands and industry requirements, it’s critical to determine what future-proofing your contact center looks like. Some questions to consider include: Will you have to pay for new features and functionality, or is it included within your contract? How much does your provider invest in R&D?

Are you surprised more companies haven’t moved their contact centers to the cloud?
McMahon: While there are many benefits to moving the contact center to the Cloud, it’s not too surprising that companies have been slow to join the trend. Even with data showing the Cloud is secure and cost efficient, many are still hesitant. This may be caused by fears about weak cloud security measures, or a firm desire to stick with what they know and the technology infrastructure they already invested in. As more people see the true benefits of the Cloud and as on-premises solutions become less feasible, organizations will transition to the Cloud more rapidly.

What sort of costs are involved in doing this?
McMahon: One of the benefits of moving a contact center to the Cloud is that the cost is minimal. Unlike a traditional contact center that needs expensive infrastructure, a cloud-based contact center requires limited up-front costs. Most companies don’t have to completely remove their on-premises equipment to move to the Cloud. Cloud applications such as call routing software, customer relationship management systems, workforce management software, call recording software and IVR systems can all run alongside existing on-premises systems. Setting up a cloud-based contact center can take as little as five minutes.

With older technology like analog phones, there are higher costs with adding new agents and expanding geographically. Yet, with a cloud platform, adding additional lines becomes fast, easy, and incurs no additional costs.

While many companies save money by moving to the Cloud, there are also a few costs to keep in mind. Companies need to evaluate their hardware and software to make sure it can handle moving to the Cloud and if not, upgrades will be necessary. Other than technology upgrades, employee capability is an important thing to factor into cost. If employees aren’t knowledgeable on the Cloud you will need to provide training.

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