Cloud Contact, is it Right for your Business?

26th Nov 2012

For many organisations there is an increasing push to move more and more systems into the Cloud.  But is this right for the contact centre, what are the potential pitfalls and what questions should you ask vendors of Cloud solutions?

The Cloud is the generic term given to the fast-growing range of services that allow you to host hardware, software and even telephony in remote, third-party servers.  Almost everyone has used the Cloud to some extent, even if it is just an online e-mail server such as Hotmail.  The Cloud allows businesses to avoid high upfront costs and, instead, pay a monthly fee related to the number of users.  It also ensures they stay up to date with all the latest product developments and keeps their IT department free from the grind of training and maintenance.  Cloud is not just for back office functions such as like accounting, payroll, or resource planning; increasingly, Cloud is being used within customer services,  not just as a CRM solution but to support telephony, contact handling and bespoke customer service applications.

There are many Cloud Contact solutions available, mostly are off-the-shelf, Software as a Service products with prescribed functionality. These may seem appealing but can cause more problems than they solve because of the simple fact that contact centres rarely fit into a pre-packaged solution.  Contact centres deal with a wide variety of enquiries for diverse organisations with many legacy systems and processes.  Any type of contact centre solution needs some degree of customisation to deal with all these multiple tasks and integration with legacy applications.  We see many companies who have invested in expensive CRM projects with highly featured systems which are actually making the agent’s life more complex as yet more systems and functions are introduced into their routine for handling a call.  The agent takes longer to resolve the customer issue which negatively impacts the customer experience and usually results in the agent bypassing the new system entirely.

1. Don’t just ask about breadth of functionality and features set; ensure that the vendor understands your requirements and existing processes and will design the ‘agent desktop’ around their tasks.  Also find out if you have freedom to modify and adapt applications as the contact centre’s functions and campaigns evolve and change.  

The next batch of questions should centre around security, performance and resilience.

2. The first concern that everyone has is data security and service resilience; how can you be sure that your customers’ data and your own internal data is secure?  How can you be sure that it will not fall victim to fire, flood, IT virus or some other disaster?  The answer is simply that security is less to do with whether it is in the Cloud or not and more to do with the policies and procedures of individual Cloud software providers. 

3. Ask vendors whether the solution they provide will be supported on a shared or dedicated infrastructure, how this will be partitioned and what encryption and authentication will be used. 

4. Ask about the offsite back-up and disaster recovery and whether or not they involve synchronous mirroring provided between these. 

5. Find out whether you will connect to your data over the public Internet or a more secure and reliable Ethernet VPN, IP VPN, or private network.
Consumer type VoIP services such as SKYPE have influenced our perception of VoIP quality and performance. The issue with deploying VoIP directly over the public Internet is that the VoIP service packetizes voice and sends it over the network alongside all the data traffic; this is fine if there is sufficient bandwidth but, just like a traffic jam on a road, if there is congestion caused by an excess of traffic or a bottle neck due to network issues, then packets are held up and VoIP quality is impacted. Your VoIP network can be specified to avoid this issue and so quality can be guaranteed as dedicated connections can be provided or gateways set to prioritise voice, thereby guaranteeing voice quality.


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