Steve Blood is one of the Gartner analysts I readily trust. He has stayed in the customer service space for long enough to know his three letter acronyms off pat and draws credible conclusions. So when his latest report hit my inbox, I brewed a pot of organic Earl Grey and settled down for a good read.
His conclusions, on the choices now available to European buyers of contact centre services, match my own experiences of listening to executives pondering their next generation choices. Namely, cloud is already a mainstream option for major customer service brands.
As I said, Steve knows his acronyms. Just six lines into the report he offers a full five letter version – CCaaS! Anyone brave enough to venture how this one is actually pronounced?
The cloud covers new markets
Anyway, it’s one I quickly got to grips with once unpacked. Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) reflects an important trend. Cloud based services for contact centres are now knocking on the doors of organisations with multiple sites. More to the point, organisations large enough to have multiple sites in multiple territories.
This immediately rang bells from a decade of personal experience with system integrators when the possibility of infrastructure centralisation first surfaced. It proved popular because it solved real world operational issues. Most of these revolved around the routing, reporting and support issues inherent in separated, siloed site deployments.
Clients would grumble about what an expensive, awkward design they were stuck with. In turn, their customers complained about queuing and inconsistent service experiences – because the opportunity to route to a distributed workforce was not in place.
Fast forward to 2012 and the conversation comes around again; only this time with a smarter value proposition. Reducing the vendor mix to one supplier across all territories is now a real possibility.
Believe me when I say this makes a huge difference. Thankfully I never had to attend multi vendor ‘whose fault is it this time’ sessions. But the look of exhausted frustration from my colleagues coming out of those sessions said it all.
Keep accountability simple. In fact, if you are feeling PDC (pretty damn confident), even publish your SLAs (service level agreements) around service availability on your website. This impressed the Gartner analysts so much they singled out NewVoiceMedia as the only CCaaS brand willing to make themselves accountable in this way.
I guess in an age of declining trust, this kind of transparency becomes a differentiator when selecting a single vendor partner.
Cloud is a perfect fit for seasonal demand
The other potential benefit which the 2012 version offers is reduced TCO. Normally your ability to flex ‘Total Cost of Ownership’, when infrastructure is purchased as an on-site, capital expenditure, is limited to squeezing support and upgrade costs. However the usage-based pricing model that characterises true cloud offerings can be a real boon to those organisations whose customer service traffic has predictable and sizable peaks and troughs.
Quite a few markets fit this description. Given the season we are in, it’s no secret that retailers are in full swing trying to part us from our money. Their service centres are correspondingly manic.
The weather is another seasonal driver for many. For instance, utility companies, roadside assistance brands, household call out services and travel services all experience variable levels of customer interaction based on weather conditions.
What about organisations with major one-off annual events? The ones that drive peaks of inbound traffic such as tax returns, university admissions, new car registrations.
You get the idea.
So, paying for what you actually consume makes a lot of sense for these types of service operations. CCaaS facilitates this.
Who owns what?
Those who have witnessed previous generations of outsourcing and managed services will tell you one thing. Don’t imagine you can offload a function onto a third party provider and then hope everything will work.
I’ve watched many large brands dodge difficult decisions on how to really progress their customer service capability by wrapping the issue/opportunity up in a five year deal and handing it over to a ‘safe pair of hands’. Just six months in, those choices started to look poor, as partner culture and inferior technology architecture threw up a steady stream of service failures and excuses.
So deciding how to split the pie is really important. Gartner makes some important observations. Keep local IT support involved. They have detailed knowledge. Moreover, most cloud implementations in large scale service environments will be small and experimental for the next few years. So integration with existing assets will be vital. Local knowledge and capability is therefore necessary.
Secondly, having witnessed their fury and frustration, make it easy for the operational teams to customise and evolve their cloud solution’s functionality. From their perspective, it was hard enough waiting for their own IT teams to respond to a help desk ticket. If that request is then handed off to another partner – even worse.
So look for solutions that allow dashboard level control of key features such as administration. Even functional one such as routing which is something I’ve praised NewVoiceMedia for in a previous post. And make sure you choose people who really care. Are they on a mission or just a payroll? It really does make a difference when things go wrong, which they inevitably will, and someone needs to step up and own the problem.
Steve and his writing buddy Drew Kraus did a pretty good job I thought. There are a few extra points well worth noting if you are quite far down the purchasing track and already have an extensive ‘gotcha list on your iPad.
- Remember to do your sums on the extra bandwidth that will flow across your WAN
- Headcount reductions in Europe are often too expensive to achieve as a meaningful cost saving to so don’t make that a major feature in your business case
- Create an iron clad agreement between your network service and your final CCaaS partner on who fixes what
Do all that and you have another large slice of your next generation service strategy in place.