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Contact centres used to be innovative. The ability to talk to large numbers of customers across the world from one central location changed the face of customer service forever. For some time, call centres continued to innovate, with automatic diallers, call recording, and sophisticated routing.

But so far, these technological advances have one thing in common: the software and hardware has typically been owned by the company. And the IT director can sleep easy in the knowledge that all that technology is controlled by the firm – they can even go and see it and touch it in the server room if they want to.

However, it has been a concern of mine for a couple of years now that this need to own technology is holding the contact centre industry back. The advent of cloud technology (or ‘Software-as-a-Service’ or ‘hosted systems’ or whatever you want to call it) offers boundless opportunities for organisations to use technology that would be simply too expensive to own on-premise. And by using it, to upgrade customer service to the next level.

A recent report from Gartner [Gartner Report - Cloud Providers of Contact Center Services in Europe Offer New Options for IT Leaders, Published: 8 November 2012] confirms this, stating that the total cost of technology ownership using contact-centre-as-a-service providers is lower.

The report’s authors Steve Blood and Drew Kraus also highlight the fact that many cloud solutions allow the easy integration of multiple channels – something that customers are increasingly demanding.

Indeed, consumers themselves have embraced cloud technology, with many Apple customers enjoying the benefits of iCloud, allowing them to store data in the cloud that can be accessed from any device they desire. It’s only a matter of time before companies that do not have the same capability begin to look out-dated.

So why this obsession with owning technology? It could be explained by a natural conservatism in the IT sector, which has developed thanks to other technology solutions – most notably CRM – promising so much and delivering so little. Unsurprisingly, IT procurers are hesitant to embrace wholesale change without considerable assurances of the benefits.

Similarly, IT professionals are ultimately responsible for the service availability of the technology and platforms used and so would prefer to have control over the technology to ensure service levels are met.

Thankfully, as the Gartner report highlights, cloud technology has now reached a level of maturity where service availability should no longer be a concern. In fact, NewVoiceMedia guarantees a 99.999% service availability and the provider is so confident of this that its trust site shows live updates of the service availability for the past month.

For me, moving contact centres to the cloud is a no-brainer, offering many benefits, including:

  • Contact centre consolidation across sites, even those located across Europe, resulting in greater efficiency and lowering total cost of ownership
  • The ability to more easily utilise knowledge and data from across the entire organisation, allowing frontline workers to serve customers more effectively
  • Greater flexibility, offering the chance to scale operations up and down – again saving money
  • Access to software that may be prohibitively expensive with an on-premise solution
  • Allowing easier trials and implementation of technology advances as they happen

Hopefully, with heavyweight analysts such as Gartner confirming some of these benefits, as well as reassuring IT professionals about impressive service availability from cloud providers, we will see more organisations adopting cloud technology – and embracing it as a path to real innovation.

Check out and download the report here.

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