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Cloud computing’s popularity has exploded over the course of the past decade. The technology is no longer limited to only the most high-tech firms – companies of all sizes and sectors now can, and do, regularly leverage cloud-based solutions in a wide range of capacities.
One of the most powerful ways that firms can take advantage of cloud computing is in the form of a cloud-based contact center. Such an approach offers a number of critical benefits that traditional on-premise contact centers simply cannot match.
1. Cost Savings
The potential for cost savings is undoubtedly one of the biggest advantages that cloud computing solutions can offer in general, and cloud-based contact centers are no exception. The typical approach to an on-premise contact center requires the business to invest significantly in equipment and hardware. This can be a barrier to entry for smaller firms, and even larger enterprises will feel the sting of such spending.
With a hosted contact center, however, companies do not need to purchase their own servers and other hardware – they simply rely upon the vendor’s systems, paying only for the services they actually use. This means that firms can not only deploy contact center solutions without a major upfront investment, but also ensures that companies do not inadvertently over-invest in their contact center technology. In just about every way, cloud-based contact center solutions provide superior performance at lower costs than any alternative approach.
2. More Effective IT Teams
Another critical benefit that cloud-based contact centers have to offer is the potential for more effective, productive IT teams among participating companies. In far too many cases, IT personnel spend large portions of their time focusing on maintenance, upkeep, and other basic yet essential IT tasks. This is certainly true in the contact center, with its wide array of communication channels and related technologies. This is a problematic approach as it limits the ability of a company’s IT workforce to devote its time and energy to other, more important projects and endeavors. Companies can overcome this issue by simply hiring more IT personnel, but this is obviously a costly approach. What’s more, IT workers are in heavy demand today, making it difficult for many organizations to sufficiently staff their IT departments, even if they are willing to spend significant amounts of money on pursuing that goal.
Cloud-based contact centers provide a powerful solution to this state of affairs. With these deployments, the responsibility for maintaining contact center technology shifts to the vendor. As a result, the company’s own IT staff will be able to redirect their efforts toward projects that can further improve the organization, rather than spending most of their time on maintaining the status quo. This opens up many new possibilities for the business without requiring the firm hire new IT staff, largely thanks to hosted contact center solutions.
3. Improved Scalability
Contact center needs will vary tremendously over time. For some seasonal firms, the swings can be extreme, with heavy contact rates during certain months and minimal contact at other times of year. And ideally, as a company expands and grows, it will need to provide support to an increasing number of clients.
With traditional contact centers, the only options for organizations are to either over-invest – ensuring that sufficient capabilities are available but also guaranteeing excessive expenses – or under-invest and expect to be unable to meet demand at all times.
With a hosted contact center, though, companies can scale their capabilities up or down easily and instantly, all while continuing to pay solely for the services they use. This maximizes cost efficiency as well as service capabilities amid changing demands.
Publish Date: September 18, 2015 5:00 AM
When airlines first came about, flying was a luxury. Passengers could look forward to premium meals, luxurious seats, and high-class service. Nowadays, flying is much quicker and more affordable, but it has come at a cost—seats are smaller, three-course meals have been replaced with peanuts and soda, and the relative freedom of the skies has given way to rigid protocols.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that many find airlines annoying. Whether it’s lost bags, unexplained delays, or a difficult passenger in the row behind you, even an aviation aficionado like me has experienced inconvenience when flying.
However, for as much as they burn a hole in our pockets, airlines no doubt experience significant financial obstacles in getting planes off the ground—no pun intended. All told, it costs an airline around $50,000 to fly a single flight from the United States to Western Europe, and a single cancelled flight or diversion can cost an airline in excess of $100,000. Pretty staggering numbers.
And with myriad IT components—from inbound call centers to booking mechanisms and logistics systems, there is no room for error—yet, there are consistently errors. With unified communications, airlines can significantly reduce their inefficiencies. Not only are inbound calls are no longer lost, thanks to unparalleled redundancy, but they’re also able to be processed much more efficiently.
1. Southwest Airlines’ call center receives 110,000 inbound calls per day—that’s 1.25 per second. (IT Today) (Tweet this)
2. In its first six months with a unified communications system, Southwest reduced the total time its passengers spent on hold by 410,000 hours—or 47 years. (IT Today) (Tweet this)
3. Delayed flights, which can often happen due to miscommunication on the ground, cost U.S. airlines $8.3 billion per year on average. (UC Berkeley) (Tweet This)
4. Swiss International Airlines has seen a 20 percent decrease in call costs since implementing unified communications eight years ago. (Colt) (Tweet this)
5. It’s not just inbound call center failures that cost airlines business: in 2010, Virgin Australia Airlines, then known as Virgin Blue, experienced internet booking downtime of 11 days—resulting in $20 million in lost revenue, or an average of $1.8 million per day. (Evolven) (Tweet this)
6. 12 percent of airlines have experienced website downtime equalling more than three days per year. And considering that nine out of 10 new customers will not return to a vendor should its website fail to load, the implications are huge. (Pingdom) (Tweet this)
7. The worldwide revenue of airlines is $556 billion, yet global profits only average $25 million—illustrating how much overhead costs airlines have to deal with, and how much potential there is for unified communications to reduce them. (Statista) (Tweet this)
Publish Date: July 22, 2015 5:00 AM
There may be fewer situations more annoying than calling customer service and promptly being placed on hold. You’re left to wait, listening to the company’s choice of monotonous music and increasingly growing impatient. It may be only a few minutes or it could be more than 30. The longer you have to wait, the less satisfied you are with the organization you’re calling.
When companies put their customers on hold for long periods of time, they’re potentially losing their business. If people don’t feel like they’re appreciated by your corporation, they’re going to go to one where they are. The contact center needs to be efficient and flexible to provide consumers with the engagement they need, which is why businesses should switch to unified communications.
Efficient Call Centers Boost Customer Satisfaction
In today’s tech-savvy world, phone calls are on their way to becoming a thing of the past. Email, social media, and SMS texting trump other forms of communication. While the call center is usually favored by older audiences, millennials want the flexibility of communicating with customer service representatives using the method of their choosing. Multi-channel contact centers will be the ones younger generations prefer. According to a survey by the Aberdeen Group, the best services have 89 percent higher customer retention and an 87 percent first call resolution rate.
This can be attributed to the multitude of tools they have at their disposal. Contact centers with UC solutions have access to instant messaging for business, email, SMS text, audio and video conferencing to help customers with any issues they may have. This allows them to communicate with more than one consumer at once, which shortens the amount of time spent on individual customers. It also frees up valuable phone time by eliminating needless conversations for questions that can be answered with a simple text or instant message.
Callers will be more exasperated when they have to be transferred from one person to another to solve their problem. It’s even worse when they have to explain their issue each time. UC tools can limit transfers or eliminate them altogether, Customer Think explained. First call resolution is important to keep the customer satisfied and returning. ThinkingPhones’ system allows call center employees to use various forms of communication to get into contact with experts in the company. Without putting the caller on hold, workers can chat with another employee, use presence to determine the most qualified and available person, conference the person into the call, or transfer it.
ThinkingPhones also has automated call distribution, call routing, and queues to ensure consumers have a minimal wait time and can reach the most qualified person on the first try.
Top Training Leads to Quality Service
To be able to provide the highest level of customer service, representatives need training and experience. They won’t be able to help someone to the best of their ability if they don’t know how a call should go. UC allows more than one person to be on a call at once, which means the new hire and the manager have access to a customer at the same time, according to Customer Think. ThinkingPhones has listen, whisper, and barge features that gives employers the tools they need to provide premium training on the job. They can listen in on trainees’ phone calls, offer advice through whisper, and enter conversations with barge.
When representatives know what they’re doing and how to quickly get the information they need to offer great service, maintenance costs and wasted time go down and customer satisfaction and efficiency increase. Multi-channel contact centers can deliver a consistent experience while reducing costs by at least 20 percent, Customer Think claimed. With the proper tools in place, customer service boosts retention and satisfaction rates.
Publish Date: July 13, 2015 5:00 AM
The contact center plays a critical role in most enterprises’ customer service efforts. In order to drive up customer satisfaction rates and improve brand reputation, company leaders should focus first and foremost on this area. More specifically, decision-makers should look for cloud-based contact center solutions if they want to optimize performance. Cloud services offer a number of advantages that on-premises alternatives simply cannot match.
One of the biggest benefits that cloud-based solutions have to offer for companies’ contact centers is their tremendous speed of deployment. Like all cloud services, these solutions do not require much or, in many cases, any on-site installation – all of the hardware remains with the vendor. This means that a company can identify a specific contact center tool it wants to deploy and have the solution up and running within a matter of days, or even hours. This low time-to-deployment is especially important for businesses that have allowed their contact center capabilities to fall behind industry standards, as they can catch up too their competitors in virtually no time at all.
A related but distinct benefit that cloud-based contact center solutions offer is hugely improved business flexibility. In fact, this is the single most powerful driver of cloud contact center adoption, industry expert Merijn te Booij recently told Loyalty360.
“Competitive differentiation is at stake. Revenue and customer loyalty are on the line. Companies need to deal with these pressures quickly and under constantly changing conditions. Cloud solutions enable them to do that,” te Booij explained, the news source reported.
When using cloud services, business leaders can add or subtract channels to their contact centers easily, adjusting their deployments to accommodate evolving company needs. Additionally, cloud solutions offer contact center managers the flexibility needed to add or remove users quickly and easily, making company expansion and growth much smoother than would be possible when relying on on-premises tools.
3. Cost Efficiency
It is impossible to talk about the cloud’s benefits without discussing the cost-efficiency advantages that these solutions can bring. With cloud-based contact centers, businesses only need to pay for the services they need, and only as much of each as is actually used. This eliminates the common problem of over-investing in resources that ultimately are not utilized sufficiently to justify the expense. At the same time, companies don’t need to worry about under-investing, only to find they need to upgrade their offerings again in the near future.
Finally, the cloud transfers all maintenance costs to the vendor. This can quickly translate into tremendous savings, all while improving the contact center’s capabilities.
With all of these advantages, the case in favor of cloud contact center adoption is clear, and it is almost certain that more firms will follow suit in the coming months.
Publish Date: February 27, 2015 5:00 AM
The millennials are coming. The group, typically defined as anyone born after 1980, is now entering the workforce in droves and gaining tremendous spending power as a result. Business leaders in virtually every industry need to take note of this trend and take steps to accommodate this increasingly important segment of the population. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is by embracing high-quality unified communications tools in the contact center.
Writing for Forbes, industry expert Micah Solomon recently highlighted just how big of an impact millennials are poised to have in the consumer sector. He pointed to research suggesting that millennials will ultimately spend approximately $10 trillion during their lives. More immediately, millennial consumer spending is on pace to reach $200 billion annually as soon as 2017.
Consequently, Solomon argued that millennials will soon “become by far the most important consumers encountered by businesses, both in number of interactions and dollars spent.” If they have not done so already, consumer-facing businesses must take immediate steps to improve their appeal to this demographic. Failure to do so will lead directly to declining revenue streams.
That’s not all. It’s also important to note that millennials tend to be much more active users of social media than older consumers. As a result, a millennial who has a bad customer service experience will likely spread the word about this incident to a large number of people. This means that the stakes of any given customer interaction are greater with millennials than other demographics.
In response to this trend, business leaders are quickly coming to realize that a UC-enabled contact center is a critical resource.
There are several reasons why a UC-enabled contact center is such a powerful tool for attracting and retaining millennial customers. First and foremost, millennials tend to be more familiar with and in favor of a wide range of communication channels than older demographics. In addition to voice and email, millennials regularly utilize SMS, instant messaging, video conferencing, and countless other media. They therefore expect the companies they patronize to offer customer service via any and all of these channels. A firm that cannot meet this demand will appear less customer-friendly to younger consumers, who look elsewhere for their product and service needs.
There’s also the issue of resolution times. As Solomon pointed out, most millennials have little experience with some of the classic hallmarks of slow customer service, such as long wait times at banks or waiting for companies to respond via mail. They are consequently less tolerant of delays when contacting organizations. UC helps in this regard by allowing customers and agents to pick the most appropriate, efficient channel to resolve a specific issue. This flexibility will have an immediate impact, driving down resolution times across the board.
Publish Date: February 18, 2015 5:00 AM
A unified communications platform offers many benefits. UC tools allow employees to become more productive by improving their collaborative abilities and overall efficiency, all while driving down operating costs. UC solutions also have a positive impact on worker morale and job satisfaction.
All of that is obviously appealing to companies in every industry. To maximize the benefits, though, organizations need to choose the right approach to UC. Among the most important factors in this area – one that will only grow in significance in the coming year – is diversity.
Freedom of Choice
By definition, a UC platform will unite a number of different communication channels into a single system. Any authorized personnel can then use whichever of those channels they deem best at any given time.
Diversity is simply the variety of options included in such a platform. Some UC platforms contain only a handful of communication channels – say, voice, email, and presence tools. Others offer well over a dozen options. These can include interactive voice response options, SMS, video conferencing, audio conferencing, live chat, and much more.
It’s true that the three basic options included in the less robust UC packages are typically the most commonly used – although video conferencing is rapidly gaining in that capacity. However, this does not mean that the other UC channels lack value. On the contrary, they are an essential part of effective UC systems. Why? Because one of UC’s greatest potential benefits is that it allows users to choose the ideal channel for specific communication issues.
In the contact center, for example, a customer service agent may decide that a particularly complex technical issue may be best solved with a video conference, while a simpler matter might require a single SMS message. If the UC solution in place is too basic, though, the agent will probably have to rely on voice and email for these issues, respectively. They may get the job done, but these limitations will hurt the agent’s efficiency, productivity, and job satisfaction.
Beyond offering a variety of communication channels, a high-quality, diverse UC solution should also accommodate a wide range of devices. Increasingly, employees expect to have the ability to use their personal smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets to access and utilize corporate assets, including UC systems.
If a UC system limits its users’ device options, it loses a lot of its utility and value, and employees will be far less enthusiastic about leveraging the offering. This makes device-agnostic Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) the ideal choice for many firms. High-end UCaaS offers anywhere, anytime connection to a robust suite of UC options.
Publish Date: January 22, 2015 5:00 AM
Customer service can make or break a company. If an organization doesn’t do everything in its power to optimize the customer experience, than pretty soon it won’t have any customers to worry about.
This makes the contact center an absolutely integral component of countless businesses. The contact center is the customer service HQ, the base of operations for all client support. It needs to be a priority.
And as is the case with many business operations, the contact center can be significantly improved with a move into the cloud. Cloud-based contact centers can deliver superior service, greater cost-efficiency, and numerous other benefits. For many firms, the time to upgrade is now.
The Cloud Advantage
A cloud-based contact center offers all of the advantages of cloud-based unified communications, and more.
For starters, there is the question of cost. With the cloud, a company only pays for the services it uses, as it uses them. In a contact center environment, this delivers maximum resource utilization – businesses can ensure support agents have access to all of the tools they need without worrying about over- or under-investing in communications tools. Initial CAPEX goes down tremendously, as there’s no need for expensive on-premise servers and other hardware.
A cloud-based contact center also allows managers to gain a complete, accurate view of which communication channels agents are using when engaging with customers. With real-time views of queues and advanced analytics insight, a decision-maker may realize customers tend to prefer live chat over email, for example. The manager can then make training and resourcing that take this information into account.
Improved Customer Experience
Most important of all, though, is the potential improvement for the customer experience. By leveraging a cloud-based UC platform in the contact center, agents can easily switch between channels as needed, choosing the ideal medium for every individual customer. Maybe a video conference is the right choice for one, but a simple phone call is best for another. The flexibility of a cloud-based contact center offers the opportunity to act upon these preferences. And customers in every industry greatly appreciate those companies that can deliver service via their channel of choice.
Conversely, many customers will resent a firm that forces them to rely on a less-than-ideal medium. If that’s the case, customer satisfaction ratings will plummet.
Finally, there’s the issue of resilience. Because it’s not premise-based, a cloud contact center is location independent. If a natural disaster or other calamity occurs, the company can simply relocate its contact center to a new base of operations, all without losing any service capabilities. There’s no disruption to customer service, and that counts for a lot when it comes to satisfying customers.
With all these advantages, it’s no surprise that so many companies are moving their contact centers into the cloud.
Publish Date: November 10, 2014 5:00 AM
Tucson, Ariz. – It was just 8:00 a.m. here, but the IT executive from a Midwestern specialty foods company wanted to give a contact center math lesson.
“Our contact center has all the bells and whistles anyone could ask for,” she said. “But we barely scratch the surface in terms of what we actually use. We simply don’t need everything that is in the box. Yet we are paying dearly for that capability, and the upgrade costs and maintenance overhead have become overwhelming. We need another option.”
Approximately 150 senior IT executives have come to the Midmarket CIO Forum in Arizona to seek answers to their own math challenges – from leading industry experts, from solutions providers such as Thinking Phone Networks, and importantly, from their peers. And for many such as this executive, the cloud represents a real opportunity to not only move off complex and costly legacy systems, but to also deploy applications that fit their specific needs – without paying for functionality they will likely never use.
Very possibly for this and other midsized companies gathered here, the cloud may well offer the “new math” that organizations struggling to move away from expensive, one-size-fits-all systems really need.
Publish Date: October 28, 2013 5:00 AM