Time for a thought experiment. Close your eyes and envision the experience of a customer who is contacting your business with an issue to be solved. They want an answer that is quick, convenient to their schedule, and free of any frustration, and they want to feel something productive is being done within minutes of their reaching out – no matter when that moment came. These are the points they think about when evaluating their customer service experience.
Now envision the environment that your customer is reaching out to. Is there, somewhere in your infrastructure, a room filled with rows of desks, headsets and other hardware? A place where your front-line customer-service employees clock in precisely on the hour and clock out precisely at the end of the day, leaving your customers with few or no options at other times?
How well do those two visions complement each together?
The answer could predict the future of your entire business.
In our society of information overload, your customers’ priorities are more and more about filtering out the noise and getting things done when they have the time to focus. The companies that help them most effectively will get their business, and they will choose not to do business with companies that don’t. This peace of mind is a high priority: in one widely reported statistic from Harris Interactive, 86 percent of participants say they are willing to pay more for a better customer-service experience.
So, when considering between an on-premises contact center and a cloud-based one, which provides a better experience for your customers, and which makes more sense for your business as a whole? Here are six areas that define the difference.
- Location, location, location.
An on-premises contact center is exactly that – on the premises of your business. It’s therefore tied to your time zone and incurs all the usual costs of doing business in your area. Implementing an on-premises contact center requires a major investment in on-site hardware and customer service center software. It can take months to set up and become fully functional, and it will likely require additional employees dedicated to maintenance and upkeep of hardware, software and data security. Finally, any system put in place is subject to a regular schedule of upgrades and replacements, ensuring its place in your capital budget.
However, cloud computing can move the physical focus of a contact center system to the Internet. Contact center hardware requirements are reduced to personal computers, even mobile devices, and high-speed Internet access; the software platform and related services are leased from a SaaS (software as a service) vendor. When setting up a cloud-based contact center, the time to launch is usually calculated in days or weeks, including setup time and staff training. Your contact center representatives can field incoming inquiries at any office or even at home, needing only a web browser and a phone or VoIP connection. Further, since you’re leasing the software, your vendor handles your software maintenance and security staffing needs, on an ongoing basis and without you needing to be involved. You don’t need an on-site IT team to maintain your center operations.
- At the ready
Have you noticed the change in terminology? It seems the concept of the “call center” has become anachronistic; today businesses have to think in terms of a “contact center” that proactively monitors customer interactions and that quickly and efficiently handles issues as they come in anytime by phone, email, chat, text and social media. This multi-channel approach means it’s even more important that your customer service team be flexible and always readily available.
With an on-premises contact center, your employees don’t have access to their equipment unless they’re on site, and your system may not be configured to allow them to work elsewhere. However, a center in the cloud provides more unified communication. Information collected from calls, social media, web chat and more can now be funneled into one location using a solution like VHT Conversation Bridge. You can quickly and easily customize your system to the needs of your business and your team –- add contact points and change contact routing, even update scripts, with only a few clicks. You can accommodate any number of agents or callers to and from any device or location.
- Go with the (work)flow
How times have changed! It’s been years, decades even, since customers had to line up, take turns, and spread their interactions with your business evenly over the course of a standard workweek. As we all have experienced, life no longer works like that. Every contact center has peak times, even peak seasons, followed by lulls in activity. With an on-premises center, you are forced to try to predict these patterns – potentially overspending or underspending on your operation if your predictions are off.
With a center in the cloud, your service is integrated into your existing IT infrastructure, and you scale your workforce and other resources up and down as necessary, in real time and without business interruption. Cloud-based solutions foster better collaboration between contact center agents and back office team members, along with streamlining internal processes. In short, you can match your capacity to your needs, and you don’t pay for what you don’t need.
- Safe and sound
It’s not necessarily a comfortable thought, but how safe is the data that moves through your brick-and-mortar establishment? With security breaches frequently happening at the contact center level, security is an important consideration. Attacks from today’s hackers can come from anywhere at any time, and the physical security measures you take within your facilities no longer deter them.
Going one step further, in case of an emergency – or even just a basic power or phone-service outage — how quickly could your contact center be back up and running? It’s been estimated that each hour of downtime costs a contact center anywhere from $500 to $50,000 or more, depending on the size of the operation. This is money your business will likely not recoup, so the goal is clearly to limit these outages as much as possible. With an on-premises center, the communication lines between your customers and your business are at the mercy of external utility companies.
With a center in the cloud, Internet-based virtual systems provide guaranteed service levels and backup mechanisms, so your system can be back online with a very small window of inconvenience for your customers. And security concerns are even easier. When you lease SaaS, you turn data security precautions over to another company with the expertise and resources to handle it for you. Your provider makes security a top priority and offers the latest fraud detection and prevention service offerings.
- The latest and greatest
Could you have predicted, 10 or 15 years ago, that your customers would be contacting you on multiple channels through a handheld computer with Internet access? If you have an on-premises contact center, staying on top of the latest technology trends and usage patterns can be confusing and considerably expensive. With a center in the cloud, your SaaS provider becomes your technology expert, continually providing you with the reporting and the state-of-the art services you need to make good decisions to support your customers.
Real-time and contextual data generated from a cloud-based system also helps to provide insights that are beneficial for training, scheduling and performance reviews. And let’s take the logistics one step further: If your center isn’t tied down geographically, you are free to selectively hire only the representatives who best fit your company’s needs, no matter where they live. The whole world becomes your labor pool.
- The bottom line
In summary, not only is it easier to maintain and staff a contact center in the cloud, it’s less expensive. You pay for only what you need, as you need it, and eliminate costs related to physical space such as maintenance and utilities. Then there are the hidden savings that come from improved productivity, greater access to data, and a simplified system that can be scaled rapidly.
All this means your company no longer has to be a giant to provide the most effective, 24-hour customer service that your customers expect. With all these tangible benefits to creating your contact center in the cloud, are you ready to join the companies giving it serious consideration?
We believe that every customer interaction, regardless of channel, should enrich your brand and deepen the customer relationship. Our lightweight integration approach and simple, subscription-based pricing makes it easy for VHT Cloud to scale with you. That’s why 84 percent of surveyed organizations agree that our solutions provide a significant return on their investment.