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What call center managers need to know about the cloud: The benefits

August 27, 2012 / Rich Fox

We talk to call center managers every day that are considering moving their organizations to the cloud. Many of these managers raise similar questions about whether their call center is ready to take advantage of cloud communications. Three of the biggest questions we’re asked are:

  • Why should I move to the cloud?
  • How do I find the right provider?
  • What are some of the common pitfalls I should be aware of when migrating to the cloud?

So I thought that I would take each question in turn in a new series on the blog to answer them. I’ll peel the first one off the list today, and outline the specific benefits a call center can provide by moving to the cloud.

  1. Staffing flexibility. As a call center manager, you want to have each call answered quickly, but the reality is that there will always be more calls than people. That’s why one of the major benefits of a cloud-based call center is that it’s geographically agnostic, allowing the flexibility to deliver calls anywhere. With this added flexibility, you won’t have to limit the pool of potential employees to only those who live near the center. In addition, employees can work from home or the office. This helps support a better work-life balance for your employees. They might be more inclined to take the shifts that occur at odd hours or during the night if they are able to do them at home. Before I began working at Evolve IP, I led a financial services call center that deployed a world-class, premise-based call center solution for my agents located in New Jersey and Florida. Getting calls to people that worked at home was a complex and challenging task. Even worse, it required me to buy more licenses: a regular license for working in the call center, and a second one permitting employees to work from home. This isn’t required with a cloud-based call center. Some managers are concerned that they aren’t able to oversee their employees as closely if they’re working from home. But they should know that there are cloud solutions available that allow agents to work remotely with no loss of leadership oversight. The manager can still listen to employee calls, track their metrics in real time, and record those calls while their staff is working remotely.
  2. Business agility. Cloud-based call centers enable you to create a more agile, flexible call center. For example, when a call physically comes into a building in an on-premise system, you typically send it to another location based on the programming in your system. The problem is that you have to make these routing decisions when the calls arrive, but things are bound to change. As a call center manager, I struggled with this. Say you decide up-front that calls should be routed to location A. But what if no one at A is free, and somebody becomes available at location B? You’d have to physically reroute that call to B which is difficult from a programming perspective and even tougher from a reporting perspective. The cloud-based call center is a single automated call distributor (ACD) across your entire enterprise. An arriving call is kept in the cloud and delivered only when somebody says, “Yes, I’m ready, I can take this call.”
  3. System control. Moving to a cloud-based call center can give you much greater control over how calls flow through your system to ensure an optimal customer experience. Many existing systems lack the control that a cloud-based system can provide, as changes require expertise that doesn’t exist internally or a third party. Here’s a recent example: One of our customers was rolling out a new product line. It called me frantically because the toll-free number it was planning to use for this new product line was shared with an existing product. It had no ability to change that toll-free number because it was on its old phone system where it couldn’t change the routing. For us, it was a simple solution. It pointed the number to us, and we gave it all the control it needed. Similarly, another customer that just went live with us could not change an iota of its call routing on its old platform. Businesses, products, customer demographics, and staffing all changed, but there was nothing it could do to react. It was locked in the past. When this customer went live with Evolve IP a few weeks ago, the call center manager was in our portal changing her routing on the first day. Being in the cloud gives call center managers the ability to make real-time adjustments to the customer experience based on their volumes and staffing.
  4. Business continuity. There is an inherent disaster recovery aspect of the cloud that supports business continuity. The cloud-based call center solution doesn’t waver if your site loses power, or if you’ve got three feet of water in the building. The call center still has the call and can route it to anybody, anywhere.Some cloud solutions are built without a single point of failure. If multiple call paths are built from both a physicality perspective and in the application layer, your calls will always get delivered. One healthcare customer has 1,000 people spread over 60 locations. If it loses power at one site, it has 950 other people across the country that can help out. In the cloud, this customer implemented the concept of “buddy locations” that seamlessly enables the calls to get answered at another site that is prepared to support those callers. However, some of our clients have never had this functionality, because their on-premise system didn’t enable them to easily send calls to another location if they needed to. With cloud-based telephony that is not a problem, so companies have to work through the business processes (such as access to their customer records or employee training) as part of their business-continuity planning.
  5. Virtualization. Moving to a cloud-based call center positions you to virtualize more of your organization and therefore extend the benefits of the cloud to the entire business. If you give your call center employees access to all the tools they need in a virtual environment, they aren’t pinned down to the office. They can do this from any Internet-connected computer or device, from anywhere.Virtualization allows call center staff to easily and securely access business applications from home, another office location, or even a few cubicles away. Their customized desktop with all of their applications, settings, favorites, bookmarks, etc. can be accessed from their iPad or home computer. So the only tools a call center agent needs is an Internet-connected computer or tablet, and a phone.

That sums up five of the biggest benefits call center managers can gain from moving to the cloud. But none all of this will matter if you don’t select the right provider. Next up, I’ll show you how to select the right cloud provider for your call center. Stay tuned.

Categories: Call Center
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