Enda Kenneally, VP of Business development at West’s Unified Communications Services explains why cloud-based platforms are shaping the contact centre industry of the future.

Two years ago, West published UK market research which predicted an explosion in cloud adoption in the contact centre, driven by dissatisfaction with legacy equipment, costly upgrades, technical limitations, long deployment times, and resource-hungry integration projects.

This year West carried out a new research project, and the results confirm that 2015 predictions were accurate. According to the ‘State of Customer Experience 2017’ report, 39 percent of contact centres have already migrated to the Cloud, and a further 53 per cent are planning a move to the Cloud within the next three years.

It looks like the Cloud has become the infrastructure of choice for those trying to improve their contact centre by streamlining the process of providing modern and personalised services to customers that in turn improves customer experience, increases customer loyalty and sales.But what makes the Cloud the best option?

Lower costs and better experiences, the key drivers

There is no doubt that, as the 2015 research predicted, a cost is an important driver of cloud migration. When West asked those who have taken the plunge what they see as the biggest benefits of the Cloud, the top three benefits were highlighted as the speed of deployment, cost savings from flexible licensing models and reduction in maintenance costs, side-by-side with access to a more advanced feature set.

Cloud-based contact centres offer a more cost-effective business model, and this has a strong appeal for organisations. However, there is another, more powerful reason for the cloud contact centre revolution, which is highlighted by our new study. Consumer behaviours and demands have changed and will continue to evolve, and the customer experience has taken centre stage when it comes to brand competition in many organisations. In fact, a recent Walker study found that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

[easy-tweet tweet=”It is no longer acceptable to be placed in a phone queue…We want immediate solutions. ” hashtags=”Cloud, Technology”]

As consumers embrace technology as an integral part of both their personal and professional lives, workforces become more mobile, and businesses place more of a focus on increased productivity, we see people’s behaviours changing. Things move faster, both at home and at work, and we are all getting used to instant responses, instant access to information and instant gratification. This extends to the customer experience; we don’t want to wait to resolve our query. As customers, we expect brands to go out of their way to help us and make us happy. It is no longer acceptable to be placed in a phone queue and to repeat our issue when finally connected with an agent. We want immediate solutions, wherever we are and on our platform of choice. Some will still like to make a phone call, but others will want digital channels. In both cases, the expectation is that we’ll receive a tailored experience.

Delivering an effortless experience will improve customer loyalty and see sales soar for organisations that get it right, boosting their bottom line as a result. Therefore, it is not surprising that most firms are racing to find a formula that can deliver the experience their customers deserve and demand. It is clear that legacy systems can’t adapt fast enough to meet these business needs.

Legacy systems can no longer add value

West’s research reveals that legacy systems are one the biggest roadblocks for organisations trying to deliver a satisfactory customer experience. According to the survey, the limitations of traditional systems are a significant obstacle when it comes to providing seamless customer experiences across both digital and voice channels. More than half (53%) of customer experience professionals agree that their contact centre would not meet their own needs if they were to get in touch as a customer.

This less than ideal result is partly due to old systems’ inability to modernise at a pace that’s fast enough to keep up with evolving customer expectations. Traditional call centres were built around the needs of voice communication, and many contact centres have struggled to add and effectively manage new channels.  Customers expect a fast resolution of their enquiry whether they contact an organisation via email, web chat or an SMS messages.

In fact, 88 percent of contact centre professionals in our study said they expected digital interactions to overtake voice by 2020.  At the time of the survey, only 20 percent of respondents said their contact centre has a web self-service capability, and just 29 percent of professionals surveyed strongly agreed their contact centre could deliver seamless customer experiences across multiple channels.

The challenge is that perceived costs and difficulty associated with integrating technologies are standing in the way of positive moves to provide a better customer experience, one that breaks down barriers to customer communication rather than creates them. Issues such as this are leading decision makers to adopt cloud platforms, many of which have been designed for multichannel communication.

If contact centre decision makers fail to take action, customer defections, demotivated customer service agents and spiralling operational costs will become the norm, leaving the field wide open for new disruptive business models to steal market share. The situation could only become acuter with time.

Owning the customer experience

Contact centres should be at the core of the customer experience. According to the research, 88 percent of customer experience professionals agreed or strongly agreed the contact centre can play a fundamental role in defining and proactively managing the customer journey between channels. Even more, interestingly, 88 per cent also agreed that digital channels open up new opportunities for contact centres to own the customer experience. So, if there is so much potential for contact centres to have a business-wide impact, why aren’t they?

Because only by improving and modernising the technology used in their contact centres will businesses truly see a significant enhancement of the customer experience, and subsequently, of their bottom line. If your customers are frustrated every time they make a query, or contact your organisation, their satisfaction will never reach levels required to earn long-term loyalty. Ensuring that contact centres are up-to-date and able to cope with the demands of the new digital-savvy consumer is essential. The Cloud has proven to be the best-suited infrastructure to meet the needs to the modern contact centre, and the industry has already started to recognise this.

Top three tips for migrating to the cloud

While moving to the Cloud is the preferred option for most organisations now, it is important to ensure the migration works for both the business, your employees and your customers.  Below are some tips to help you move your contact centre to the cloud and improve your customer experience.

  1. Adopt a phased approach

Many people don’t realise that moving to the Cloud doesn’t necessarily mean completely ripping and replacing all of the existing on-premises equipment. Particularly in the contact centre, there are some applications that can be deployed to run alongside existing systems. For example, call routeing software, customer relationship management systems, or workforce management software are just a few of the many applications that can be integrated with legacy equipment. This approach is a good way of easing the transition, and it gives managers an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of cloud-based solutions at a smaller scale. A hybrid solution is a great first step towards a full cloud-based system. The key is to migrate gradually.

  1. Make the most of SaaS

Cloud-based contact centre solutions are a software as a service (SaaS). This means that in addition to the software, customers receive added consultancy, training and help with the solution from day one of the project. In the traditional model of suppliers selling hardware to contact centres, there was often a gap in the process. Once the hardware and the licenses were sold, sometimes with a little consultancy on top, it was a done and closed deal. This led to many contact centre professionals admitting that they felt suppliers did not understand their business. For a long time, suppliers were only around if there was an issue or if a contract was due for renewal. From a customer’s perspective, the feeling was that suppliers were constantly trying to get extra money.

With the SaaS model, however, the relationship between provider and customer is on-going. When you get a cloud-based solution, service and support are part of the package. Make sure you don’t pick a technology partner who’ll pitch you, then ditch you. Find one that will understand your business, offer you the support you need, and work collaboratively with you to ensure you get the best out of the systems you are using.

  1. Consider the impact of a cloud solution for your entire organisation

This is perhaps the most valuable piece of advice. If you make the right choice, your cloud contact centre provider will give you a communications platform for the entire organisation. As industries evolve, companies will need a platform that allows them to react quickly to the needs of customers, partners and suppliers, and offer them multi-channel support. If your cloud contact centre provider has delivered a robust solution, they could become your partner at a broader level.