What is a cloud contact center?
A contact center is the segment of a business that handles inbound and outbound customer communications that are often customer service in nature and across multiple channels like phone, email, and online chat.
Not so long ago all contact centers had to be on premise — physical rooms or buildings filled with customer service agents talking with customers from their desks.
These days, however, thanks to advancements in software and the software-as-a-service deployment model, more businesses have the option to host their contact centers on the internet, allowing for anywhere, anytime agent accessibility, reductions in IT and system maintenance costs, and improved agent productivity.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about cloud contact centers, including how they work, how they differ from traditional centers, and whether they are a good idea for your specific business.
What is a cloud contact center?
A cloud contact center is a central online location, hosted on an internet server by a third party, from which all inbound and outbound customer communications are managed across multiple channels.
Unlike on-premise contact centers, a cloud contact center’s functionality can be accessed from anywhere as long as the user has access to the internet, and all system administration and maintenance is handled by the solution’s vendor.
To create and host a cloud contact center, businesses subscribe to a cloud-service provider’s solution — typically a customer center as a service (CCaaS) platform — a suite of cloud-hosted services, tools, and applications that provide omnichannel capabilities, analytics, call routing, and other necessary contact center features.
Usually, these CCaaS platforms facilitate an omnichannel approach, where agents can access all channels and seamlessly switch between them. They also easily integrate with other systems, such as a CRM, so agents can access data about customers in real time from one online dashboard.
Cloud contact centers have been found to decrease contact center costs, improve agent satisfaction and productivity, and enhance the customer experience, all while eliminating the need for on-premise hardware, IT infrastructure, and their associated administrative tasks.
Cloud contact center vs. traditional contact center
The main difference between cloud and traditional contact centers comes down to where they reside — in the cloud or on-site.
A traditional (on-premise) contact center is a form of contact center where all the hardware and software needed to operate the center is located within a business’s physical property. All the tools, data, and applications are powered by in-house computer servers and hardware.
With traditional centers, agents have to be physically at the property to do their jobs. Typically, traditional contact centers are also more tedious and expensive to set up and maintain. Further, they are limited in their scalability, analytics, and channel integration capacity. On the upside, since it’s your hardware and software, you do have full control over the system’s configuration and updates.
A cloud contact center, on the other hand, is hosted on the third-party vendor’s server and accessed through a web browser, meaning agents can use its functionality from anywhere at any time. This is especially important to businesses running remote contact centers.
Compared to a traditional center, a cloud-based contact center is easier to set up and manage; you no longer have to maintain and upgrade legacy servers as all the administration happens in the cloud, and crucial contact center features or upgrades can be purchased from the vendor on an as-needed basis.
Overall, businesses that switch from traditional to cloud contact centers experience lower costs, less administrative work, improved scalability, and easy access to the newest contact center tech, whether that’s customer-sentiment analysis or AI-powered chatbots. This allows you to stay on the cutting edge in the customer service space and deliver the best experience possible.
How does a cloud contact center work?
Cloud contact center solutions typically come with the following functionality:
- Cloud hosting: The contact center is hosted in the cloud by a service provider and accessed via a web browser from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
- Channel integration: The platform offers and integrates multiple communication channels into one online platform so agents can use whichever the customer prefers and keep a holistic record of customer interactions.
- Workforce management tools: Agents and supervisors have access to tools like call whispering or custom metric tracking that help them work efficiently.
- Agent dashboards: Agents can view all pertinent customer data and switch between communication channels directly from one platform.
- Analysis functionality: The platforms often come with reporting and analysis tools that reveal insights that can help leaders improve their team.
- Contact routing: The system will automatically send inbound customers to the right agent based on how you configure it.
- Advanced tech: Platforms often include AI-powered IVR and chatbots, agent suggestions, the newest communication channels, and other cutting-edge features.
- Support: Most vendors offer live support so that, if you run into issues or have questions, you can quickly get expert help.
One of the best parts about using a cloud contact center is that vendors are constantly improving their platforms. To stay competitive, they are always adding new technologies, features, and tools that can help you better equip your agents and serve your customers.
Benefits of using a cloud contact center
In general, cloud contact centers can help you make your agents more productive and your customers happier. But there are some more specific, more nuanced reasons that businesses choose to use a cloud contact center over an on-premise contact center, including the following:
- Anywhere, anytime access: Agents can access the applications and tools from anywhere using any device. This enables you to run a remote contact center, thereby reducing rent and potentially increasing agent job satisfaction
- Predictable costs: Consistent monthly costs enable you to create better financial forecasts. You also won’t have to worry about unexpected equipment repair costs or server upgrades.
- Scalable: Cloud contact center solutions allow you to purchase more functionality on an as-needed basis. If you need to support more agents, do so in a few clicks for an affordable price.
- Affordable: There are typically no upfront costs involved in setting up a cloud contact center. Instead, you pay a monthly fee. For Contacto, it starts at $35 per user per month. Most packages also come with support as well, reducing the need for in-house IT.
- Omnichannel approach: Most cloud contact center solutions will enable you to easily integrate your communication channels so that agents can seamlessly switch between them and see data from each one to provide a fast and accurate customer experience.
- Quick deployment: Because it is rolled out over the internet by a third-party vendor, deployment can happen in hours or days. There’s no need to install it on each agent’s device or the server.
- Stress-free IT: Integrations, upgrades, and maintenance are handled by the third-party provider, allowing your team to focus on providing top-notch customer service rather than administrative tasks.
WIth these cloud contact center benefits, your customer service department should be able to reduce operational costs while also improving the overall customer experience. In turn, you should experience lower churn and greater customer loyalty.
Is a cloud contact center the best solution for your business?
In general, most customer service departments can improve their agent productivity, customer satisfaction, and cost efficiency by switching from a traditional contact center to a cloud-based contact center. Let’s go through some use cases to see if it’s right for you.
Below are some businesses that would benefit from selecting a cloud-hosted contact center:
- Businesses looking to scale quickly: Contact center platforms allow businesses to easily grow their customer support team and add contact center functionality.
- Companies that value flexibility: If you want to swiftly adjust your strategy to ever-changing customer demands, a cloud contact center allows you to do so.
- Businesses that want easy setup and maintenance: Many businesses, especially smaller ones, with limited time, internal resources, and IT would benefit from the fast and affordable deployment and maintenance of a cloud-based center.
- Companies looking to use five or more channels: Most cloud contact center solutions embed various channels into their platform, including text, call, email, IVR, live chat, and others.
- Teams wanting to improve customer loyalty: Because you’ll have access to the newest features, from customer sentiment analytics to customer conversation timelines, agents will be able to give better service and reduce resolution times.
- Teams desiring improved cross-channel analytics: Customer service leaders can use team-wide analytics features to gain visibility into the performance of their entire customer service department instead of seeing data only for each channel.
Although cloud contact centers are becoming the industry standard, some businesses may still want to stick with their on-premise systems, for two main reasons.
One reason is that businesses may have already invested heavily into their current contact center. This is understandable, but these decision-makers’ reasoning may be subject to the sunk cost fallacy — when someone is too focused on past investments to think about the current and future costs and benefits and therefore commit to decisions that are no longer in their best interests.
The second reason businesses often give is that they want complete control over their data, hardware, and software, particularly for security, up-time, and customization advantages. While this is a more logical reason to stick with an on-premise system, it’s becoming less compelling as cloud contact centers continue to improve security and flexibility.
How to choose the best contact center solution
If you’ve decided to buy cloud contact center software, you now have some research to do. Your first step should be to think about your goals for your contact center and then come up with a list of must-have cloud contact center solution features that serve these goals.
For example, perhaps you want to decrease wait times for your customers by providing more effective self-service options. You’d then look for solutions with features like AI chatbots or advanced interactive voice response (IVR).
Below are some cloud contact center features that B2C businesses often prioritize:
- Omnichannel approach: Communicate with your customers using multiple, integrated channels, all from one online platform. Customers expect to be able to reach you how they want, so omnichannel approaches are becoming more critical.
- Channel switching: Agents can switch between communication channels midconversation without disruption or the need to create a ticket.
- Contact routing: Create an automated routing system that delivers customers to the perfect agent for them based on various factors like agent capacity or ticket type.
- Self-service options: Empower your customers to self-serve using AI-powered chatbots and IVR.
- 360-degree customer views: From their dashboard, agents can see all customer data and past interactions so they can provide accurate, personalized service.
- Agent assist: Enforce best practices by setting up your system to automatically give agents suggestions and proactive answers as they chat with customers.
- Reporting and analytics: Track customer sentiment overtime, create prebuilt and custom reports, and see real-time performance and activity data.
- Monitoring and coaching: Pick which metrics to track team-wide and individually, record and monitor calls, and coach agents on how to improve.
It’s also important to look for a solution that allows for the integrations you need. For example, if you want your agents to have 360-degree views of customers directly from the platform, and much of that customer data is held in Salesforce, you need a solution that supports this two-way integration.
For more on how to find and evaluate the right cloud-based contact solution for your business, consider reading this step-by-step guide on how to evaluate software.
A cloud contact center is a great option if you’re looking to quickly deploy a contact center that will be both easy to maintain and equipped with the latest technology and channels.
Instead of focusing on administrative tasks like updating legacy systems, as you would with an on-premise contact center, your team can focus on their core objectives, like creating plans to improve customer experience.
For a contact center solution that prioritizes automations, simplicity, and omnichannel communication, check out Contacto today.
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