The Cloud… if ever there were a buzzword that has swept the world of IT, the Cloud would be it. Many buzzwords seem to dominate the headlines and industry conference stages for a year or two and then sink into obscurity, the Cloud however has defied the odds and is here to stay. Organizations have embraced cloud technology with veracity over the last decade and the trendline is continuing upward.
According to a recent report by Gartner, Inc., expenditures toward enterprise IT on cloud-based offerings is increasing at almost triple the rate of spending on more traditional, non-cloud solutions. It also found that more than $1.3 trillion in IT spending will move to the cloud by 2022. Organizations from all verticals have begun adopting cloud-based operating models and services to better position themselves for cost optimization, nimbleness and scalability in a business environment that has become increasingly competitive and dynamic, fueled by digital transformation.
Like other parts of the organization, call and contact centers have also started to adopt cloud-based solutions for a whole slew of reasons, including powering omnichannel customer support initiatives. Some organizations have even moved their entire telephony infrastructure into the Cloud, offloading maintenance of their hardware to third-party service providers and enabling greater productivity across their IT teams.
In this post we’ll explain everything you need to know about cloud-based call and contact centers. We’ll explore the range of benefits companies can enjoy by implementing them and offer advice on how to pick the best cloud service providers.
What is a Cloud-Based Contact Center?
Before we delve into how organizations can best benefit from implementing cloud-based call and contact center solutions, let’s first explain what they are.
According to Metaswitch, a cloud contact center is “a comprehensive suite of tools, applications and cloud-hosted services for contact centers in large organizations that require multiple communications channels (including phone calls and messaging), sophisticated call routing, agent management and analytics.”
Types of Cloud Deployment Options
When looking at the different types of cloud-based contact center solutions, there are several different deployment options in regard to hardware and software setups:
Pure cloud-based solutions reside entirely in the Cloud. These solutions are ideal for companies that want to completely offload the cost and responsibility for maintaining hardware and reduce security risks by putting them in the hands of service providers. The speed of deployment for pure cloud-based options is usually the fastest of all the available options.
Hybrid cloud deployments reside both in the Cloud and with some equipment on the company’s premises. These solutions are better for companies that want to take advantage of the benefits of cloud-based solutions, but also want to keep some of their systems on-premise.
Appliance-based cloud deployments are a type of hybrid-cloud option that utilize a vendor-provided hardware box, usually loaded with pre-installed software, with maintenance and upkeep often managed by the vendor. This option allows companies to take advantage of cloud options, while maintaining a level of control over the hardware, but outsourcing the maintenance of that hardware back to the vendor, offering the best of both worlds.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Contact Center Solutions
There are a number of benefits companies may realize by employing cloud-based contact center solutions, including the following:
- Greater Resiliency and Reliability – depending on the design of the telephony solution, often a redundancy in the telephony equipment can be created, resulting in a fail-safe or back up should the main system ever fail. Additionally, because many cloud solutions have to accommodate thousands of customers at once, these platforms offer a greater level of reliability at a lower cost than customers could typically afford independently
- Geo-redundancy – in the same vein as greater resiliency and reliability, many cloud providers have geo-redundant data centers, resulting in an additional level of backup in the rare case that the main system fails
- Scale – in times of seasonal variability requiring higher usage, cloud solutions allow companies to scale up their usage needs on-demand, without requiring additional investment in on-premises hardware
- Cost Control – tightly tied to flexible scaling options, cloud solutions often result in better cost control and allow companies to take advantage of the economies of scale offered versus having to invest in their own on-premises infrastructure
- Less Equipment – depending on the deployment option, companies choosing Cloud will have little to no equipment to maintain, allowing their IT and infrastructure teams to focus on other, more strategic projects
- Quick and Easy Implementation – unlike on-premise options that often require a lengthy and complex implementation process, cloud solutions can drastically reduce the time and effort to get up and running
- Easier Software Updates and Bug Fixes – because cloud software and hardware are most often managed by service providers, companies can relieve themselves of the burden of having to manually update software and patch bugs
Overall, cloud-based contact center solutions provide unmatched flexibility that on-premises deployments simply cannot compete with.
Taking Telephone Payments Using Cloud-Based Contact Center Solutions
As customers continue to call into businesses to ask questions and troubleshoot issues in droves, the telephone remains a vital payment channel and contact centers must maintain PCI DSS compliance while processing these payments. This can open up a whole host of challenges when looking at the myriad ways cardholder data (CHD) can touch the contact center infrastructure.
Cloud-based PCI DSS compliance solutions provide an attractive option for dealing with this challenge. DTMF masking solutions, such as Semafone’s Cardprotect, allow customers to input their payment card information over the telephone keypad, while masking the dial tones, rendering them indistinguishable from one another, keeping CHD from ever entering the contact center infrastructure and completely out of call recordings.
Semafone’s full portfolio of deployment options offers customers based in the US, frictionless deployment, a full set of features, and unparalleled flexibility to meet the unique needs of their business. Customers can choose from pure cloud, hybrid cloud, hybrid cloud with appliance, or on-premises deployments to best suit their requirements and help them descope their entire contact center for PCI DSS compliance.
How to Choose a Cloud Contact Center Solution Provider
To say there are a multitude of cloud contact center solution providers is an understatement, and for that reason choosing one over another can prove to be challenging. When evaluating vendors, use the following criteria to identify the best:
- Uptime – Your contact center’s telephony infrastructure is a vital system and must be available at all times, so that your customers can call in without issue. Look for providers who exceed a 99.95% uptime guarantee in order to ensure your telephone lines almost never go down
- Flexibility – Chances are that your company’s needs will never exactly fit the needs of another company, so you’ll want your solution provider to have flexible deployment options that can meet and exceed those needs. Look for the ability to scale-up during times of seasonal variability and to scale down once demand returns to normal, in addition to other flexible terms
- Robust Customer Support – due to the vital and pivotal nature of your telephony infrastructure, you’ll want to look for a provider who will be able to provide 24/7 monitoring and support services to ensure issues are dealt with in a timely manner whenever they arise
- Carrier Agnostic – while the decision to change telephony carriers is not one that can be made easily or often, sometimes the needs of your contact center change, and a switch is necessary. For this reason, look for providers who can support a full range of telephony carriers, and even better, one that is carrier agnostic
- Security and Certifications – With governments all over the world turning their attention to data security and privacy by passing regulations like the GDPR and CCPA, and consumers acutely aware of how companies are handling their data, it has never been more important to select a vendor who adheres to the highest security standards. When choosing between vendors, look for ones who have achieved industry accepted certifications like ISO 27001, PA DSS and PCI DSS Level 1 certification in the case of payment service providers
Armed with this information, your organization can now set out to choose a cloud contact center solution provider with confidence and realize all the benefits that come with it.