Monday, October 14, 2013

Everyone has the cloud, but how are you using it? by guest blogger Kristyn Emenecker

Nick Carr’s controversial essay “IT Doesn’t Matter” claimed that IT – just as railroads and electricity – will ultimately become a commodity accessible to all. Consequently, he argued that companies should not overly invest in, or rely on IT as a resource for competitive advantage. Now marking its 10-year anniversary, Nick Carr’s logic certainly panned out with regards to basic technology. Today, this logic still holds as cloud enters the mainstream. Carr predicted that IT capabilities will ultimately be centralized, freeing companies to invest in innovation in places that really matter to their business – in some ways, Carr predicted cloud.

The cloud computing movement pursues this idea of a standardized and efficient IT model, and helps improve overall business performance by providing the ability to upgrade, scale and integrate effortlessly and cost-effectively. But the cloud movement is still, well, a movement, and what Carr did not predict is the emergence of new services we now also have to consider - such as apps, mobile, social media and so on. Outsourced call center services are no exception to the movement. As the transition to the cloud continues to streamline, the importance lies not in simply having the technology. What really matters is how we use it to our advantage.

The Next Step: Truly Multi-channel

Cloud is already here – it’s happened and we’re beginning to embrace it. So where do we go from here? For business process outsourcers, the cloud has certainly proven to be highly cost-effective in addressing their eternal struggle with unpredictability. With ever-changing levels of demand and activity, cloud contact center platforms make it possible for outsourcers to seamlessly scale up or down to fluctuating resources and minimize resource consumption. Frontline Call Center is an example who, located in Ocras Islands, leveraged the efficiency of a cloud platform for their outsourcing needs and saw dramatic cost reductions while agent utilization doubled. But it’s simply not enough to employ the cloud as an engine of cost savings.

According to Forrester’s research on cloud economics, leaders who have mastered the cloud for cutting-costs are now harnessing it as a profit-driver. By leveraging the advantages of the cloud to design new services, or improve existing ones, companies can create new revenue. For outsourcers, an example of such services could be leveraging disruptive social and mobile channels in their call centers as a value add for customers.

Outsourcing companies are the middle man – they are generous providers with an ethos centered on customer satisfaction, but they get very little in return. In an age where social and mobile are the prevailing means of communication, customers are expecting an experience tailored specifically to their needs and preferences, and that includes multichannel services.

While a cloud platform allows for efficiency such as call routing and callback services, it can also facilitate seamless multichannel communication through SMS, chat and social media. By integrating these types of service add-ons, BPOs are able to accommodate service preferences, providing the new services their customers are looking for. What’s more, outsourcers are presented with an advantageous selling point. Beyond the satisfied customer, outsourcers can upsell these additional features to generate more business opportunities, growth and income. Frontline, for instance, implemented a new tool enabling clients’ customers to connect to an agent from their website without picking up the phone. This gave clients and prospects another reason to use their service, and in two years, they saw a 400% spike in business growth.

While cloud-based IT is to become the norm, simply transitioning to the cloud is only the beginning. Beyond leveraging its abilities to cut costs, integrate quickly, or ramp up and down flexibly, new services and offerings such as social and mobile communications can provide BPOs with a strong competitive advantage whilst simultaneously meeting today’s customer expectations.
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Kristyn Emenecker, Vice President, Product Marketing for inContact, has 18 years’ experience in the contact center industry, serving in a variety of operational, consultant, and senior leadership roles.  She is active in a number of industry groups, published in multiple trade journals and a regular on the industry speaking circuit. Twitter:  @LIVinEden

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