The following post by guest contributor Brendan Read, Frost & Sullivan Industry Analyst, is the first in a series examining the “virtuous intersection” of customer experience and profitability.
Cloud Demand: Inbound Contact Center
As a result of cloud based benefits, demand has been rising, and will continue, to rise for cloud-delivered solutions. Frost & Sullivan forecasts that the annual revenues from cloud-delivered solutions will soon exceed those from premise-delivered solutions. Companies are clearly getting, and responding to the cloud message. In some applications, notably IVR, cloud demand is higher than premise solutions demand. And while premise-delivered software dominates the inbound contact routing a.k.a. ACD market, cloud-based applications are gaining ground.
Keep in mind that there is already a large on-premise install base that will take time to shrink. Even then, there will always be companies that prefer to have those “blinking lights” in the server rooms, just to be assured that everything is working.
Cloud Demand: Outbound
Frost & Sullivan is seeing the same pattern of the rise, and eventual dominance, of the cloud as a solution delivery in outbound. Outbound calling has experienced extreme turbulence. The popularity of the Do Not Call lists that reflect consumers’ abhorrence of cold-calling, reinforced by illegal auto-dialing, has dampened sales of outbound solutions from telemarketing. At the same time the economic conditions has meant more debt, therefore more billing, and collections calls. But there is a limit to outbound demand in this area as struggling consumers, many of whom have lost their jobs, or have had to take lower paying ones, and have no money left to pay.
One of the biggest factors that are driving the demand for outbound as a whole is proactive customer contact or PCC. PCC is more than using a traditional brute-force predictive dialer. It entails contacting existing customers on service and support issues and with compliant sales calls. It uses live agents as well as voice messages, phone as well as online email and SMS/text, is permission-based, and it occurs at the times and on the channels that best suits customers based on their preferences.
Cloud Contact Center Trends
There is a trend towards increasingly sophisticated contact center applications. These solutions enhance the customer experience, sales and revenues, while reducing costs to expand the “virtuous intersection”. The PCC or proactive customer contact is only one of the trends. There are others including speech recognition, multichannel routing, and integration with other solutions such as CRM.
One particular application that has become important recently is contact blending. Yes, blended inbound and outbound calling is not new. Outbound agents would take inbound calls when they are in between campaigns. But in reality that practice has been honored more in the breach than in practice principally because the nature of these calls has been so different that they typically required separate agents, solutions, and sometimes contact centers.
But with the rise of PCC and with this also of the accurate notion of sales as a service—for what is sales but meeting customers’ needs?—and the advent of multichannel communications and solutions, these distinctions are fading. In fact blending can improve contact center performance and productivity by making the agents’ day-to-day tasks more interesting, giving these employees more variety with their work. Companies can grow that customer experience and relationship, particularly for top-drawer or “power customers”, by routing customer contacts to the same agents that had served them before, including callback requests as well as straight PCC calling.
One of the dimensions of the cloud that make such advanced applications possible is that they do not require companies i.e. the contact centers to undergo “rip-and-replace” and/or expensive integrations when they want to add new functions. The cloud/hosting firm does it for them. In fact many new tools, such as enterprise feedback management, are now generally only available in the cloud.
Not surprisingly, Frost & Sullivan is seeing more cloud/hosted solutions move upmarket, from small-midsized businesses or SMBs to enterprises. In turn, the solutions are becoming more customizable and they have the very high degree of reliability and security that larger companies are looking for.