If you have a contact center, small or large, chances are that you’ve already moved some of your customer care infrastructure to the cloud. It’s no longer a new trend; it’s an organizational standard.  Frost & Sullivan forecasts hosted contact center revenues to grow at 34.1% annually from 2009 through 2013. Why are companies moving customer care to the cloud?  In addition to the productivity boost from re-focusing IT staff on the core business, a move to the cloud provides big payback for IT organizations: a pay-as-you-use pricing model that eliminates CapEx spending, the ability to easily handle spiky service volumes, access to a variety of newer technologies, and supreme operational performance.

However, simply migrating new designs using the same old customer care paradigm negates so much of the value that the cloud has to offer.  It’s akin to being unexpectedly bumped from coach to first class by your airline and not taking advantage of every free convenience.  Imagine enjoying the larger more comfortable seat, but never stretching your legs, using the plush designer blanket, or indulging in the celebrity chef meal. Sure, that restful seat and quiet ambience improve the flight quite a bit.   But, if you don’t take advantage of other services available to you (order from the menu or ask for an amenities kit) you’re leaving a lot of the value behind.  And many of us don’t even know what amenities are available.  Did you know that some airlines offer turndown service, down bedding, 8-course tasting menus, skin care products, pajamas and slippers?  In a similar way, cloud-based customer service can include a long list of exciting features- all at your disposal if you choose to take advantage.  If you’ve grown accustomed to the confinement of delivering customer service via on premises technology, you may be unpracticed at stretching your legs and seeking innovative services.  But, you should grow to rely on these perks. Your service quality will improve significantly if you can adopt three new cloud delivery conventions.

  • First, learn about every feature and service that is available in the cloud; know what you don’t know. Ask detailed questions, even about features you don’t have aspirations to use. Too often organizations specify their known requirements without truly investigating the features and services that are available. The cloud just might provide a cost effective service that you haven’t contemplated. Mobile app support is a great example. Many customer service organizations could increase customer engagement with a mobile strategy that is integrated to their customer care strategy, but don’t have a formal requirement to seek out such a solution. Often mobile apps fall within the responsibility of the web or marketing teams. But, what if your cloud provider could offer pay-as-you-save integrated mobile support? Such a service can transform your customer care strategy. Security certifications and standards such as the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is another example of a service that many contact centers can’t cost justify when building their own solutions, but that is often available via the cloud. PCI includes the prevention, detection and appropriate reaction to security incidents. Being PCI certified dramatically enhances credit card data security. Using a cloud-based solution that includes the certification can reduce fraud costs, security cost, and allow new revenue sources because you can perform safer, more secure credit card transactions. Every feature can make a difference to your business. And, remember to assess them frequently. Making new features available is one of the foundational principles of the cloud.


  • Second, rely on your vendor for guidance. The service and value you get from your cloud provider should be much like the attention you get from the flight attendants in first class. Flight attendants are trained to proactively assess your needs and offer you appropriate amenities: a pair of slippers or warm beverage. Because of the pay-as-you-use model, cloud-vendors are prone to do the same, investing in your relationship and taking an active role in improving your business. For example, Nuance On Demand customers can rely on Nuance’s expertise with Speech, IVR, and contact center solutions. Nuance provides business consulting, detailed performance reviews with suggested improvements, tools, and even performance pricing models. As a result, Nuance On Demand customers can have a measurable self-service performance rate nearly 20% higher than that of other organizations in their market. If you already have a cloud service, start by setting up quarterly reviews to discuss your technical and business objectives. Share your plans and issues openly. If you’re shopping for a cloud-based solution, be sure to choose a vendor with demonstrated thought leadership and successes across their community of customers. Learn their philosophy on sharing knowledge and expertise and their history of helping current customers to improve their customer service.


  • And lastly, embrace the power of continuous improvement. Because consumers have more choices than ever before, you need to accelerate your timelines and stay a step ahead of the competition. The constantly evolving cloud can help in several ways. Because cloud vendors have immediate access to a mass repository of usage data, you’ll enjoy continuously improving performance. Speech is an example technology that benefits greatly from the richness of data that can be synthesized and incorporated back into the cloud. As callers use the speech cloud to pay a bill, find an ATM, or troubleshoot their cable box, their successes and failures can be analyzed immediately. Updates can be incorporated back into the cloud more quickly than with traditional on premises systems. Nuance’s last speech update improved performance by over 30%. One cloud customer automated nearly one million additional calls in 2010 due to improved speech recognition alone. Aside from the cost savings, that’s one million customers every year successfully completing their task by themselves, enjoying a positive customer service experience.

But there’s even more to continuous improvement than better performance and accuracy. To keep up with today’s consumers, you need to provide integrated services across several modalities such as voice, SMS, and mobile.  With the cloud, you can incorporate new technologies without making the big investment bets you’d have to make with on premises deployments. This gives you the freedom to try new things, to skip lengthy purchasing processes and to escape infrastructure estimations. And your customers will reward you for you efforts.  It’s shown that customers are more loyal to a business with higher quality customer service and the service options that are available how and when they want them.   According to a 2010 J.D. Power satisfaction study, 37 percent of customers who changed their banking relationship did so because of poor customer service.  Customers are more demanding than ever before.  With the continuous improvement of the cloud, your customer service can keep pace with rapidly evolving consumer sophistication, providing a foundation to measure, evolve, and modernize your customer service.

Whether your goal is to deploy new technologies, generate more revenue, or increase self-service to reduce cost, the cloud can help.  The key is to actively adopt a new customer care paradigm that incorporates all the value that the cloud has to offer: understand all available features, trust your vendor and rely on their expertise, and adopt continuous improvement.  Organizations that embrace all aspects of cloud are just one free upgrade away from providing first-class customer service.

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Dena Skrbina

About Dena Skrbina

This was a contributed post by Dena Skrbina. To see more content like this, visit the Customer experience section of our blog.