Contact Centers in 2014: The Year in Review and Outlook for 2015

What changes did 2014 bring to the contact center? This past year, workforce optimization and the cloud based model were priorities at many contact centers, as most of the major trends were related in one way or another to how these capabilities are delivered and utilized. Here are three significant developments from 2014 that should continue into 2015 and beyond.

1. Cloud Adoption

More contact centers made the switch to the cloud in 2014 than in any previous year.
Spending on cloud computing reached $100 billion this year, according to a CRN survey. It’s a trend that continued from 2012, and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, DMG Consulting projects that the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market will grow between 35-45% every year through 2015. There are a number reasons for this movement.

The cloud model offers all of the advantages of call recording, workforce management and workforce optimization without the upfront investment in hardware and software. System flexibility and ease of implementation are also benefits. And since all data is stored “in the cloud,” it can be accessed from the office, from home and from a mobile device. Those that make the transition have no regrets, according to the 2014-2015 Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Report. This is an independent survey that tracks end-user satisfaction with vendors, products, service, support, training and innovation. In 2014, 61.5% of all responses fell into the “highly satisfied” range, and 31.2% were “satisfied.” Factor in the 2.1% listed as “completely satisfied” and that adds up to a nearly 95% satisfaction rate.

2. Enterprise and the Cloud

The misconception that cloud computing is best suited only for small and medium-sized contact centers began to dissipate in 2014. More larger businesses discovered that the cloud is not only ready for the enterprise, it is also now the preferable option over traditional on-premise software. A recent survey of 1,000 IT professionals by Forrester Research found that they are turning to cloud products as a way to offload management of non-mission-critical applications such as WFO. A Gartner survey projects that nearly 50% of large enterprises will have hybrid cloud deployments by 2017.

Even traditional hardware firms are jumping on the cloud bandwagon. Hewlett-Packard recently announced it would spend $1 billion over the next two years to develop and offer cloud-computing services. The company’s most prominent competitors, IBM and Cisco, have also accelerated their cloud initiatives. The rapid rise and success of the Salesforce enterprise cloud ecosystem is further testament to the security, scalability and acceptance of cloud applications among the world’s largest corporations, including Coca Cola, Wells Fargo, Delta Airlines, Sprint and NBC Universal. The cloud offers many of the same benefits to contact centers of any size, among them flexibility, accessibility through any computer or device, cost savings, simplification of IT infrastructure, seamless integration with existing systems.

However, enterprise adoption has been impeded by concerns over scalability and security. This perception has started to change, as enterprise recognizes how cloud now offers a much higher grade of security than most internal IT departments. Network architecture is protected with firewalls and intrusion detection systems. Systems and applications are frequently tested to confirm adherence to industry-standard security requirements. Cloud providers also verify their security controls through third-party certifications such as ISO 27001 or ISO 27002, standards recognized globally as the most comprehensive framework for establishing security best practices. Scalability concerns were always somewhat baffling, since the ability to scale on demand is one of the most intrinsic and significant benefits of cloud computing. A cloud service tailored precisely to customer needs can be seamlessly integrated into the existing enterprise IT infrastructure.

Changes can be made quickly without business interruption, and overloading is never a concern as long as the system is managed properly. The same capability could not be accomplished through an on-premise solution without a significant investment of time and planning, as well as costly changes to existing IT systems. What may have been a concern for enterprise businesses is the question of whether applications, session information, uploads, data etc. can keep up in a scale-on-demand environment. However, with auto-scaling and scale-up capabilities, such issues have been resolved with current cloud-engineering techniques.

3. Unified Workforce Optimization

A contact center will always be more successful when all of its divisions and employees are working together toward the same goal.
There are a number of customer service metrics that must be monitored, and acted upon if there is an issue. However, the approach of analyzing these metrics irrespective of related issues or factors (the so-called “silo” approach) has fallen out of favor. Instead, more managers in 2014 began taking a more holistic view of the business, of how different teams impact these metrics, and how collaboration between teams provides a better means to improve results. For years this was easier said than done, as different divisions focused on different priorities, even though their main goals were usually the same – better customer service, improved efficiency, lower costs, etc.

Take workforce optimization. A contact center may have one manager in charge of forecasting and scheduling, executives who review recorded and monitored calls to gauge customer service, and others who set goals for the organization based on agent and customer feedback. Rather than take a siloed approach, where each system works independently without reciprocal operation with other divisions, WFO can provide easy access to call recording, performance management, analytics, workforce management and other cross-functional data, to help teams work more effectively on common objectives. And with a cloud delivery system, access is immediate regardless of employee location.

With the centralized administration provided by unified WFO, there is no need to devote additional time and budgeting to costly integration projects, which can be effective but may not be scheduled more than once a month, if that. Now managers can make more informed decisions and react more quickly to internal or external trends. Result? A more optimized call center performance.

Conclusion

What new business developments and technology trends will 2015 bring? No one can say for certain. But it’s probable that cloud adoption, enterprise cloud adoption and unified workforce optimization will continue to escalate in popularity and acceptance. Contact centers now considering whether such actions would be right for them are encouraged to not get left behind. If you want to see Cloud-based WFO in Action, please click the link to watch our on demand webinar.

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