The Contact Center Cloud: 2015 and Beyond
At the dawn of the 21st century, many of us wondered where all of the technological breakthroughs promised to us in science fiction over the past 100 years would finally arrive. While we still await for many of them, the new century did bring a new paradigm in IT delivery, that has been growing in popularity and acceptance ever since. Cloud computing arrived not a moment too soon, as the demands on data centers had already grown to near capacity with no sign of slowing down. By 2015, over 2.5 billion people with more than 10 billion devices will access the Internet. And they will all be able to connect with a cloud infrastructure requiring one billion virtual servers. The potential in this system for contact centers and other types of businesses was immediately apparent. Cloud computing represented a major sea change in the design, development and deployment of technology, through a pay-as-you-go business model that transformed the future of computing, even as it was already evolving through the emergence of mobile platforms. As 2015 approaches, it seemed like a good time to analyze the current state of cloud-based contact center solutions, and where they are headed next year – and beyond.
The seventh edition of the Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market Report, recently published by DMG Consulting, evaluated the performance of eight leading and contending cloud vendors. It found that the majority (61.5%) of satisfaction scores fell into the “highly satisfied” range for in all 12 major categories surveyed:
- System availability/up-time
- Professional services
- Ongoing service and support
- System upgrades
- Product innovation
- Responsiveness to product enhancement requests
- Product pricing
Overall satisfaction level In addition, 31.2% of the average ratings were in the satisfied range (3.0 to 3.95); 5.2% were in the somewhat satisfied range; and 2.1% were completely satisfied. These numbers suggest that end users are now comfortable and confident in leveraging a cloud solution in a contact center, and prefer this system to the traditional on-premise alternative.
From a user base of just 269,000 in 2008, the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market has picked up momentum year after year. According to DMG Consulting, seats grew by 12.8% in 2013. While that rate is down from the 32.5% jump in 2012, the slower adoption rate is actually a positive indicator of market maturity, as vendors are more accurately tracking sales. Escalating adoption rates point toward increasing awareness of the benefits of the cloud model, including increased flexibility in resource management, lower costs, easier access to upgrades, less burden on internal IT resources, and improved automation, scalability and operational efficiency.
Where We Are Now
DMG expects adoption of cloud-based contact center infrastructure solutions to continue, and predicts that the number of cloud-based seats will grow by 20% in 2014 and 2015, 18% in 2016 and 2017, and 16% in 2018. This is significant because of the nature of the change that is taking place. The switch from an on-premise solution to a cloud solution at a contact center is not the equivalent of a company switching from one hardware provider to another. Instead, this is a fundamental shift in IT services delivery, which can seem daunting to businesses that have utilized the same systems for decades. As DMG writes, “Never before have we witnessed an all-out rebirth of an entire industry due solely to a new delivery model.” Clearly, the promises of large gains in efficiency and flexibility have been big enough to overcome any misgivings. These developments are happening both in public clouds (deployed by Internet companies, hosting service providers and others) and private or enterprise clouds (deployed by enterprises behind a firewall for an organization’s internal use). The latter may be growing more rapidly given the increased acceptance of the cloud model by enterprise IT, as limitations in server capacity and network bandwidth would no longer be an issue.
2015 and Beyond
While the growth of cloud computing has been impressive, it has not yet reached its full potential. Customers will continue to demand more from cloud computing infrastructures and solutions, and the industry is already making strides toward overcoming challenges. One of these is the emergence of federated systems, in which communications, data and services can move more easily across cloud infrastructures. While contact centers can now move data between data centers, the industry should evolve to a point where data will securely scale into public and private clouds as needed, between service providers and to vendors, partners and clients. Improving efficiency is always a worthy goal, especially when it is generated from current infrastructure and processes. But as providers ramp up power, capacity and operations investments, it is also important to continue to make cloud use as simple as possible for the end contact center user. As systems tend to become more complex as they grow, this will certainly be a challenge in the years to come. Security is another vital area, especially in the movement of data outside of traditional physical boundaries. Privacy must be maintained, while maintaining the stability of applications as they are transferred into a cloud environment. The continued evolution of cloud computing will also require open standards for solutions, hardware, software, integration and processes.
The cloud has already made profound changes in the way contact centers interact with their customers. This is particularly true at smaller and midsized centers that had previously been unable to afford world-class technology. Today, any contact center regardless of size, location, budget or IT expertise can leverage the cloud’s array of benefits, including flexibility, scalability, ease of use and cost-savings. While the future of the cloud looks promising, evolving the infrastructure to realize its full potential will require cooperative development and specific focus by many providers and customers across the IT landscape. To learn more, please download our cloud software whitepaper.
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