Many cloud projects commence on the basis of cost — perhaps because the organisation wants to shift spending from capital expenditure to operating expenditure. Or because their analysis suggests they can lower total cost of ownership over time by renting IT services more cost-efficiently than they might otherwise buy them.
However, benefits that come with cloud computing — faster release cycles, tighter integration between systems and a more efficient way of allocating costs — soon feed into another critical advantage: they fuel innovation.
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Having handed over the responsibility for the purchase, maintenance, and operation of hardware, the organisation can turn its focus back to its core business of delivering greater products and services and improving customer experiences.
In contact centres that have adopted a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) infrastructure, one of the most interesting areas of innovation is in the field of artificial intelligence. As artificial intelligence applications have become more advanced and ubiquitous, they have been applied to different areas of the contact centre. Successful implementations drive productivity and enhance customer experience.
As an example, AI can handle a greater breadth of customer inquiries and more complex requests.
“The new applications are designed so that as an outcome of each customer inquiry, the system gathers information about the customer” and evolves with each interaction, NEC Account Director, Customer Engagement, Dale Ware says. “It’s true artificial intelligence, which it wasn’t in years gone by.”
According to Dr Catriona Wallace, Flamingo AI founder and Executive Director, “More than 30 per cent of contact centre interactions will be handled by AI within two years.”
Moving to the cloud and centralised databases also breaks open new opportunities in analytics.
On-premise installations are often hampered by siloed data — especially in environments with multiple vendors, which is typical in large enterprise IT departments. Big data analytics, on the other hand, is designed to be much more user-friendly and better at revealing how customers are actually behaving.
“The centralised store of data makes it much easier to analyse data for patterns. Voice biometrics is much easier to achieve and approve in terms of governance because the same system already holds all the voice recordings,” NICE Systems’ Managing Director Gerry Tucker says.
“Testing and trialling voice biometrics has worked for us, and it is going to work for our constituents and our stakeholders because that’s much easier to actually do.”
Another major advantage of a cloud-based system is the flexibility of service. Contact centre managers can switch analytics on and off for different modules. A centre could switch on analytics for workforce management for two or three months to study spikes in volume, or if the organisation is launching a new product or campaign.
“Cloud-based platforms are much easier to adjust for managers wanting to action any insights gained from analytics,” Ware says. “The ability to move the needle becomes easier. You can change your workforce planning schedules, add more capability around certain channels, or drive up interaction with self-service channels with a chatbot, for example.”
Managers can then close the loop by switching on analytics again to measure the improvements.
Take for example a marketing department that tightly integrates into the contact centre. Every time the organisation launches a marketing campaign it can switch on analytics to see the impact on the contact centre.
Rather than using analytics to diagnose problems with contact centres, progressive organisations are using it proactively.
“Very often in the past, analytics was almost like an afterthought,” Tucker says. “Now, when organisations launch a campaign they want to track that campaign and measure how well they are doing.” Marketers can then tweak campaigns to improve impact and ROI as they go.
Government agencies could use a similar strategy when rolling out new regulations such as Single Touch Payroll, he says.
Cloud-based systems are also much better-placed to innovate around delivering omnichannel experiences. While many on-premise installations are omnichannel in theory, they are hampered by managing data in multiple locations, applications, and formats.
Pulling the data into one screen for an agent to see during a call is much easier within one system. By extension, you can radically improve the experience of the customer by ensuring all their data, and their history, is readily available to help the agent answer their query.
About the author
Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit which produced the Cloud Migration and Contact Centre Solutions whitepaper for NEC. Corporate members such as NEC provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply.