Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Should You Take your IVR, and ACD Technology to the Cloud?

Today was a cloudy day for me. I woke up to feed my son early in the morning and watched Greg Gianforte of RightNow Technologies on Fox Business news talk about how well his company is performing in the market selling Customer Experience Cloud software. In addition, I stumbled across more material online as Facebook CIO Tim Campos said that 70% of his IT Infrastructure will be hosted in the Cloud, and Office Depot makes a strategic decision to host their entire Call Center infrastructure in the cloud.  So I decided to provide some insight to those companies considering taking the Cloud approach with their ACD (Automatic Call Distribution), IVR (Interactive Voice Response), and WFM (Workforce Management) software that power their call center operations.  There are some immediate benefits to doing this, but there are also some areas of consideration to review before you move everything to the cloud.  Below I review the benefits and cautions with moving your IVR, ACD, and WFM systems into the cloud.

Resource & Maintenance Benefits of The Cloud

In the call center we need to dig deeper to better understand these costs. When it comes to your Call Center's Automatic Distribution phone system, most call centers have a Telephony Manager, PBX Expert, Reporting Analysts, and Administrators or Developers who are assigned the task of configuring the systems that host your call routing technologies. When it comes to dealing with workforce management, you have a host of analysts, reporting resources, managers, and IT to maintain the Workforce Management Software. Let's not forget the Interactive Voice Response systems that often require Management, reporting resources, and 3rd Party Application support for developing applications to Self Serve on a company's phone system. The above areas (ACD, IVR, and Workforce Management) often are 3 distinct teams who handle the maintenance, and change management of the systems. Average sizes of resources to handle these areas often is between 5 and 100 resources depending on the size of your organization. Yes - I did say 100. I have been in global call centers for major Fortune 500 companies that have loads of people assigned to these technologies. With Cloud based ACD systems like Transera, or Contactual's Hosted Call Center software, you can be almost certain to reduce atleast 1/3rd of your resource costs for managing these technologies by reducing your amount of resources required for managing servers, paying software license fees, monitoring, and ensuring security.

Integration in The Cloud

Companies that decide to move their infrastructure to the cloud will also need to deal with the Integraton. At some point in your Call Center, you will want to integrate the ACD, IVR, CRM, Workforce Management, and CTI systems so that you have a full 360 view of all Call Center operations.  Moving to cloud technologies provide integration benefits out of the box as they are all leveraging the Internet to establish connectivity.  However, the vendors you select for these technologies will be very critical to the cost of  integration between systems. Most Cloud vendors are equipped with APIs to handle the integrations using Professional Services, but very few Cloud vendors are offering already established Connectors that customers can use or take advantage of to connect one system to another.  This is especially import in your CRM integrations.  In fact, I would look at what kind of CRM system you have and begin a quest to look for vendors that provide connectors for your CRM system.  Companies like Transera or Contactual offer Connectors for most major CRM systems.  These connecters take the pain of the Professional Services effort to integrate systems.  When looking to move your Call Center technology to the cloud, be sure to consider the vendors that have robust APIs or built in connectors designed for the technologies you are looking to integrate. Otherwise, your integration costs will sky rocket despite the savings in Hardware costs and resources.

In summary, the resource benefits within your call center operation alone may provide you significant cost benefit while improving the silos of proprietary and internal knowledge required within an organization to maintain these systems.  When picking a vendor who hosts call center technology in the cloud, be sure to equally consider the vendors ability to integrate with other systems.  This is often found in their Connector Product offering, or within their API where developers can seamlessly access data sets to pass on to other systems.  Will you consider moving these technologies into the cloud or not?

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