How the Cloud Helps Businesses Set Up Professional Call Centres
An accessible call centre is essential to any growing business. Customer service expectations are higher than ever for timely and efficient responses to inquiries about products or services, billing and accounts, or to troubleshoot an issue. And though the growth of your operation likely requires some kind of contact centre solution to manage the increasing volume of calls and emails your business is experiencing, a traditional call centre set up may be out of reach for many businesses.
Marie-Josée Thompson, an expert in customer contact solutions at Bell, regularly works with growing businesses in need of an affordable and effective call centre solution. We consulted with her for insights into how contact centre technology has changed and given businesses affordable alternatives so they can benefit from the capabilities that were once reserved for large enterprises.
Look to the cloud to level the call centre playing field
In the traditional call centre model – where businesses invest in an on-premises solution – the costs could be substantial. There was the upfront capital cost of the telecom and server infrastructure that needed to be installed on-site, as well as the training of IT staff to manage the system. Then there were the ongoing operating costs to maintain and upgrade the system. This is reasonable for larger businesses that have IT support staff ready to attend to these tasks as part and parcel of their usual workload, but a smaller business usually doesn’t have such resources.
The cloud has disrupted this model. Thanks to cloud-based contact centre solutions, the barrier to entry is significantly reduced. These solutions often consist of feature-rich software applications that can be deployed easily to agents, and require only a monthly subscription fee. Here’s a simple checklist to prepare for adopting such a solution: a computer, a phone and an Internet connection.
“In some ways, the concept is so simple, many business owners and managers initially find it difficult to understand if they are only familiar with the traditional call centre model. But it’s not much different than the public cloud-based services many people use everyday,” said Thompson. “The cloud is an equalizer between what a smaller business can access versus a larger one. By sharing resources among other customers, you can get advanced functionality that would otherwise require a big investment for an on-premises solution.”
Avoiding capital costs and tech obsolescence
Older, on-premises call centre solutions generally afforded by small or mid-sized businesses usually only have a basic automatic call distributor (ACD), which manages and directs incoming calls based on call volumes and preset instructions.
More modern on-premises options feature sophisticated interactive voice response (IVR) technology and skills-based routing designed to match the needs of the caller to the most qualified agent available. These systems feature extensive reporting capabilities, call recording, and tools that identify ways to improve service and efficiency. Some even have call-back options so customers don’t have to wait until an agent is available.
But while an on-premises solution with some great features out of the box can be had at a moderate cost, Thompson points out that the burden of upkeep is still on the shoulders of the business’ IT staff.
“You still need the resources in house to service and manage the technology,” she said. “You may not get the same reliability and performance that you do from a single managed service and you will have to engage several service providers to resolve a problem.”
A managed call centre service delivered through the cloud, on the other hand, is a one stop shop. It can take advantage of advanced capabilities like IVR call routing and prioritization, multi-channel contact options (like email and chat), and reporting – all without having to worry about the high capital cost, technology becoming out of date, or the need for in-house IT staff.
A cloud-based service can also quickly scale up as your business grows, or when dealing with seasonal changes in call volume, as agents can be easily added and deployed. It can also empower your contact centre agents to work and respond to customer needs from anywhere they have an Internet connection – even when away from the office, via smartphone – providing even more flexibility than a traditional set-up
The true cost of on-premises solutions
When a business is already invested in an on-premises solution, Thompson often encounters situations where the leadership team thinks subscribing to a cloud-based managed service will cost more. Why? Because they don’t have a firm handle on the total cost of ownership (TCO) for their existing system.
“They don’t always look at the total hardware costs, licensing costs, total support infrastructure and people costs,” she said.
Thompson adds that there is also the amortized cost of that hardware investment to consider, and the need to purchase new technology regardless of how a business’ needs may change over time.
The bottom line
With the power of the cloud, all the benefits of a complex, on-premises contact centre solution can now be enjoyed by businesses that are still growing. You can expect robust features and functions, carrier-grade support, reasonable costs, and, most importantly, you can keep your customers happy while delivering bottom-line business benefits.
“All the pain smaller businesses experience when investing in an on-premises call centre solution disappears when you move into the cloud,” Thompson said.
Do you have questions about the call centre options available for your business? Let us know in the comments below.