Cloud-Based Call Centers: What, Why, When, Where, and How

By Wayne Scaggs

What is cloud-based anything? The cloud-based application is a newer concept that allows the use of an application without buying and installing software programs on your computer. You might think that you would never use a cloud-based application because it is on the Internet and you wonder if it is secure. Let’s start with something you know and use every day: email. I have a Gmail account and a Network Solutions email account, and guess what? They are both cloud-based. If you buy anything from Amazon or pay a bill online, you are using cloud-based applications. In a cloud-based call center, the servers are located in a data center, and you connect to the servers over the Internet or your own private connection.

Why are cloud-based call centers entering our industry? There are many reasons: business pressures, economics, staff, progress, technology, equipment cost, equipment maintenance, and peace of mind – take your pick. You know how to operate a call center. You have many years of experience, you deal with people 24/7 (both clients and employees), and you are good at it. How many people do you know who are good with people and good with sophisticated equipment?

When are cloud-based call centers going to be required? “Required” might be too strong a word to use. Instead, look at this as you would any other business decision. Does your competition have an advantage because they are operating a cloud-based call center? Are your costs rising? A cloud-based call center is a big step to take, so like any other major business decision, perform your due diligence. However, for economic reasons, most businesses in general will move to cloud-based services in order to stay competitive.

Where will cloud-based call centers operate? Cloud-based call centers will start out being located in bigger cities, although there are few restrictions as to where the call center can be located. Even more important is whether agents will be able to reliably connect to your center. Currently, within our own industry, we have call centers that appear to be seamless in their call handling. Do you really know which center answered your call? If you were transferred, did the call go the call go to the next room or the other side of the country?

Technology is exciting! When you call someone on their smart phone, are they next door or on the other side of the country? Your call center is even more sophisticated.

How will cloud-based call centers affect your business? A cloud-based call center is another tool for your business. It is an opportunity for whoever is able to take advantage of the technologies, economics, security requirements, and so on. Cloud-based call centers can be accomplished by moving your equipment to a professional data center with clean, reliable power, with UPS and generators, and with ample air-conditioning and bandwidth. You can lease space in their data center for your equipment. You connect into your equipment via the Internet, and you continue to maintain your equipment and business as you do now.

I grew up maintaining my own cars – changing the oil, doing tune-ups, replacing the battery, and so on. Today, cars have become so sophisticated that I call the auto club to change a tire; opening the hood has become foreign to me. Your call center equipment is no different. You may want it in your back room; however, when something goes wrong, it is like raising the hood of your car to change the timing belt; it is not so simple anymore. Some things are better left to the experts.

Wayne Scaggs is president of Alston Tascom, Inc., which offers premised-based and hosted contact center solutions.

[From Connection Magazine March 2013]