The cost savings and scalability of cloud-based solutions are well understood, particularly in high-volume customer-care environments where irregular fluctuations make scale a constant challenge. Yet as cloud platforms continue to evolve, businesses are finding that more-flexible architectures are enabling the rapid development and deployment of cutting-edge functionality that is reinventing the customer-care experience.
Modernisation of IT infrastructure has become an urgent issue as businesses work to respond to changes in the way customers want to interact with them. One recent Ovum survey found that 75 percent of surveyed organisations were planning to invest in IT infrastructure modernisation, with 67 percent aware that failure to do so could lead to revenue loss, among other consequences.
While revisiting a legacy infrastructure may seem like a daunting task, businesses that make the jump are finding that the increased flexibility built into cloud architectures is paying off in real business terms.
Cloud platforms' reliance on application programming interfaces (APIs), for example, reduce the technological lock-in from proprietary computer-telephony integration (CTI) technologies that have made it difficult to integrate third-party services into the customer contact centre platform. Little wonder that 64 percent of the businesses Ovum surveyed said they would be using APIs within 2 to 3 years to fix integration issues and improve the customer experience.
Businesses “say they want to improve their customer management,” says Stephen Irecki, Head of Solutions Engineering- J/ANZ with Interactive Intelligence, “and if that means spending less on the underlying platforms or changing the way they work as a business, that's the main thing. They want to change how they improve and engage their customers; get better NPS scores; and make sure that their business is improving from a customer perspective.”
The desire to deliver that better customer experience was a key factor in Interactive Intelligence's decision to rebuild its mature, widely-used customer care platform as a cloud-based platform, called PureCloud, that leverages open standards to help businesses link existing and emerging services for their customers.
Among its many benefits, the intrinsic Web-based design of modern cloud solutions meant that the PureCloud interface easily scales across conventional desktops and mobile devices with ease.
Given the ongoing explosion in mobile business application usage, and the fact that customers now expect businesses to interact with them via mobile, this functionality is particularly important for customer-facing organisations that want to use the cloud to get a handle on their customer-service processes.
“It's all about self enabling the customer,” Irecki says. “From a cloud perspective things can be turned on and off in a matter of seconds, and it's much easier and more intuitive for customers to do that themselves these days. They are self enabled and can make decisions to turn on or off functionality whenever they wish, without having to engage the vendor.”
This flexibility is the direct result of the decision to build PureCloud using a 'microservices' architecture that foregoes old monolithic designs with an aggregation of small, purpose-built services that each handle a different function.
Microservices operate independently of each other, coordinate their activities via API, and monitor themselves so they can detect any problems and self-heal in the event of a failure. As soon as a new microservice is switched on, it becomes available to customers and whenever it is updated they can immediately take advantage of the new features.
Taken as a whole, microservice-based cloud applications facilitate the creation of an infrastructure that is more reliable, scalable and redundant than ever before. “The ability to have these microservice-based applications loosely coupled and horizontally scaled, and also to have continuous delivery of new features, is a massive improvement in the applications world,” Irecki says.
“From a support perspective there is really very little involvement from vendors anymore because these services self heal,” he adds. “Because it's sitting on a cloud platform that is automatically replicated across multiple data centres, it provides built-in redundancy and resilience. These microservices underpin everything we do.”
As the basis for services such as the PureCloud Engage customer-service platform, PureCloud Communicate unified-communications and PureCloud Collaborate collaboration tools, the microservices architecture has kick-started innovation in service delivery by enabling customer service representatives (CSRs) to rapidly jump between different customer contact channels.
A customer request for technical support might, for example, begin when a customer tweets a complaint about a problem they are having. The CSR could forward the customer a link to an online Web chat, which is escalated to an on-call support technician – who first initiates a video call with the customer from his smartphone, then uses a remote-support microservice to access the customer desktop and resolve the issue remotely.
Because of the tight integration in the cloud platform, customer credentials and details from the expanding trouble ticket would flow automatically between services to ensure that customers never have to re-enter their details. The customer's problem would be resolved quickly, efficiently and with smooth handoff between the various functional elements of the platform.
This sort of interaction is becoming increasingly critical for businesses that want to meet the ever-increasing expectations of customers whose access to mobile services anywhere, any time has made them extremely intolerant of technological obstacles that prevent them from accessing the support they need.
Building customer-care capabilities on a cloud-based platform also offers significant improvements in information security, since the platform controls access to customer information and protection of that information – for example, through end-to-end encryption – at every point in its lifecycle.
Although some businesses have been apprehensive about the security of cloud services – fearing their lack of control over the infrastructure – cloud-services providers are in fact often providing better security technologies, and auditable compliance with security standards, than most companies could ever deliver onsite. Indeed, a recent Gartner analysis concluded that by 2018, improved security will have become the main reason that government agencies would move to cloud services.
For businesses that expect to not only remain relevant but to grow in the long term, reworking their online presence presents a significant business imperative – and a significant business opportunity. Interoperability, reliability, security, and flexibility can all be improved dramatically by making the shift to modern application infrastructure. And as businesses make that move, the attendant improvements in customer service will quickly make it clear why the cloud has emerged as the future of the contact centre.
Rethink your cloud contact centre with PureCloud Engage
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