Using Cloud Computing Technology in Call Centers

Finding more cost effective and efficient ways of operating call centers while still providing a valuable customer experience is a constant priority for the industry.

Cloud computing is now emerging as a major possibility for the call center industry to maximise the potential of its operations.

The system, which allows for the sharing of information, software and data over the internet, removes some of the upfront costs of hardware, allowing centers to be set up faster and at a much lower cost.

Gartner predicts that worldwide the market for cloud computing services will surpass $68.3 billion (£44.6 billion) in 2010, a 16.6 percent increase on 2009. This figure is expected to reach $148.8 billion by 2014.

The communications industry was said to be already leveraging the cloud in significant volume, as is the public sector.

Ben Pring, research vice president at Gartner: "The financial turbulence of the last 18 months has meant every organisation has been scrutinising every expenditure.

"An IT solution that can deliver functionality less expensively and with more agility (remembering that time is money) is hard to ignore against this backdrop."

Benefits of the Cloud

Jonathan Grant, chief executive officer of NewVoiceMedia, highlighted on FreshBusinessThinking recently that the cloud will help businesses overcome some of the issues which have previously plagued call centers.

He stated that the cloud will remove the issue of the "central nature" of call center facilities that are"limited by restrictive on-premise technology that is slow, complicated and expensive to roll out across multiple sites."

"It also prevents companies from having access to the best skilled staff as traditionally it has made its workforce up from the local area", Grant added.

The expert said that the cloud would also help call centers evolve to deal with their changing role as many minor queries are now resolved online. The fewer calls that are received are now of a greater value to a business, as they are likely to surround more complex requests or concerns.

"Staff now need a broader skill base so they can provide the relevant advice quickly and efficiently rather than having to pass the customer to a colleague.

"The cloud now makes it possible for SMEs to choose employees because of their expertise rather than location," he highlighted.

Rights and Responsibilities

Call centers that deal with large volumes of personal and sensitive data are likely to be concerned about the storage of data in a more public space such as the cloud rather than in in-house networks.

Gartner established the Global IT Council for Cloud Services to deal with some of the issues relating to cloud-based services and created six rights and responsibilities for suppliers and users of cloud computing services to adhere to.

The council concluded that a user of such services has the right to retain ownership of and the right to use their own data. The provider must specify precisely what it is able to do with the data that is stored and agreement must be made as to if the provider goes out of business or is sold to another company to ensure that it retains the rights to its data.

Users also have the right to know which security processes the cloud provider follows.

Also included in the rights and responsibilities was the responsibility of the provider to report when it would be carrying out works that may affect the consumers' service, which is of particular relevance to a call center as downtime can badly impact on customer experience.

The guidance stated: "Protecting the consumer's business processes entails providing advanced notification of major upgrades or system changes, and granting the consumer some control over when it makes the switch."