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8 Ways to Take Your Contact Center Global With Cloud

Business is growing increasingly global, with geographical distances no longer resembling true barriers thanks to the rise of technologies like cloud computing. In a recent Enterprise Connect/No Jitter webinar (now available on demand), communications industry analyst Sheila McGee-Smith and Max Ball, 8x8 senior manager for contact center, explored this topic thoroughly, offering up eight ways to leverage the cloud to take your contact center global.

1. Manage Teams as a Single Unit
As the webinar kicked off, one of the first things that Sheila commented on was that it's not just Fortune 500 companies that are going global -- it's all businesses. As such, customer support for all businesses needs to extend beyond the contact center to channel partners, R&D labs, business process outsourcers, and manufacturing sites.

Looking at teams this way can help companies rise to the occasion to meet the 24x7 support expectations of the customer, said Sheila, who is founder of McGee-Smith Analytics.

2. Connect Customers on Channel of Choice
While making customer support available 24x7 is essential, Max commented that another trend accompanying this is the need to support a customer's preferred communications channel.

"Customers don't want to talk to me just on the phone anymore," Max said. "I've got chat. I've got email. A huge number of connections for help in the contact center originate from somebody surfing on the Web. So there's this challenge of what we like to call omnichannel. Can we actually manage the conversation with somebody, meet them on the channel that makes sense for them, and provide them with the information that they need?"

Customers see their interaction with a company as a single conversation, Max said. So businesses need a way to provide a consistent interface and consistent set of answers. CRM will help carry the context from one conversation to the next, providing a look at the full customer journey.

3. Utilize Regional Telephone Connections
Handling calls regionally makes for a better customer experience, Sheila said. Take a look at the mean opinion scores detailed in the below graphic.

portable

"What's interesting is the graphic on the right, which shows that as the one-way transmission time increases from near-zero to 250 milliseconds, which is a quarter of a second, and then to 500 milliseconds (half a second), we see a very steep decline in the call quality of the perceived voice connection -- that mean opinion score."

There will be some latency in any VoIP connection, Sheila noted. For example, there will be a 133-ms delay with a VoIP call from Boston to Geneva, Switzerland. However, the International Telecommunication Union recommends having a one-way delay of no more than 150ms for "good" voice quality. This is important to keep in mind, because when you are choosing a cloud provider for your contact center, you need to consider where that provider's data centers are located so you can more accurately predict the level of latency that will impact call quality and thus the overall customer experience.

4. Use Dashboards & Reports to Ensure Team Productivity
The average contact center works with 18 vendors, and sometimes with more than one system from each, Max said. That's a lot to keep track of, if you ask me!

It gets really hard to see productivity levels when your data is spread across different tools, Max said.

"The challenge here is, how am I going to make sense out of the customer experience, the performance of my agents, if all of my chat agents are on one tool, all my telephony agents are on another tool; I have another tool that's managing my workforce management; I have my CRM ... all those different things go into agent productivity. How do you create a sense of control to have an overview picture of that?"

You can bring all these things together into a single set of dashboards, Max said. You can also work to reduce the number of vendors.

Another component to consider is extending the customer journey outside of the contact center, whether that means connecting people to other experts or routing calls to executives in different departments. The management reports and dashboards you use should provide a look at the interactions that take place out of the direct contact center environment.

"You need ways to have insight beyond just what narrowly happens in the contact center out to when you're bringing an expert in, when you're getting some help, so that you can see the full customer journey and you can increase first-call resolution," he said.

5. Stay Agile to Respond to Changing Customer Needs
We've heard time and again how customer needs are constantly evolving, and a smart contact center understands the need to stay agile and adapt to these changes. Ways for contact centers to stay agile include adequately matching resources to needs, controlling their own systems, being able to scale up and down quickly, and enabling the management of agents working from any location, Max told us in the webinar, which 8x8 sponsored.

"What's critical here is being able to have control, to know the skills of your agents, to be able to manage their schedules to put them in places at the right time, and be able to have the routing intelligence to match customers to the person who can help them the most and get the right information to them," he said.

6. Reduce Security/Compliance Liability by Keeping Customer Data in the Cloud
Many IT managers argue against the cloud because of the perceived risks involved, but, as Sheila said, "there are going to be risks in the cloud and on-premises" no matter what. Private clouds, public clouds, and premised-based contact centers all have their own set of risks.

"Cloud is not the defining characteristic when it comes to the risk of security," Sheila said. "So then it comes down, in my mind, to, can your company afford to do advanced backup and restore capabilities to handle complex issues when they arise, to have dedicated professionals familiar with regulatory compliance and charged with keeping up with constant changes around the world like Sarbanes-Oxley, and HIPAA, and Gramm-Leach, and IRS, and PCI -- to me, that's where cloud starts making the difference."

Sharing these compliance and security responsibilities with a cloud application provider means that you have those assets available to your company, Sheila explained. You have dedicated trust advisors and more levels of backup and restore that any single company might be able to afford on its own.

As an example, Sheila pointed toward a success story with a company called Fishnet Security. Take a look at the slide below for a fuller snapshot, but the main takeaway from this example is that this is a company that exists entirely around security, yet has put its trust in the cloud with the adoption of 8x8's cloud contact center.

portable

7. Leverage CRM & ERP for Personalization
Getting from the Web to the contact center can often be an absolute fumble for the customer, Max said, but it is really important to make that process seamless.

iCruise.com is an example of a company that has really embraced the cloud and the value of building a relationship with the customer. Here is a snapshot of the company:

portable

People don't want to buy cruise trips from a machine, Max said. So personal interaction is key to iCruise's success. Beyond the initial trip sale, the company will continue communications with things like reach-out calls and messaging to customers that reinforce its awareness of the individual's full customer journey. For example, before a trip, iCruise might send out a bon voyage message, later following up with a welcome back communication.

By leveraging backend systems like CRM and ERP, companies will know the process involved in a successful customer journey and can take the appropriate steps to provide that, Max said.

8. Ensure Global Communications Serve the Customer Experience
Sheila concluded the webinar presentation by discussing how we can do a better job of identifying customer journeys.

"Some of this is obvious, but not implemented across the board," Sheila said. "A single system for self-service, for Internet-based chat, and for voice. How many contact centers today still have one system for their voice contact center, perhaps using an outsourcer for their Internet-based chat, perhaps using a carrier or other kind of service provider to provide their self-service via IVR? A single system across all of those means there is one version of the truth."

We could take this single-system concept one step further and extend it to unified communications to have one system that goes across the enterprise, Sheila said. This will make it possible to meet customer expectations when there is a need to reach out into the enterprise to get that "just-right resource."

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