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Why Cloud for the Contact Center? Here's Why

There are still a lot of skeptics when it comes to the value of the Cloud for communications applications and platforms--including me. I think there are a host of issues that, when enterprises actually engage with them, make the decision anything but straightforward, especially for large enterprises.

However, there's one area where the Cloud seems to be enjoying unambiguous success: Contact Center deployments. Interactive Intelligence is the poster child for Cloud Contact Centers, having been one of the early movers; the company's 2013 financials tell the tale:

* 2013 total orders up 30 percent year-over-year.
* Cloud-based orders for 2013 up 87 percent year-over-year.
* Cloud-based orders in 2013 were 50 percent of total orders, up from 35 percent in 2012.

We've been working with Art Schoeller of Forrester Research on some Webinars around Cloud and the Contact Center (our next one, focusing on Cloud and other trends for the small center, is a week from Wednesday; register here). Art presented some interesting numbers and perspectives in another webinar we held last week (replay here):

The Forrester data shows the various cloud models still gaining, with commensurate declines in premises models. Given that the survey base is enterprises with at least 50 seats in their contact center, it's maybe not surprising that the pace of growth for Cloud is steady but not fevered.

In the Enterprise Connect session that I wrote about in that previous post, I asked our panelists why the Contact Center seemed to be the one area of really rapid growth for Cloud Communications. Marty Parker suggested that it had to do with the obvious benefits for flexibility and peak load handling, as well as the fact that, "Their business as a contact center is customer service [not technology]. That's their core competency."

Art Schoeller, in our webinar last week, echoed this by pointing out a nuance to the way Contact Centers can look at Cloud infrastructure deployments. Enterprises have long had the option of outsourcing agent resources to deal with peak demand seasons or times, but they couldn't always be sure that the outsourcer, who might be on a different platform, used the same reporting as their in-house agents. The Cloud lets an enterprise put the outsourced agents on the same platform that its in-house agents use, giving managers more seamless visibility into overall metrics, Art noted.

Which speaks to the larger point of the technology benefits of the Cloud for the Contact Center. In our Enterprise Connect session, Dave Stein pointed out that the growth for Cloud has been in the mid-market space, where, "You get a heck of a lot more functionality for the dollar, for these cloud based services, than what you could buy yourself on your premise.

"Almost every [premises] vendor used to have 2 or 3 different levels of product, and to get to that level of all the features, you'd be writing a really big check."

Starting with the days of old-fashioned Computer-Telephony Integration (CTI), the contact center is where cutting-edge technologies and new models could find a payoff. It shouldn't be surprising to us that Cloud is finding its first business case there; whether it will ever move beyond the Contact Center at higher-than-Centrex penetration levels remains to be seen.

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