Contact centers are morphing into customer care centers — the heartbeat for many organizations’ interactions with customers or constituents.

“Customer care” means different things to different companies. But typically, a customer care center lets people communicate with an organization by phone, email, or web-based chat and instant messaging.

A looming question for many companies in this new digital era is, “Should we maintain our contact center on-premises or move it to the cloud?” Many companies are reluctant to go all out and migrate everything to the cloud.

When working with customers, I most often hear four specific concerns that account for the slow adoption of cloud-based contact centers:

Connectivity: The real-time nature of the work done by contact centers can affect a customer’s perception of a company or organization. Even a slight delay would be worrisome.

Back-end integration: Another hurdle that companies worry about is the integration of contact center applications with other enterprise systems, such as internal customer relationship management or sales databases. Linking from the cloud to those enterprise applications isn’t necessarily easy.

Real-time scale: Contact centers must provide services to thousands of customers, often with sudden peak loads. Organizations sometimes worry that an underpinning cloud infrastructure might not be flexible enough to address customer demands.

App flexibility: Moving to a cloud-based service could require using the provider’s call-recording software and workforce optimization and management solutions. That raises worries about whether a center’s data might not transfer over smoothly.

Despite these concerns, nearly every company now includes cloud as a desired platform in its call center solicitations. Perhaps more interesting is that most still wind up going with technology that resides on-premises.

I have found that companies with ancillary services used by their contact centers — such as knowledge management or workforce optimization — are making inroads into the cloud more swiftly than those with fully stand-alone services. This makes sense because, increasingly, manufacturers are offering cloud versions of tools that the larger organization adopts.

Best of Both Worlds

Because of these concerns, organizations should look to a hybrid approach that lets them gradually transition to the cloud. For instance, a center’s core infrastructure might remain in-house, while chat and IM capabilities become cloud services.

There are inherent benefits to being in the cloud. One, you don’t have to maintain an infrastructure; your cloud provider can tackle that. Two, you often won’t need a large technology staff because you won’t have to maintain that aforementioned infrastructure. Plus, hardware costs and cloud component costs will continue to drop, which means that subscription rates will also drop — letting you drive down your spending.

If you don’t have an overarching cloud vision within your company, it’s going to make it hard to move in that direction. The contact center will need to be in the vanguard then. But keep in mind that currently a lot of contact center software isn’t written for the cloud.

For all of these reasons, a hybrid approach makes sense. It’s the easiest way to start reducing that carbon footprint in your data center. And the hybrid approach means you can wade into cloud as opposed to jumping into the deep end.

Beyond the cloud, what about compliance issues and the contact center? Read how voice analytics can help in this related blog post.

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