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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Contact Center and the Cloud

December 15, 2016 No Comments

Featured Interview by Jason Alley, Product Marketing Manager, Genesys

In the last decade, the cloud has enabled a revolution of new technologies that can be spun up and down on a moment’s notice at a low cost—driving a technology environment where software truly can “eat the world,” as Marc Andreesen famously stated. But not all software jumped on the cloud bandwagon in the first few years. Technologies that were complex, business-critical and integrated with unified communications and other traditionally on-premises systems are part of a more recent shift to cloud-hosted environments. Contact centers, crucial for businesses of all kinds to sell products, provide service and troubleshoot issues, have only recently come into the multi-tenant cloud world.

In this interview, Jason Alley, product marketing manager at Genesys, shares with IT Briefcase the changing landscape of customer experience and what role the cloud plays in it.

  • Q: The cloud has been around for over 10 years. Why is it that Contact Center-as-a-Service (CCaaS) has just now taken off as a cloud-based software?

A: Contact centers are a core gateway for customers to engage with a company, and businesses are aware that any disruption might impact overall customer service. For large enterprises, contact center software requires training hundreds of people, often in multiple locations, as well as integrations with dozens of other software and systems. Because of the inherent complexities and expense involved, enterprises are slow to shift their approach to this business-critical technology. It was only in 2015 that we saw industry analyst firm Gartner offer a Magic Quadrant report on CCaaS, something that only occurs once adoption is starting to happen.

While some companies opted to host their on-premises software in the cloud, contact center software had to be reimagined and rebuilt to truly take advantage of the opportunity that cloud computing offers: unlimited scale, unmatched resiliency, broad functionality and rapid, continuous innovation. Not all contact center vendors were willing to invest in this process and this caused innovation to lag behind other industries.

  • Q: What are the expectations for growth in this market?

A: Gartner projects that 50 percent of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations by 2018. One key reason is that by 2016, Gartner expected 89 percent of companies to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. With the contact center playing an integral role in the customer journey, it’s safe to say that significant resources will be directed towards upgrading contact center infrastructure in the coming years.

  • Q: What are some of the drivers changing demands in customer experience today?

A: Millennials are now the largest segment in the U.S. workforce, commanding $200 billion in spending power by 2017 and $10 trillion over their lifetimes. This group has very different (and higher) expectations for customer service. Unlike their Gen-X and the Baby Boomers predecessors, Millennials not only want to use whatever channel is convenient to contact a business (social media, email, phone, chat), but they are also more likely to engage in multiple modes of communication during the same interaction. An example might be an interaction that starts as a tweet to a brand’s Twitter account, progresses to a direct message from the brand to the customer, and evolves into an online chat on the brand’s website.

In addition, Millennials possess a DIY sensibility. As such, businesses are forced to explore new technologies that can help improve and accelerate customer experience like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (through chat bots) and virtual reality, to name a few. Consider a customer interaction where a connected device automatically sends a notification to the customer about a maintenance need, and the customer is able to handle it on their own through a quick chat with an agent that escalates into a demonstration powered by VR. This advanced capability requires contact center infrastructure that can support and keep pace with a wide variety of technologies.

  • Q: How does CCaaS help enterprises meet new expectations for customer experience?

A: By reimagining traditional contact center technology for a cloud era, customer experience can be improved through:

1. Personalizing service – because the cloud offers the ability to store massive amounts of customer data, agents have access to vital contextual information about the customer that enables them to deliver more personalized service.

2. Enabling a true omnichannel experience – the cloud eliminates walls that previously partitioned customer interactions by channel, so now even small organizations can give more consistent service no matter which channel the customer uses.

3. Predicting customer behavior – with advanced analytics such as machine learning applied to the massive store of information the cloud can now accommodate, organizations can now identify trends in customer behavior, which can be used to predict it.

  • Q: How will CCaaS impact the wider business landscape?

A: By hosting contact center infrastructure in the cloud, more sophisticated contact center technology will come into the reach of small and medium enterprises in a way that was not possible before. As more businesses take advantage of CCaaS, their ability to deliver customer support in all the channels their customers prefer will increase. Businesses small and large will also more quickly take advantage of new technology innovations based on the cloud’s ability to continuously deliver enhancements.

Jason Alley, Product Marketing Manager, Genesys

Jason Alley is a product marketing manager for Genesys with more than 20 years of experience in the technology field. His responsibilities include developing market requirements and go-to-market strategies for contact center, customer experience and cloud solutions. Prior to Genesys, he served in consulting roles at Vanguard Communications and SmartContact (a firm he founded), working with large enterprise contact center and supplier clients. Jason spent the early part of his career in sales, marketing and product management roles working for Aspect, Hipbone, Nortel and other technology companies. He received his bachelor’s degree in business economics from UCLA.

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