My previous blog post examined the business case for having a contact center based on the needs of vertical markets: more specifically, vertical scenarios that normally don’t have a contact center, but do have ongoing customer-facing engagement among everyday office staff. While technology is certainly a factor in the analysis—especially when introducing the CCaaS option—this is very much about how the business thinks about customer engagement. I’ll be exploring this theme often in upcoming posts, along with how cloud-based solutions provide new options that can help change that thinking.
For this post, I’ll continue on the CCaaS theme—contact center as a service—particularly focusing on businesses that don’t currently have a contact center. Having one essentially goes hand-in-hand with being customer-centric, but clearly, not all businesses have come around to that way of thinking. Fortunately, that is changing, and as competition becomes ever more persistent, there really won’t be a choice, and that’s good news for contact center providers.
Until that time is reached, many of the barriers to having a contact center remain in place, and I’m going to briefly touch on five that will likely be familiar. Following that, I’ll explain how CCaaS overcomes these, and with that, those new options open up, not just to improve customer engagement, but to enable all your employees to communicate more effectively.
1) Capex investment
Contact center systems have long been premise based, and while shifting more from hardware to software, they’re still capital intensive. Getting Capex funding for any form of technology is increasingly a challenge, especially with the pace of change. There’s just too much risk with long-term investments now, and that’s a real obstacle for businesses that want a contact center but only think in legacy terms.
Contact center technology has always been complex and is even more so today given the need to integrate with CRM and to provide real-time agent performance metrics for supervisors. Aside from that, customer expectations are higher, especially in terms of how they’ve already mastered the technologies that add complexity to the contact center. As the demands on IT keep growing, complex initiatives like contact centers tend to drop on the priority list.
3) Costly to manage
Aside from the high cost of entry, the ongoing costs present another adoption barrier. This is more of an Opex issue, and a key limitation of legacy systems is their lack of flexibility. Call volumes can be highly variable, and with labor being a major cost factor, there is little cost certainty for everyday operations. Matching up staffing and seat licenses with the cycles of customer activity is a fundamental challenge, and one that often leads to overspending. This isn’t a good long-term model, and it’s easy to see why it can be a holdback for businesses struggling with cash flow.
4) Small-scale of customer base
Another reality posed by legacy systems is scale. As with PBXs, they are built for a certain level of need where the capital cost makes them prohibitively expensive for smaller businesses. Most contact centers are brick-and-mortar operations where the economics require a good-sized customer base. As such, this holdback is especially relevant for SMBs, and so long as these systems don’t scale down to their needs, they will continue to be underserved by contact center providers.
5) Benefit not clear cut
Clearly, this applies to businesses that aren’t customer-centric, but there’s more to consider. Some sectors are highly regulated where competition is limited, and others are mature where customer relationships are deeply entrenched, along with high switching costs. Another scenario would be cases where a contact center was in place, but for whatever reason, it was taken out. Any of the above holdbacks would be good reason, along with the simple fact that the operation simply didn’t deliver better customer satisfaction levels. That’s the ultimate payoff, and, based on industry trends, it’s clear that many businesses are not getting the desired results.
With CCaaS, yes, you can
If you took all these holdbacks at face value, most businesses would not have a contact center. While legacy systems are widely deployed, the shortcomings are well understood, and they certainly keep many others from going down this path. For any business that seeks to become—or become more—customer-centric, a contact center is table stakes, and the core issue becomes one of determining the best deployment model.
With CCaaS being a relatively new option, awareness isn’t high, and that’s why I’m writing this post. The cloud continues to gain adoption across a growing range of business applications, and the contact center is now in that camp. As a starting point, the hosted model removes the Capex hold-back, and being a subscription service, the ongoing costs are easier to predict. Additionally, the scalability is far more flexible than with a premise-based system, making this a practical option for SMBs. Scalability also makes it easier to adapt to changing demand cycles and brings more cost certainty into the operation. CCaaS will also appeal to IT by removing the inherent complexity from their workload and having that managed by the cloud provider.
Ultimately, CCaaS breaks down all these barriers and allows businesses to think differently about what’s possible. Not only does this provide a new option for considering or reconsidering a contact center, but it also opens up the field in terms of providers to partner with. When thinking about being customer-centric, businesses need to enable all employees with UC capabilities, not just agents. In this regard, your decision about a CCaaS partner will be tied to having deep UC integration, and that may well take you beyond the conventional circle of vendors. If you’re ready for “yes, you can,” then you’re in the right place now to learn how, and I hope you’ll stay here for my upcoming posts.
Originally published Feb 27, 2017, updated Aug 27, 2020