Getting Ahead of the Pack and Staying There
Posted: 6 December 2012

Last week I penned an article for the Rust Report discussing how consumer expectations and technology developments are having an impact on businesses.

 

Getting Ahead of the Pack and Staying There

News that consumer expectations have changed forever is not new. We know the customer of today is always connected and wants to be engaged consistently via multiple channels, whether that’s via social media, email, the contact centre or in-person.

What is new however is the level of visible consequence and the commercial impact of unhappy customers. It’s now increasingly common for major global brands to be publicly outed for delivering a sub-standard service experience. What’s more, the connected consumer can vote with their vocal collective feet and move to a new service provider in minutes. For businesses in Australia that is particularly concerning given recent American Express research found Australians are the unhappiest customers in the world.

To keep today’s connected customer happy organisations need to rethink their approach to the service experience. Traditional business models see the contact centre as a tool for cost reduction, while metrics within the contact centre focus on reducing call handling or conversation times. Although cost efficiency is still important it’s now just a hygiene factor. The real challenge lies in enhancing the customer service operation – by making it an agile and responsive unit that delivers an excellent service experience. Doing this might not seem straightforward but that’s where public cloud technology can play a pivotal role.

Not all Cloud is Public Cloud

Using customer contact centres as an example, it’s easy to identify where increased operational agility can bring multiple benefits to an organisation.  A recent Frost & Sullivan whitepaper highlighted how on-premise contact centre technology is struggling to meet the rapidly changing market demands in a cost effective and flexible manner.  Despite this, the on-premise model continues to be the predominant deployment model for contact centre solutions across the APAC region, and accounts for the majority of market revenues for contact centre solutions.

Given the flexibility and cost effectiveness of cloud-based contact centres why is this so?

In many instances, it’s because organisations are concerned about public cloud, and more specific issues of security and latency.  Or simply just fear of the unknown.

Even those organisations who have warmed toward the concept of cloud will often make a start by embracing private cloud so they can retain control over their IT infrastructure – an approach which often defeats the real objective of agility.  Private cloud lacks the defining attributes of a public cloud model, as it does not allow real-time access to all elements of an application without significant investment and does not enable true scalability of software or infrastructure.  Ultimately this model limits an organisation’s ability to rapidly adjust to customer demands.

Public cloud: Breaking down the barriers

In a recent public address in Sydney, Commonwealth Bank of Australia CIO Michael Harte commented on how executives are resisting the use of public cloud services due to concerns regarding data sovereignty, security and control.  These concerns, he suggested, have come about through the “garbage” that’s been fed to them by incumbent vendors.  Harte told an audience at Amazon’s Local Cloud Launch that Commonwealth Bank had already saved “tens of millions” and plans to save “hundreds of millions” in the near future by investing in public cloud.  Furthermore, Harte stated he didn’t think the Australia market was moving fast enough towards public cloud services and IT decision-makers needed to convince their boards of the value of public cloud solutions.

Harte’s comments ring true for many well-versed in the commercial benefits of public cloud. But it’s not just about cost savings.  A lesser-known benefit of a public cloud contact centre, for instance, is its ability to enable greater control and agility across the customer service experience.  With a public cloud contact centre, the people in charge of the service relationship can make changes to the options presented to callers or contact centre agent scripts within seconds, not days or weeks.  There is no need for 3rd party vendors or internal IT support. This advantage alone can help businesses keep customers happy and protect the bottom line.

Moving fast and staying ahead

Consumer expectations and technology developments are having an impact on businesses that are long-lasting and significant.  In many instances, businesses are on the back-foot and playing catch-up.  Playing catch-up is tricky however when you have incumbent technology in place that doesn’t deliver the flexibility required.  That’s certainly true in the contact centre world, where many organisations are using legacy technology that prevents them from quickly reacting to changes such as sudden peaks in caller demand.

In the coming years, consumers won’t consider the seamless multi-channel, any-time, any-where experience as ‘nice to have’.  It will be expected, and those that fail to deliver will be left behind.  To avoid being left behind forward-thinking enterprises are investing in cloud-based technology that underpins real-time responsiveness and business flexibility, while also improving cost effectiveness.  It’s an approach that brings with it huge benefits in terms of operational agility – something that’s essential for any business keen to get and stay ahead of the pack.