The Call Center and Customer Management 2009 exhibition got under way today. With over two hundred vendors exhibiting, several parallel presentation and workshop sessions, this is the place to be in Europe for companies looking to find new applications for the contact center. The first thing that struck me as I arrived was the focus on hosted, or cloud-based solutions and the number of countries trying to tempt companies to outsource their center to their country. Both of which seem to be somewhat in contrast to my recent research findings that show that companies by far and away still prefer to source their systems as licences to use on-premise and the reducing trend for companies to outsource their call center.
However not surprisingly salesforce.com are here beating the drum loudest as to the benefits of moving to a cloud-based solution and they certainly have persuasive arguments as I set out in my recent blog – no hardware, no support staff, no annual maintenance fees and my colleague in a recent US launch of their new release that “salesforce.com Advances Customer Service in the Clouds”. All well and good but I regard it much more important as to what the service offers and how this will benefit companies, particularly those that are in the majority and have less than 50 seat centers. In this respect they were showing of another benefit of a cloud-based solution in that having only just launched service cloud back in the early summer, it is demonstrating Service Cloud Version 2. This takes ever more advantage of the Instranet acquisition, which now provides “knowledge in cloud” and increasing support for the integration of customer service and social media. Whether the whole phenomenon of people voicing the opinion and seeking answers to questions they perceive the company’s call center can’t answer becomes an ongoing process, it certainly exists today and being able to integrate these types of interactions into the end-to-end customer service process is something companies certainly should be considering.
However salesforce.com Service Cloud 2 is not the complete answer to anyone trying to create or replace their contact center. The applications certainly will help agents resolve interactions but there is still the question of how to manage what agent gets what interaction. The answer lies in a new partnership with NewVoiceMedia. It has developed a call routing application that sits in the cloud and has recently partnered with saleforce.com to provide a tightly integrated solution. Its application sits within the saleforce.com application and uses data that can be extracted from the main database, or indeed any other databases, to route calls based on just about any data source or combination thereof, adding what is increasingly a key capability for contact center managers. Even small/medium companies can therefore take advantage of what I call “smart routing” and based on input to NewVoiceMedia’s IVR application they can route calls to agent that knows the customer best, or knows most about the product the customer is inquiring about, or is best at closing sales. It application also includes call recoding so that recordings can automatically be attached to the customer record for subsequent retrieval when answer future customer interactions. And it is all cloud based so comes with the same advantages, especially proving smart routing at affordable prices.
These are just two high profile examples of vendors pushing applications and services out to the cloud. Many of the traditional contact center vendors are also showing how they are moving in this direction, so more to come.
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Richard Snow - VP & Research Director