cloudThe topology of the contact center has changed dramatically over the past two years in response to demands from Generation Mobile, who are also members of Generation Social. These are individuals who must be engaged on their own terms, using devices and talkpaths of their own choosing. They carry out communication at times of their choice over the Web through clicks, keystrokes or chat; over phones, via text, clicks or voice; or using tablets, laptops or other mobile devices via chat, tweets, likes or any means that keeps a conversation going for the duration of their personal journeys.

Great Expectations for Cloud-based Customer Engagement

The move to the cloud is lost on nobody. Synergy Research Group recently reported that global revenues for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings were over $2 billion in the first quarter of 2013. Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud-based business unit of Amazon.com, brought in $1.8 billion in 2012. Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, has entered the billion-dollar club as well.

Think of this as “YNIaaS” (You-Name-it as a Service). It is a phenomenon that is having a profound impact on both the communication and information infrastructures underlying contact centers, CRM and self-service resources. Given the highly personal and often private nature of customer communications, decision-makers used to look exclusively at premise-based solutions for customer care and customer relationship management. Whether it is the contact center manager, head of marketing or keeper of the “mobile customer experience”, those decision-makers now routinely look to the cloud for “as-a-service” options for mobile and multi-channel customer care. That has, in turn, fueled double-digit growth in spending for what Opus Research calls “The Conversational Cloud.”

So Many Options

Alternatives abound for enterprise customers looking for cloud-based solutions to customer engagement challenges. Support has expanded online, morphing once-static Web pages into dynamic, fast-changing sites that often feature chatbots and support marketing, social feedback and e-commerce. The growth of the Web has made companies of all sizes comfortable using resources hosted in third-party data centers to support mission-critical activities involved in marketing, sales and support of their products and services.

Self-service and contact center operations followed a similar pattern to the Web. Static menus and routing tables have been replaced by speech-recognition systems closely mated to resources that support natural language understanding (NLU), analytical engines that apply pattern recognition to the task of recognizing – or even anticipating – a customer’s intent, and an aggregation of data from CRM systems and other sources to make interactions highly personal and interactions highly task-oriented.

These days enterprise decision-makers justify their move to the Conversational Cloud for reasons that are closely linked with revenue enhancement and competitive factors. Most important is to provide a customer experience that is consistently good across multiple channels – supporting the end-to-end customer journey. They know that efforts to acquire new customers and retain existing ones span search engines, Web sites and social networks, as well as the tried-and-true IVRs and contact centers.

In industries like travel and hospitality, financial services, communications/entertainment and healthcare/insurance, many recognize that their most innovative competitors are already making their marketing and support efforts conversational and multi-channel. That’s the Conversational Cloud imperative.

Learn more new requirements for cloud-based contact center offerings in our Webinar replay: Beyond the Checklist: Top 10 Capabilities to look for in Cloud Contact Centers.