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Neldi Rautenbach Neldi Rautenbach

Online Customer Service

Heads For The Clouds

Neldi Rautenbach Neldi Rautenbach Thursday 7th April 2016
Moving to the cloud?

Boxes, boxes, more boxes, did I mention boxes? Filled to the brim with stuff… And bubble wrap, tape, scissors and lists… guess what I’ve been doing? I finally understand why they (whoever they are) say that moving house is one of the most stressful things to do. (And in my case, especially so when you discover that you might have a disorder when it comes to the accumulation of Christmas decorations - that could decorate at least a small forest - over the years.)

During this week, I have wished many times, that there was some app, or cloud-based space that could sort it all for me with the click of a button, magically sorting all my earthly belongings into neat little boxes until I need them. Wishful thinking, although it got me thinking about why so many businesses are apprehensive to move their online customer service offering to one central cloud-based solution.

Let’s face it, moving is about as fun as cleaning your face with sandpaper.

Technology has moved at a tremendous pace during the last twenty years. The nineties saw the birth and exponential growth of the World Wide Web – a technology which has inexorably reshaped industries around us.  With more customer interactions originating through online channels, businesses must adapt their customer service technology infrastructure to accommodate changing customer behaviour.

Additionally, cloud computing has taken the IT world by storm.  Almost all of us now keep some personal information in the cloud and businesses are following suit, citing convenience, cost, space and time as compelling factors which make them choose cloud solutions.  Increasingly, cloud computing pioneers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google are addressing and overcoming early security and stability concerns.   Customer Service has not been immune to the cloud revolution.  Increasingly, contact centre managers are choosing convenient cloud-hosted solutions for telephony, CRM and multi-channel customer service, moving away from legacy on-premise providers of such services.  Running your contact centre via the cloud can result in considerable cost savings because of reduced staffing requirements, maintenance and power consumption, as well as considerable gains in flexibility.

Choosing between on-premises or SaaS is a common problem in today's IT world, but there are many things to consider before making that decision.
In the ‘Age of the Customer’ businesses can no longer afford to be nostalgic as they will become irrelevant and perish. Many businesses don’t invest in new technology, as they mainly have two concerns:
  • “Legacy - will a new system work with our old one, won’t things get lost?”
  • “We’ve done it this way for so long, we really don’t have time to train people.”
Time to get a skip? Sometimes starting over - with technology that is fully integrated and in line with business goals - makes more sense than bolting another technology to a legacy product, that hasn’t adapted as customer behaviour changed.

Cloud-based, automatically updated technology that can adapt to incorporating new and emerging channels has been the key for many leading organisations to not only enhance their online customer service offering, but more importantly, to resolve the majority of customer enquiries quickly and efficiently.

When it comes to technology, most businesses want technologies that could improve operational efficiencies in today’s challenging marketplace. However, with so many channels and technologies to choose from, many are fearful of changing their online customer service delivery.

On-premise vendors often argue that over a five-year period, the infrastructure costs to support this system will have paid for itself. This argument should be questioned because software updates, new hardware additions, backup/recovery, support and the like, are all ongoing costs.

To be safe, you need to do the arithmetic on your own for the SaaS case and for the on-premises case, but to make it slightly easier, here is a list.

Moving lists
On-premises vendors often argue that over a five-year period, the infrastructure costs to support this system will have paid for itself. This argument should be questioned because software updates, new hardware additions, backup/recovery, and the like, are all ongoing costs.

To be safe, you need to do the arithmetic on your own for the SaaS case and for the on-premises case, but to make it slightly easier, here is a list. (Since I now like making them)

  SaaS (Cloud) On-Premise
Cost “Op-ex” Subscription based upon total amount of users or sessions. “Cap-ex” Up-front capital costs for hardware, software licensing, lab space, air conditioning, etc.
Customisation Customisation depends on software vendor. Somewhat customisable depending on software vendor
Hardware No hardware hosting costs – just PCs to access services. Customer must provide hardware and system platforms to run apps
Security Access to SaaS apps is via Internet. With banks and governments now using it, using the right vendor will pose minimal security risks Risk depends on security measures taken by the business.
Mobile access Accessible via browsers running on mobile devices Limited access to business applications via browsers running on mobile devices
Integration Integration with legacy systems depends on choosing the right vendor, but updates can be done instantly, remotely and automatically.  Cloud services tend to work well with other cloud services, using identity providers to automatically provision accounts and effect single sign-on.  Additionally, web services allow cloud services to export and import data effectively in real time. Integration with existing software is commonplace, however it is not as agile to update when compared to cloud-based systems.  On-premise systems may not interface well with new cloud services.  In fact, legacy on-premise systems may have limited internet connectivity and may rely on old-fashioned batch import of information to exchange data.
Control SaaS provider controls systems and is entrusted with customer data. Business controls systems and data.

Fragile – this side up
One of the main differences between on-premise and SaaS involves the customer-vendor relationship.

With an on-premise model, the vendor sells the customer a software license for the software and subsequent updates and upgrades and then disappears (unless the vendor comes around later asking for customer input on new features for the next release or asking the customer to be a beta site).

The relationship between a SaaS provider and a customer is ongoing from day one. Trust is of utmost importance when choosing a SaaS provider.

Security should be a priority especially when customers discuss personal, account, financial or sensitive information. And while a bulletproof solution to data protection might seem a bit ‘mission impossible,’ a SaaS vendor should have a security model for its SaaS operations and happy to provide proof of this.

When choosing a Saas vendor, security should be evident across multiple fronts. A Saas vendor’s security should be audited regularly by an external body, and a compliance program will confirm the status of information security in relation to the data a vendor provides.

Compliance certifications and regular penetration testing by an external body should ensure web chats, email and personal data are robustly protected from end-to-end, as well as at rest.

A cloud-based infrastructure should be secure, stable and reliable – especially so during peak times. 24/7 monitoring and a dedicated team to respond to incidents, full back ups, partitioned storage of data and a comprehensive business continuity plan should be in place.  Ask your potential vendors for these!

For best practice and guides on investing in the right multi-channel technology or the killer reasons why you might be doing it wrong, follow this link for a wealth of information.
cloudbasedcustomerservicetechnologyonlinechannelscloudsolutionscontactcentrecloudhostedmultichannelonpremiseSaasvendorinfrastructure