Hosted cloud computing solutions, and particularly IaaS clouds, can relieve organizations of the weight of traditional practices – the cumbersome, marginally effective operational functions which needed to be included in business plans without ever providing a high level of return on investment. One of the areas in which cloud computing can make serious inroads is the contact center, which is more important than ever to business vitality but which often hinges on several factors that can severely limit its efficiency and usefulness. In an age of social media, market saturation and expected immediacy, consumers expect that businesses will be available to offer meaningful assistance, provide solutions and return the value that the customer has placed in their brand. This expectation can even preempt actually using a business or a service, but by the same token, organizations have many more opportunities to make themselves attractive to potential consumers.

All of these factors mean that the call center is a crucial hub of business and consumer relationships, as well as a source of data and insight that keeps organizational and marketing strategies up to date and running smoothly. As with other critical business functions, enterprise cloud integration may be the answer to optimizing the contact center for the challenges of the 21st century. The cloud can create initial challenges for IT departments, but eventually enables them to leverage their expertise for more business-oriented pursuits and make more rapid, informed decisions. Unified Communications Strategies contributor Jon Arnold examined the correlations between the expectations placed on IT departments and contact centers in enterprise-class cloud computing.

"Both require close to 100 percent uptime and have limited capital availability," Arnold wrote. "Contact centers are also being expected to be a revenue generator rather than a straight up cost center. This means that agents must be more responsive and engaged with customers, and to do that they need state-of-the-art tools."

Continuity solutions
Maintaining business continuity is a crucial aspect of unified communications approaches, an area in which cloud computing can provide assistance. Where contact centers are concerned, Arnold wrote that the priority of contact center leaders and personnel is maximizing the effectiveness of customer interaction. Customers expect that contact centers will have access to their information in real-time and across channels and platforms, so that they won't have to repeat their information and issues at each step, for example. This sort of communications system can be easily implemented using IaaS clouds and big data analysis.

However, if a company tries to approach a more multichannel approach without the cloud, it could result in difficulty with integration and operational lag times, according to Arnold. Companies can ill afford to curb their sales and marketing strategies to resolve issues on the logistical end. There are also hidden benefits to cloud contact centers, according to the Aberdeen Group, including service scalability that grows as the company does and lower costs due to employee turnover, as employees require less time to master more consolidated business functions. Additionally, the survey found that companies using cloud computing were much more likely to update their services and software, ensuring that their contact centers are on the cutting edge of available technology.