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Customer service in the Cloud

Wholesale Cloud adoption may be a way off but customer service is prime for the Cloud treatment
IPscape CEO, Simon Burke

IPscape CEO, Simon Burke

At the Gartner Summit in Sydney in August, delegates were asked if they agreed with the premise that by 2016, 20 per cent of all businesses’ IT would be based in the Cloud. Roughly 70 per cent of the people at the Summit considered the statement to be accurate.

Depending on your own predictions on the take-up of Cloud and what your business’ IT looks like, that statistic is either quite surprising or completely underwhelming. But for once at least there’s some consensus on how Cloud is taking off, with all businesses now aware of the benefits it can deliver.

But where is that 20 per cent going to come from? Even big Cloud advocates are pragmatic and acknowledge that not all services are entirely appropriate for Cloud migration immediately. Instead of having a Cloud for Cloud’s sake, innovative CIOs are adopting a hybrid Cloud strategy by carefully analysing which Cloud applications will deliver the greatest ROI and the least business risk.

Across Asia, Australia is now leading the way for Cloud adoption with latest statistics highlighting that 43per cent of all businesses have now adopted some element of Cloud computing and 18per cent are using public Cloud services . However this leadership position may not continue. Developing Asia has a tradition of rapid new technology adoption and China’s multi-billion dollar investment in Cloud Technology Hubs with no internet filtering represents a strong commitment to leveraging Cloud.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) already makes up 81per cent of the almost $60 billion public Cloud market , and is forecast to represent 41per cent of all software spending by 2016. SaaS is definitely the most accessible form of Cloud computing and there are business processes and functions that can be easily moved to the Cloud with rapid benefits.

The customer experience is one key area that can gain significant benefit from a SaaS delivery model.

CRM systems from is probably the most obvious example, but we’re seeing a lot of organisations moving their entire customer service function into the Cloud and running very flexible, lean and feature rich contact centres ‘as a service’.

While it’s a clearly daunting step for many to move wholesale to the Cloud (not many can imagine a bank CIO switching off the mainframe and move to a completely hosted environment for instance) customer service is well suited to the Cloud. It provides the agility and real time responsiveness that customers are now demanding and which all businesses need to remain competitive.

Today’s consumer is the most educated, most technically savvy that our generation has ever seen. They don’t think about their relationship with brands as siloed channels and they have the ability to switch suppliers fast if they are unhappy. They are demanding consistent, high-quality, highly-efficient solutions delivered through multiple channels - whether that’s online, via social media, SMS or over the phone. These channels also need to be integrated to deliver an agile, smart mobile customer experience; so a customer can be in a web chat session with a sales agent, with a real-time link to the Cloud CRM and in parallel process a payment for a new policy or product via their mobile phone.

The Cloud makes experimentation with new innovative service models far easier, more cost effective and promotes better innovation. With hefty development and implementation costs associated with changes to on-premise systems, innovation can be stifled in legacy environments; take away the costs and risks and innovation can flourish in the Cloud.

Cloud based contact centres can easily integrate with Cloud based CRM and Cloud based social networks. Remote working becomes an easily achievable goal as the only requirement is an internet connection. Cloud can also integrate with other traditional technologies – which means businesses can deliver Cloud based customer service solutions for teams who need agility and speed, whilst maintaining more static operations on traditional platforms. And because much of the administration and hard work is done by the Cloud provider, the IT teams can focus on adding value to the business, not just providing tech support.

Looking to the future, it seems that the widespread adoption of Cloud in multiple areas in the IT environment is inevitable. Innovative CIOs who are already embracing Cloud solutions will have a much easier time integrating new technologies in the future, compared to those that are slow off mark.

Simon Burke is the CEO of IPscape

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More about: Gartner, Technology
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Vince Smith


What would be a more interesting question would be the proportion who expect to be "cloud-like". ie have the capabilities to be able to gain the benefits of cloud computing (virtualisation, application mobility, flex and scale) in their own datacentres, but be able to reach into greater clouds, and retrench again, according to business need or changing regulatory and market conditions. Mature clients want to see the benefits in their own datacentres, and this is now less about cost saving, and more about business agility.

The promise of the cloud is flexibility and efficiency, and adoption is being shaped by the degree of IT maturity, regulatory and legal frameworks, and most importantly the extent to which clients have effective business processes that allow them to run some workloads in the cloud and others deep within the firewall.

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