Cloud Services Raise the Bar on Customer Support
By Bob Violino
Cloud-based customer support is a rapidly growing option for companies that are looking to improve customer experience with technology solutions that are flexible and scalable. There's no shortage of service providers to choose from, but organizations need to consider a number of key factors when making a selection, according to a new report, "Cloud Customer Support Delivers High Value," from Constellation Research.
Among the factors organizations need to examine are the service provider's ability to offer a solution that improves current operations, supports emerging social and mobile channels, and delivers superior customer experience, says the report, which was written by Constellation vice president and principal analyst Elizabeth Herrell.
Consumers have redefined the customer service industry with new expectations for service delivery and interactions, the report says. The rapid growth of mobile devices gives customers the tools to receive a rich-media interactive experience when contacting a company for service and support.
They expect more than static one-way responses when contacting companies, and are looking for highly interactive information exchanges when reaching out for service. Many customers are fully embracing social channels, which provide options to share concerns and comments with their social network.
"Customer service organizations that rely primarily on live telephone support may be reluctant to expand support across these newer communication channels due to fears of upsetting existing customers," the report notes. "Unfortunately, this view is out of sync with real-world demands for a broader reach across multiple channels."
Businesses have a "major opportunity to move forward quickly to support the next-generation customer and effectively manage their customers' experience by considering cloud customer service solutions," the report says.
The cloud offers a path for companies to deploy advanced applications without making major outlays for capital expenditures, and it can speed deployments for applications and support-integrated solutions for social, mobile and online channels.
Cloud-based customer support offers potential benefits, but cost comparisons with premise-based solutions show they may not always be the lowest cost, the report says. There are many variables that determine if cloud customer support makes financial sense for an organization.
When building a cost model, companies should consider factors such as their current infrastructure and applications functionality and how much it costs to maintain; their ability to add new capabilities in the cloud while maintaining some applications on-premise; the cost of recruiting and training technical experts compared with tapping into experts at cloud solution providers; and the need to scale capacity up or down depending on demands for service.
Companies should consider a number of factors when determining which service provider is the right one to meet their customer service needs. These include cloud experience and company stability, security policies and service reliability, geographic redundancy, relationships with carriers, completeness of solution, and costs for scaling up and down.
Constellation recommends that organizations conduct an internal needs assessment, map the customer service strategy to the company's overall business goals, identify vendors with proven experiences, fully itemize options and costs, include hard-dollar and soft-dollar benefits in the analysis, and make vendor flexibility a requirement.