Anand Subramaniam, VP of Worldwide Marketing, eGain Corporation
Cloud-based technologies are experiencing rapid adoption in businesses of all sizes. Although within the last few years the term has changed – from “hosted” to “on-demand” to “SaaS” and now “cloud” – one thing that has not changed is the need; businesses want to deploy technologies quickly and easily whilst continuing to innovate rapidly, all the while reducing the need for hyperextended IT resources and upfront infrastructure investments. Cloud-based technologies address this need. In fact, enterprise adoption of the cloud has increased dramatically over the last few years, as cloud technologies have matured. According to Gartner, 35% of all new core customer service desktop application deployments and 60% of customer engagement software sales beyond the core desktop will be cloud-based in the second half of 2014.
Cloud for customer engagement
The customer has been “royalty” but with the power of social, the customer has become “Royalty” with a capital R. Businesses are no longer able to control customer conversations about their brand, which has propelled customer experience to the forefront as the only sustainable competitive differentiator. Smart, proactive and unified customer engagement across multiple touch points is what creates differentiated and delightful customer experience. Done right with a proven solution partner, cloud-based customer engagement technologies can enable businesses to deliver such experiences quickly and extend their competitive advantage through rapid and sustained innovation. Rather than focus on comparing the cloud approach to on-premise, this article will discuss what to look for in cloud-based customer engagement solutions.
What to look for in solutions
Does the vendor know cloud?
Many vendors have been “on-again, off-again” cloud providers, repeatedly failing to deliver their applications in the cloud. This is mainly due to the fact that their solutions had not been architected for the cloud to begin with. A key question therefore is how long has the vendor been delivering customer engagement applications in the cloud? Additionally, do they have client references?
Enterprises, while adopting the cloud in recent years, require mission-critical cloud capabilities in areas such as security, privacy, availability, and business continuity as well as the ability to integrate easily with existing cloud or on-premise systems. Requirements such as tenancy, up-time, disaster recovery, monitoring, industry certifications, multi-layered security, etc. should be considered and matched to business requirements.
Ease of adoption
Being able to provide cloud-based trial models like pilots or other options with no long-tem lock-in, where businesses are able to try before buying is also a key consideration. Such options enable businesses to innovate in the cloud, while minimising risk.
Cloud or not, functionality is of paramount importance since best-of-breed capabilities in customer engagement set businesses apart, boosting sales and service performance while enabling memorable customer experiences.
Vendors should have a track record of sustained innovation in customer engagement, and be able to offer advanced capabilities such as knowledge-enabled guided engagement, which takes customer self-service adoption, contact centre agent productivity and sales performance to new levels. A unified platform and rich app functionality, where customers are guided across touch points every step of the way with context continuity and smart help elevates the customer experience. Moreover, it’s important to make sure the provider offers digital engagement capabilities since today’s customers want to do more with the web, while also adopting mobile and social rapidly.
Having considered the functionality, the next concern is how the enterprise future-proofs its cloud deployment. Being able to deploy a cloud-based multichannel engagement platform that will allow enterprises to plug in new interaction channels and devices without creating new silos will go a long way to satisfying this requirement.
Beyond the technology requirements, today’s enterprise should also make sure that their vendor partner brings domain expertise in knowledge-enabled customer engagement such as engagement maturity models, engagement process design and best practices, as well as services for continuous improvement.
The need for speed in customer engagement innovation will only increase as the velocity of business continues to increase and new consumer technologies proliferate. Cloud-based customer engagement solutions can help speed up innovation and time-to-value.