Seizing Opportunities to Improve Infrastructure and Operations
Contact centers operated by the US federal government are stuck in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Literally, most of these centers still use wired PBXs and premises-based communications systems installed 20 or 30 years ago. They still segment communications channels and provide inefficient service for constituents. They also still require excessive IT budgets just for system maintenance, never mind updates.
Creating more headaches for contact center CIOs at the federal level are lengthy cycles for technology budgeting and procurement — the infamous government red tape. Even when components and vendor services are available for system upgrades, obtaining funding and resources can take months. Or years.
Given the mix of antiquated equipment, needed updates and IT spending control, federal initiatives are steering government contact centers and agencies toward cloud communications. These “Cloud First” policies are a good call, for several reasons. Reduced OpEx, CapEx, and overall spending on underutilized infrastructure. With a cloud solution, the service provider is responsible for managing and running the services being used, thus bearing much of the cost of doing business. This enables government entities to reduce OpEx and CapEx significantly.
Government IT chiefs also continue to reduce the federal IT energy footprint by moving communications and business missions to the cloud and shutting down older, underperforming data centers. Faster deployment.
Cloud communications solutions eliminate the need for assorted system hardware and facility infrastructure as a whole. For the government’s purposes, cloud solutions also largely eliminate the bureaucratic stages of procurement and certification that can slow deployment processes, making it feasible to deploy a new solution often in a matter of days. Once a cloud solution is implemented, provisioning, managing, and modifying it can be done in the same near-instantaneous manner.
Broad functionality from all-in-one suites. Cloud solutions for contact centers have trended toward integrated application suites supported on the cloud provider’s platform and developed to provide multichannel functionality “all-in-one.” Because applications are integrated for various channels and functions (voice, email, chat, routing, monitoring, reporting, and so forth), they can replace multisystem infrastructures entirely.
A common interface for administration also gives contact centers greater control of their own operations and the services they offer.
Open environment for integrations. With the cloud’s open environment, contact centers are able to integrate the cloud applications they use with business systems, business processes, and with apps for specific functions such as CRM, speech analytics, strategic resource planning, content management, and others. Particularly with the on-demand licensing structure of most cloud offerings, contact centers find it easier to fine tune applications, add new capabilities, and manage users, all with minimal IT involvement.
Increased flexibility and scalability. Workforce management and fluctuations in agent staffing are constant issues in virtually any contact center, and government centers are no different. Again using the cloud’s on-demand licensing approach, centers can scale agent counts up and back down quickly for monthly or seasonal spikes in interaction volumes, without overstaffing or understaffing. They can also expand agent sourcing with the cloud’s ability to support remote agents. Centers can just as flexibly activate cloud-based functionality as needed. (A reminder: whether scaling agent counts or adding new service capabilities, the center pays only for what they use and the period of time they use it.)
Increased agent utilization. With the integrated multichannel capability in most cloud solutions, a contact center can uniformly route calls, emails, chats, SMS texts, and so on to any available agent. Rather than segmented agent groups for various media, this “big pool” effect expands the number of available agents, including remote agents, to help reduce customer wait times and speed issue resolution. Of course, agents must still be skilled across channels and media types, since responding to customer emails and chats is different than interacting on a call. Historical and real-time reporting tools now offered in many cloud contact center solutions help centers increase agent utilization consistently and accurately to reduce overhead.
Adopted from the white paper, “Cloud Communications and the Federal Government: Opportunities to Seize,” by Abdo Rabad of Blue Kite Consultants and Mechele Herres of Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert).
Edited by Stefania Viscusi