Back in 1972, a singer and songwriter named Johnny Nash wrote and recorded a song called, “I Can See Clearly Now.” The song had a heavy reggae influence, which was not a surprise given Nash’s penchant for drawing from Bob Marley’s songwriting style. Nash and Marley had a longtime professional relationship prior to the release of “I Can See Clearly Now.”
While the song undoubtedly belonged in the reggae genre, it was embraced by a number of different audiences. By the end of 1972, the song had spent four weeks at the top of the adult contemporary charts in the U.S. Before the end of 1973, the song had also charted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian RPM Top Singles list. The song also did exceptionally well on easy listening lists in the U.S.
In 1993, reggae singer Jimmy Cliff recorded a cover of the song for the soundtrack to the movie “Cool Runnings,” and once again the song jumped to the top of the charts. Between 1993 and 1994, when the song was released as a single, the Jimmy Cliff version of the song reached No. 1 status in France and New Zealand, and reached No. 9 on adult contemporary charts in the U.S. and No. 18 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This was the first single of Cliff’s to make the Hot 100 in 25 years and is still his highest charting single in the U.S. market.
And speaking of the 1990s, this was the period when the cloud was the term used to refer to the public switched telephone network. I was working as an analyst at Dataquest during these years and have many memories of client meetings with the telecommunications cloud featured prominently in erasable marker on the whiteboards in the conference rooms, the basis of many fascinating discussions.
In about 2000, the “cloud” term was adopted by the software industry and the term “cloud computing” came into existence. Similar to Jimmy Cliff’s recording of Johnny Nash’s 20-year-old song, the technology “cloud” term gained a new lease on life. And similar to the surprise performance of Nash’s reggae song on a variety of non-reggae music charts, the cloud’s appearance in, and acceptance by, the global contact center industry has been no less noteworthy.
The early 2000s was also when the cloud found its way to the contact center industry. Viewed with skepticism by many at first, including yours truly, the concept of the cloud contact center has generated a great deal of interest in the industry. While the contact center industry is nothing like the software industry in its willingness to adopt and try new technologies and solutions, it is now keeping an open mind regarding the cloud and the contact center.
Since the beginning of this decade, there have been a number of cloud contact center introductions by several companies, including companies that exclusively offer cloud contact center solutions. So why does there appear to be so much uncertainty in the market today regarding the cloud contact center, its capabilities and its value to the customer service profession? The cloud is the cloud is the cloud, right?
Wrong. It turns out there are a number of different solutions on the market today that all call themselves “cloud contact center platforms,” but vary wildly on their approach to the cloud. I’ve come to realize that all cloud platforms are not created equal.
Against the backdrop of a radically evolving customer experience market that is redefining the way in which the customer service approach must be taken, the cloud is emerging as the platform of choice for enabling contact centers to react as appropriate. Today’s contact center must be able to move faster and respond more quickly to market shifts, unlike the call centers of the past whose function it was to lay low and not rock the boat. In today’s contact center industry, if you’re not out in front, you’re falling behind.
“The old contact center model of legacy infrastructure with upgrades every two to five years is no longer valid,” said Chris Bauserman, Vice President of Product Marketing at NICE inContact. “The world is moving too fast and an agile platform that can move and change as quickly as the market is a necessity. That’s why the cloud platform is the architecture of choice for contact centers moving away from transactional customer service and embracing the concept of the customer journey.”
Sounds reasonable to me. So, when is the cloud not the cloud?
According to NICE inContact’s Bauserman, “True cloud contact centers are built as cloud native platforms, not premises equipment that’s been moved to the cloud and offered at a monthly charge. The latter is often referred to as ‘cloud washing.’ In essence, it’s taking the expense and limitations of legacy solutions and moving them to a different place. You get all the same overhead and problems; it just shifts the overhead and problems from the premises to the cloud.”
According to research conducted this year by Saddletree Research in conjunction with the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at Middle Tennessee State University, the industry march to the cloud is in high gear. Nearly 50% of the U.S. contact center market has some cloud presence, with 14% of all contact centers relying 100% on the cloud for their industry presence.
There are a number of factors driving contact centers to the cloud, as illustrated in the graph. While disaster recovery still leads the list of factors propelling cloud adoption, it is clear that the industry has gained a solid understanding of the benefits of a true cloud contact center platform.
It is important remember that most of the factors driving cloud adoption as cited in the graph above are only provided by a cloud native platform. Cloud-washed contact center configurations will likely bring with them the shortcomings and management burdens associated with legacy premises solutions, essentially eliminating most of the benefits illustrated in the graph, among others.
“A true cloud native solution won’t box you in and will be open enough to allow the contact center to integrate and innovate in response to its customers’ needs,” Bauserman added. “Cloud native solutions support a seamless omnichannel experience, quickly adding the next new channel, for example, and providing a single consolidated interface for agents and supervisors to manage the experience across the customer journey. Also, having all applications in a single cloud platform will eliminate the need to rip-and-replace applications solutions as needs evolve and expand.”
I’ll admit, I was a bit of a skeptic when the cloud contact center first emerged a few years ago, but since then I’ve become a believer. I can see clearly now. The true cloud contact center is the future, and the cloud native platform is the road to the future.