In my last post I examined the reasons why companies are moving their contact centers to the cloud; I outlined the 3F’s: focus, flexibility and freedom. If you’re one of the many executives who have decided to make the leap and outsource your contact center infrastructure, the next step is to investigate service providers who offer contact center solutions in the cloud. Now, here’s where things can start to get confusing, and downright frustrating. If you’ve done even a cursory search for contact center in the cloud, you know that there are a variety of services offered under a number of different names: cloud based contact center, Communications as a Service (CaaS), Software as a service (SaaS), managed service, hosted contact center, and on demand contact center services.
Is there an agreed upon, industry wide set of definitions for the various service names? After many hours spent debating terms and definitions with industry pundits and colleagues alike, I can tell you most definitively, there is no consensus on the terms. What makes it even more challenging is that most people have their own unique understanding of the definitions. Most of the conversations I have with customers, colleagues and analysts go something like this “what X (insert your favorite term here), means to me is”…followed by their personal definition. The next person in the group will then define what that term means to them, and so on. I’ve spent far too much time in meetings listening to everyone sharing their own definitions.
To make matters worse, there is what I call “religious” differences: rabidly held beliefs on specific dogma that people refuse to budge an inch on. For example, some people believe that to be considered “true” SaaS, a system must be multi-tenant, and/or web browser based, with everything resident “in the cloud”, nothing on premise allowed. Others simply define SaaS in terms of the payment method: it must be monthly subscription (per person or per port for IVR), or transaction based (per minute or call), aka pay per use (PPU). Some people define a managed service as a solution that is owned by the customer, installed on the customer premise, but is managed by the provider. Others define a managed service as a solution running in the provider’s data center and/or network, managed by the provider, but owned outright by the customer. Others consider that a hosted solution. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you’ve gotten the point by now!
It really doesn’t have to be this difficult; and it shouldn’t be this confusing. The point is that you shouldn’t have to care what it’s called; you just want a contact center solution that is run by someone else who is an expert in the technology, so you can focus on making your customers happy. You only want to pay for what you are using, when you need it, out of your opex budget, and have the flexibility to scale up or down, quickly add new technology and capabilities like WFM or social media. You want to add or eliminate locations, at home agents or knowledge workers and ports, when you need to, and be able to do it quickly, without devoting a lot of resources to it. And you don’t want to have to fork over maintenance fees or deal with upgrades.
No matter what you call it, hosted, SaaS, on demand or cloud based contact center, your needs remain the same. In my next post, I’ll explore what to consider when you look for a service provider, regardless of what they call the service and technology.