- Is your customer support team having a hard time transitioning to work-from-home in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Have you recently suffered a setback due to server crashes that resulted in unhappy customers?
- Are you looking for ways to lean out your IT budget so you can spend more money on actually supporting your customers?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it may be time to switch your customer service platform and move to the cloud.
Cloud computing offers plenty of benefits for support teams. Its price, flexibility, and security, when compared to less modern on-premises software, is unbeatable.
What is cloud computing for customer support?
“The cloud” may seem like an abstract, nebulous concept, but cloud computing is actually pretty straightforward.
All the tech equipment you might normally picture crammed into an office IT closet—servers, databases, RAM, and software—are delivered remotely over the internet instead. Cloud computing is a popular and rapidly growing trend in enterprise businesses. As of 2020, 93 percent of enterprise businesses have a multi-cloud strategy, utilizing both public and private clouds, and 20 percent of all enterprises spend over $12 million a year on cloud computing.
In terms of customer support, cloud computing uses customer service (CS) and contact center software that is hosted online and downloaded from the internet. This means there’s no physical software to purchase or updates that have to be made to each individual computer—and IT can take a break when it comes to setting up new systems.
The cloud-based model means that companies don’t have to worry about maintaining their own on-premises servers, which are expensive to store, power, and maintain. At a time when customer service teams are embracing remote work, it just doesn’t make sense to have software based in a single physical location. The only hardware you need for cloud computing is an internet connection, and laptop or device on which to access the software.
Cloud vs. on-premises software
Cloud-based customer service software and on-premises software differ in more ways than where information is stored. The software is fundamentally managed and maintained differently, which incurs different costs and cost-savings.
Traditional on-premises software is usually managed internally by your company’s own IT employees or dedicated admins within a particular organization. The software you purchase and use is physical (on a jump drive or CD), and is manually installed and set up on each computer by trained tech staff. The program is routed through a server, usually placed locally in your building. All database information is stored there, and all signals run through that same location. This means your servers run on your company’s power grid.
By contrast, in the cloud-based model, software providers handle much of the maintenance for their products. Internal employees don’t have to worry about things like server allocations or security patches, and can focus on things like provisioning new employees, and handling integrations between different programs.
Why move customer service to the cloud?
Compared to legacy on-premises options, cloud computing offers the flexibility of remote access, a much larger storage range, and incredible cost savings. In the case of customer support, these benefits not only help your business, but make for a better customer experience.
One of the most obvious benefits of cloud-based software is that it’s remote. This flexibility is critical to good customer service. It allows you to find the best-trained staff, set them up in strategic locations to reach your customers, and have them available for around-the-clock support.
Source talented staff. Since your software is remote, it’s available anywhere. That means your hiring pool doesn’t have to be limited to the geographic space around your office. Instead, cloud computing means you can hire the very best support professionals, no matter where in the world they log on from. This freedom to hire from anywhere also gives your company the opportunity for increased diversity. In support, having a unique group of support staff from different cultures, backgrounds, and regional areas helps you create a more personalized experience for your customers.
The cloud-based model also lets you quickly expand your customer support team during spikes in demand. There are customer service staffing sites with remote support specialists who are fully trained in the most common cloud-based customer service platforms. So during a seasonal spike, for example, you can enlist one of these companies to lend their specialists with minimal onboarding required.
Easy transition to remote work. The flexibility of cloud-based CS platforms means transitioning from working in a physical call center to working from home is easy. All you have to do is pick up your laptop, find a quiet spot and an internet connection, and log on. That mobility is especially important right now with the pandemic—stay-at-home orders make this flexibility critical to keep support operations running as normally as possible for customers.
Hire for round-the-clock support. Remote systems give you the freedom to hire staff in different time zones. That makes full-time customer support availability more feasible. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends report found that the second-highest characteristic of good customer service is 24/7 support, so this full-time customer service is something your buyers are looking for.
Another huge benefit of cloud computing is the cost savings. Think of all the moving pieces you have to pay for with traditional on-premises that aren’t necessary with cloud-based solutions. But with cloud software, you only pay the licensing fee, which is determined either per individual user, or on a tiered scale depending on the size of your organization.
Shrink your on-site budget. With the cloud, you no longer need as large of an on-site IT staff specifically to maintain servers, and manually set up and update computers. While this doesn’t eliminate the need for an IT team, it does allow your business more flexibility to resource the team in other ways and to solve more complex problems. Many cloud computing softwares are so simple to download and set up that they can be handled by most members of an organization, with only general IT oversight. Of course, less hardware leads to a much smaller footprint in terms of space and waste.
Save money on utilities. Once you’ve moved to the cloud, you can consider hybrid workforce models, with agents remote and onsite, reducing contact center overhead. Physical space incurs a lot of less visible costs, aside from rent, including desks and office furniture, and utilities —especially the electric and A/C needed to keep your machinery cool.
There's a lot of factors that go into the overall cost of cloud vs. on-prem, but the common consensus is that the cloud is always cheaper. If you want a more in-depth comparison of costs, check out this article. In the meantime, here are some places cloud-based customer software could save you money vs. on-prem.
If you’ve ever dealt with the headache of a building-wide server crash, you know why reliability matters. This is even more important in customer service, where the impact isn’t just internal—there’s a good chance you're helping a customer with an issue.
Guaranteed uptime. Cloud-based software is more reliable because it isn’t dependent on your building’s power. All cloud-run programs are hosted on massive international servers custom-built to handle the weight of many companies’ platforms. And because the uptime is one of the benefits you’re paying for, many cloud computing providers offer a service guarantee, where if you experience any sort of downtime, you’ll get a credit on your account.
Less vulnerable. The cloud is also more reliable because there aren’t physical vulnerabilities in the system. Since most on-prem systems have all their IT and data stored together in a single location, it’s often necessary to prepare or purchase back-up solutions in the event of an accident or natural disaster that can take your systems down.
Less glitchy. Finally, you’re less likely to experience bugs or glitches with the cloud, since software and security updates can be pushed and auto-installed on every computer remotely. Running the newest software versions decreases the likelihood of crashes, and having no physical server makes it harder for hackers to breach your systems. Unlike on-site IT departments, lots of cloud computing companies also offer 24/7 security monitoring and instant support in the event of some sort of security issue.
Cloud computing makes these issues irrelevant, and keeps you online helping your customers more than on-prem. And our Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021 found that the top characteristic of good customer service is fast resolution. Your ability to deliver that depends almost entirely on the reliability of your software and systems.
How to move your customer support off-premises
It might be that cloud computing sounds great, but sometimes the roadblock is figuring how or where to begin. Especially when you need to sell the idea to superiors. Overall, you need to research your cloud options for customer service (or other functions), get your leadership to buy into the transition, and closely monitor your team after the move.
Research the contact solution market
The first step in migrating your customer support online is to research the market to see what cloud-based customer service platforms are available.
Make a list of features you’d like your ideal cloud CS platform to have. Consider what’s missing from your current platform that’s inspired you to make a change. Maybe you’ve had trouble with a clunky onboarding experience in the past, and you’re looking for a solution that’s “download-and-go.” Or maybe you want a platform with a more agile, scalable pricing structure. Check out this article for more considerations of what to look for.
Pick a few top choices based on your research and needs to present to company leadership. Think of this like choosing a college: Choose a “fit,” a “safety,” and a “reach" option to give your leadership a range of prices and features.
When making your short list, spend the time necessary to only give leadership good choices. Don’t just make a list of all the options and expect them to choose, but make sure you can make an argument for each platform. Aim to offer between 2 and 3 solutions.
Get buy-in from leadership
Once you’ve got an idea of what you’d like in a cloud-based customer service platform, you need to get buy-in (both emotional and financial) from leadership.
Focus on the bottom line—how this product will increase revenue (or save money) and help your business reach its overarching goals. Leaders are looking for you to offer them justification on the business case of this new investment.
Use statistics to strengthen your case whenever possible. Leaders want to see the nonemotional, tangible impact your product suggestion can make. Try to make this case with numbers, like a percentage of how much customer satisfaction has improved at companies after implementing cloud-based software. You should also have a rough idea of how you’ll measure ROI of the product after it’s adopted. Tell them what metrics you are going to measure, and when they should expect to see results.
Offer two to three solutions, max. Don’t expect leaders to do the heavy lifting—provide a “safety” option you can live with (probably the cheapest, but still with considerable benefits vs. current system) and a “reach” option (all the bells and whistles you could want, but probably more expensive).
When presenting to leadership, give yourself a 10-minute limit. This not only shows you’re respectful of execs’ time, but that you’ve done the hard work and really only need a “yes” or “no” decision from them to proceed.
Choose your cloud-based contact center software
Once you’ve got buy-in (and, hopefully, a decent budget) from company leadership, it’s time to choose which contact center software provider you want to go with.
Consider demoing your top few choices if leadership clears more than one option. Use the demo yourself, but also offer it to several “frontline” employees whose judgment and feedback you can trust to be relatively representative of the whole group.
Don’t share the demo of any product you’d be unhappy adopting. As a manager, your top choice of what you think may be most effective won’t necessarily align with your employees’ feelings or experiences with what they need. Be prepared that employees may select different software than you would.
If there’s an overwhelming consensus from your test group, go with what they chose, even if it isn’t your top pick. This not only shows you trust your team’s judgment, but they’ll be more willing to adopt a product they were part of selecting.
Plan for transitional growing pains and measure for success
Even if you have chosen a high-quality cloud-based software for your organization and you have leadership and employee buy-in, you should expect a certain amount of speed bumps as employees learn the new software. To combat the growing pains, look for ways to measure success and continue to include reps in the conversation.
Make a plan in advance with the software’s customer success manager to offer full support for agents as they ramp up with the new software.
Leave opportunities to receive and consider user feedback, whether it’s a digital suggestion box or dedicated email with feedback and concerns.
Choose one metric to monitor to measure the success of the product. It’s best to pick the one issue or weakness with your old software you were most hoping the cloud-based replacement would solve. For example, if your pain point with your old software was that regular crashes led to agent downtime, track new downtime. Look for a decrease after the initial onboarding period.
Share wins with your leadership and team. Sharing positive metrics and success stories gives leadership the ROI they expect from their investment. It also helps agents see that while learning new software can seem frustrating, it’s ultimately helping the company, the customer, and their performance.
Make sure you keep your frontline employees involved in the conversation with the new software. This not only gives you insight into how adoption’s going, but gives you a way to proactively address issues as soon as they arise.
Join the cloud computing revolution and improve your support offerings
If you want to compete with other businesses’ customer service, you need to come to the game fully armed with every resource you can find. That means using cloud computing for unparalleled features and benefits. It’ll make for a better experience for your customers and save your organization money, which can be invested back into your employees and ]customers.
For example, extra funds could be used to invest in more customer service training for your reps, or do more research on customer satisfaction and needs. Or that money could be applied to offering better promotions and discounts to reward loyal customers. You could also focus some budget around building up your social media presence, in partnership with marketing, to build deeper relationships with customers in the channels and spaces they frequent. All these suggestions help you increase customer satisfaction by investing in your buyers—and your team.
If you’re interested in learning more about the value of cloud computing for customer service, Zendesk’s cloud-based CRM offers all the benefits of cloud computing, in a few easy-to-implement solutions. Sign up for a one-month free trial to see how the cloud can transform your organization.