In the midst of all the change and disruption of 2020, many organizations are asking themselves an important question: Is now the right time to move an on-premise contact center to the cloud? A recent Nemertes Research webinar presented by Lifesize provides answers to this and other critical questions.

Robin Gareiss, Nemertes president, founder and research lead on digital customer experience (CX), and her team gathered data insights from 700 organizations across 12 countries and 23 vertical industries, asking about their current and future plans for CX transformations, revenue generation and agent productivity. Nemertes also gleaned insights around the emergence of cloud contact centers and how the pandemic and subsequent remote work environments accelerated the move away from on-premise.

Their results point to a new future for contact centers. Below are some of the key takeaways from the research and the “Is Now the Time to Move Your Contact Center to the Cloud?” webinar:

CX transformation is a top priority

When asked about their priorities, the majority of respondents placed customer satisfaction at the top of the list. In fact, a third of the organizations surveyed have CX transformation planned for 2021.

The pandemic is responsible for this shift in prioritization away from more perennial choices like revenue growth; customers now interact differently with brands and agents are often no longer located in a central contact center. These changes have caused executives to take a step back and consider what they need to do differently to adjust and ensure a quality customer experience. For some, that will mean introducing new interaction channels to their contact centers, including video, SMS text and web chat (the research revealed that customer ratings increase along with the number of channels supported), as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to boost agent productivity.

Remote work revolutionized the contact center

Currently, 70 percent of contact center agents are working from home — and most will continue to do so. While the initial challenge for organizations in shifting to work-from-home was sourcing talent and deploying technology to support agents, future challenges will include scaling IT workflows. IT responsibilities have expanded to encompass agent internet access and network security across a distributed workforce.

However, the successful and swift transition to remote work chalks up to a win for agents. Going forward, flexible working hours and remote work arrangements will become a huge boon for employee retention — critical for an industry plagued by high attrition rates. The necessity for remote work also inspired many contact centers to adopt cloud technology (65 percent said they are more likely to use the cloud since working from home), which opens up possibilities for even more work flexibility and automation to improve the agent experience.

The future of contact centers requires cloud

Contact centers that wish to innovate will be hard-pressed to do so without moving to the cloud. Implementing AI solutions, integrating the contact center with unified communications, adding more interaction channels and expanding globally all rely on the cloud for success. In fact, most major initiatives that take contact centers into true CX transformation are better when implemented in the cloud.

With the right contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS) partner, a contact center can be up and running in the cloud quickly, and remain agile for years to come. Already, 75 percent of respondents who are cloud-enabled prefer their cloud contact center over their on-premise call center, and 45 percent say their cloud implementation was better than they expected.

As with any significant digital transformation, there will inevitably be hesitancies and challenges. Some leaders may balk at abandoning a large, legacy investment like on-premise contact centers, while others may be reluctant to relinquish control over the technology itself and security, or voice concerns about connectivity and customizability.

However, for contact centers that hope to innovate and reap the rewards of CX transformation, the benefits (and risk calculus) of a cloud migration clearly outweigh the negatives. Cloud contact centers allow organizations to expand geographically and reduce equipment repair and replacement costs, while providing competitive advantage with their capacity to scale and easily roll out new features.