When Ray Valentine first started managing technology for major call center providers 20 years ago, you had do everything yourself. "I came up through the old, big, Avaya premise-based heavy iron solutions," Valentine says.
"You had to have dedicated support teams to manage, install, and configure all of that infrastructure," says Valentine says. "Then you had to have the data centers with all the infrastructure to support those systems and keep them reliable."
The environment tended to be inflexible and—without the proper redundancies in place—unreliable. More importantly, the capital costs were so high that large companies with big pockets dominated the call center industry.
Reaching for the Cloud
Today, as CTO for call center operator KM2 solutions, Valentine has wholeheartedly embraced the cloud. The Atlanta-based company, which operates call centers staffed by home-based agents in the Caribbean and Central America, was an early adopter of InContact's hosted contact center software four years ago.
"We're pretty big on the cloud as a strategic direction," says Valentine. "We wanted a cloud provider with the ability to say yes when we asked them to add 100 seats tomorrow."
They take their legacy, on-premises-based solutions and put them in a cloud-like scenario, but it's not built to be in a shared infrastructure environment," Valentine says. "You find yourself limited in the features you might want to use because when you turn something on it impacts someone else on the shared hardware."
KM2 needed full-featured software that could expand and contract based on business needs and enable the company to serve a number of vertical industries; two of the company's biggest niches are auto lenders and newspaper publishers.
Moving to the cloud enables Ray and his team to focus on "customer differentiating factors as opposed to me managing telco providers and dealing with ordering T1s," he says. Today, he's more likely to be helping a customer devise a social media strategy or a multi-channel communication plan than dealing with PBXs or routers.
That's still unusual in the call center industry, says Valentine, where many technology leaders are loathe to let go of the technical reins. "It's something I talk about a lot with my peers. They fear that loss of control," Valentine says.
Learning to Let Go
"You have to have a very good relationship with your vendor. But a lot of [call center providers] have so much sunk cost in legacy infrastructure that it's really cost prohibitive for them to move," Valentine says. "And to let go of knowing exactly what's going on with this particular T1 is a challenge for some CTOs."
KM2's move to the cloud has enabled it to expand quickly, from its first delivery center in St. Luci—a South Caribbean location it liked for the accent-neutral English among the population—to three more locations.
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