Smart Customer Service Begins—and Ends—at the 'Edge'

October 07, 2014

By Guillaume Seynhaeve

The need to improve the customer experience remains an ongoing challenge and point of contention for contact centers, with many looking to the cloud to meet the demands of today's connected consumer. Unfortunately, for contact center executives, whether cloud first-movers or still in the evaluation phase, the cloud has already fallen behind the customers they need to serve both today and into the future. Burdened by the same traditional hardware and software architectures they seek to break free from, contact centers are faced with the increasingly difficult task of meeting modern-day customer needs without a modern-day solution to do so. How did it come to this?

As consumer communication preferences continue to expand and diversify—from voice to mobile to text to social media to chat and, eventually, to video—contact centers are under the gun to provide and sustain platforms capable of keeping up or suffer the consequences associated with service latency, disruptions, and outages. And with 50 billion devices expected to go online by 2020 [says Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group], executives and IT decision makers are quickly coming to realize that the cloud by itself is likely to be insufficient to meet the demands and expectations of consumers, especially as it relates to contact centers. However, with edge computing to complement the cloud, a solution exists that offers everything the cloud is without holding companies hostage to the inherent limitations of the centralized-server architectures and legacy systems many are choosing to leave behind.

So what is "edge" computing and how can it help your contact center?

Rather than relying solely on the cloud to perform the complex tasks of a contact center system, edge computing allows for the burden to be distributed across a company's private network (in the form of customer service reps' PCs or mobile devices) and the cloud. By offloading computer-intensive tasks to the agent PC or mobile device, edge computing takes advantage of the computing power of the growing number of devices available today. The combined benefits of the cloud and edge computing allow contact center executives to deliver a scalable, reliable, and secure response and resolution hub capable of growing as quickly as consumer needs dictate while ensuring smart customer service.

Let's take a closer look at the benefits.

Scalability: When contact centers use traditional centralized server architecture, their ability to effectively scale on-demand is limited by various bottlenecks implicit in legacy systems. By default, many companies are severely constrained by those limitations regardless of their own demands or those of their consumers. But with edge computing to complement the cloud infrastructure, contact centers are able to contribute to the network, offloading only the most crucial tasks to the cloud. As the number of users in a center grows, edge computing creates an environment in which the available computing resources automatically grow in proportion to the number of users joining the system.

Reliability:As any decent financial adviser would agree, diversification is key to any successful form of risk management. As it relates to edge computing, its distributed nature allows for services and tasks to continue to operate normally despite possible service disruptions in other areas of the network. For example, if access to the cloud, a PC, or a mobile or other device is temporarily disrupted, a company can continue to perform most if not all functions without impacting the customer experience. Contact centers can consistently deliver on SLAs and other service customer guarantees.

Security: The security concerns surrounding the outsourcing of data storage to the cloud affect consumers and businesses alike. However, with edge computing, businesses are granted the convenience of maintaining private data on-premises by virtue of its ability to perform tasks on the company's private network without the need to transmit secure data through the cloud. With edge computing, contact centers maintain control while offering clients greater comfort in knowing their personal information is shared only on a need-to-know basis. Call recordings and processing of confidential client information can effectively be performed internally without the need to route the information through the cloud.

Today's contact centers have come a long way from the cost centers of old. But as businesses increasingly rely on them to compete in a customer service–driven world, the importance of utilizing the cloud to its fullest without undermining the benefits is paramount to any successful future. With edge computing to complement the migration to cloud solutions, the ability to meet today's customer service requirements while preparing for tomorrow's is already within reach.

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