Urgent Matters

Cloud-based solutions are worth a look


The market is "exploding," says one cloud-based solution provider, because the technology has matured to the point where people are starting to become comfortable with the concept, and because the "economics are undeniable."

Earlier this year, I wrote about how a cloud-based contact-center solution developed by San Ramon, Calif.-based Five9 helped New Jersey 211 cope with the tsunami of calls it received from citizens in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The latest release of the software features an iPad application that lets contact-center supervisors monitor and manage staff remotely. In addition, the software now integrates with the LiveHelpNow and KomBea platforms, an upgrade designed to improve the interactions between enterprises and their customers.

I'm not sure which is more interesting: the new wrinkles or the fact that everything happens in the cloud, a once nebulous concept that seems to be gaining traction rapidly.

Traditionally, contact-center managers have been tied to their desktops when monitoring call-takers, said Mayur Anadkat, Five9’s director of product and solutions marketing. The ability for managers to walk the floor while still monitoring call-taker activity is a real plus, he said.

“Supervisors do a lot of coaching—whether it’s helping an agent with a difficult call, training, or just bringing agents up to speed. … [And] just like in every other aspect of life, the personal touch always is a little better.” Anadkat said. “This solution gives them the flexibility to walk around, but still gives them a view into their entire operation on their tablet.”

The app also is beneficial to enterprises that operate multiple contact centers, because a supervisor can make a personal visit to one center while monitoring activity in the others.

Liz Osborne, Five9’s vice president of product and solutions marketing, said the integration with the LiveHelpNow platform not only expands the capabilities of Five9’s contact-center solution beyond inbound and outbound voice calls, it allows agents to multitask without having to toggle between applications. It also lets them create a single case file that contains an ongoing thread of the conversation with the customer, regardless of the communications medium used.

“You now can have a unified desktop, so that the agent can do voice calls, can do chat, or do e-mail, all from one desktop,” Osborne said.

Integration with KomBea’s PCI-compliant SecureCall application let agents using the latest version of Five9’s platform securely exchange sensitive information with customers over the phone, according to Anadkat. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Council standards were created to enable merchants to securely accept credit-card payments.

“What companies that take credit-card payments typically aspire to is to be PCI-compliant,” Anadkat said. “What this means is that they’ve eliminated all the risk associated with phishing and spoofing of credit-card information, either from hackers or the actual agent pool.”

Here’s how it works: The application prompts the customer to enter his credit-card number via a touchtone phone; it then converts those tones to monotones, which prevents the tones from being discerned by the agent during the live call or when listening to a recording. In addition, the application masks the numbers on the agent’s screen.

“Once the number has been accepted, it gets passed on to a credit-card processing  gateway for approval, but the agent—nor any of the other applications involved in the process—never has any way of knowing what that credit-card number was,” Anadkat said.  

The fact that Five9’s solution is cloud-based is a plus for enterprises that outsource the customer-contact function, because it lets them utilize home-based workers.

“This allows them to open up to a larger geographic pool of agents, which in turn gives them access to better qualified people,” Osborne said. “A lot of people who live in less populated areas—in the boonies so to speak—they’ll take a lot less money, [even when they] have a higher education level, in order to work from home and have that flexibility.”

In the case of New Jersey 211, the solution enabled the agency to redirect calls to personnel who were stuck at home after Sandy hit for various reasons, including loss of commercial power, impassable roads, communication systems failures and gasoline shortages.

Osborne said that the market for cloud-based solutions is “exploding” right now, and it’s easy to understand why.

“It has reached a tipping point for a couple of different reasons,” she said. “First of all, the technology has matured. Second, people are getting more comfortable with the concept of the cloud.

“And the economics of it are undeniable.”

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Phil Burks (not verified)
on Jul 26, 2013

Many are still concerned and should be concerned about connectivity redundancy. What are the single points of failure to the CRITICAL infrastructure pieces? What are the mitigation plans? Can we use dual fiber routes everywhere with zero down time? When PS-LTE is completed, could THAT be a a secondary of tertiary route of connectivity for PS cloud based solutions?

on Jul 26, 2013

I'm so glad to see this finally being embraced. I must admit that cloud based tools, just like switching from conventional to a trunked architecture, or switching brands of cars you have always driven, all have to be vetted by TIME. We who are close to technology vetted it a long time ago, but I get that the general PS community wanted more time. In fact, many of us in the software world are well into the next level where it is a hybrid concept- a simple 'appliance' at the customer location (fundamentally a small PC with limited software and storage) to handle some activities and buffering duties; and then all of the heavy lifting and storage is done in the secure cloud. This helps mitigate the occasional short term potential cloud connectivity outages (formerly called 'oh crud!').

There are still considerations that need to be made on each installation for cloud based installations centering around connectivity from the PSAP (etc.) to the cloud. What are the single points of failure and how are they mitigated? Are fiber routes redundant? Could PS-LTE possibly be used as a fallback secondary or tertiary route to the cloud?

So much of fear simply boils down to the fear of the unknown. My kids hated lightning till I demystified it by explaining it in kid terms. Then they couldn't wait to go outside and watch it! Lighting is amazing, awesome and dangerous. But with the right insight, it can be respected, adored and used. We need to continue to do this same thing with demystifying cloud based solutions and other aspects of our future technology based PS worlds.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2013

Cloud-based solutions to monitor sites, servers and others deserve some attention as other cloud -based technologies that are easy to handle and to use. But at the same time the choice of such tools is not huge and there are only a few of them to use e.g.Anturis.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.


Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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