Cloud services have become almost standard among American businesses of all sizes.

An August 2015 report from the cloud security firm Okta found that most businesses have at least 11 services in the cloud.

Most likely, your business uses the cloud for office functions. Microsoft 365 now has more accounts than the business powerhouse tool Salesforce, according to Okta.

Other popular cloud services include file storage, web hosting, online meeting services and social media. Missing from this list: customer contact services.

The Cloud Organizes and Consolidates Contact Services

The cloud is an excellent platform for organizing and collecting services in one place, even services that aren’t natively connected to one another.

Customer contact services have grown in several directions over the past decade or so. Once defined by answering phone calls, the industry now encompasses email, online chat and social media channels.

These functions — in addition to other contact services such as scheduling, data and call tracking, and reporting — have been consolidated by a handful of contact center cloud services.

For example, Aspect is a firm known for its contact center innovations that include automated call distribution (ACD), a staple of any contact center.

In addition, Aspect offers packages that lets customer care agents manage communications across different channels, which is important in meeting the needs of today’s customers.

Today’s Customers Turn Away From the Phone

Agents aren’t spending all their time on the phone. According to Econsultancy research, online chat is the preferred way consumers contact customer service centers.

Chat boasts satisfaction levels approaching 75 percent, compared to 44 percent for phone and 61 percent for email.

The hospitality industry, which has traditionally thrived on superb phone-based customer service, must offer these options to clients.

Consider this:

  • Today’s working customer has little time to take care of personal business. Most full-time employees work well beyond the old 9 to 5 standard and have an average commute of 26 minutes. According to the Population Reference Bureau, more than eight percent commute an hour or more each way.
  • Many consumers don’t find time to contact a customer care center until later at night — after dinner is over, the kitchen is cleaned up and the kids are in bed.
  • Email and social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter, may be consumers’ only realistic options.

It’s important to give agents the tools to help them manage contacts across the channel spectrum.

You Need Reliable Tools to Manage Customer Communications

Cloud-based tools are among the most dependable. By keeping tools in the cloud, your business will experience much less downtime, if any. Most cloud businesses pride themselves on “up-times” of 99 percent.

A 2013 report from the International Working Group on Cloud Computing Resiliency looked at 28 popular cloud services and found they were online 99.74 percent of the time in 2012, and 99.1 percent between 2007 and 2012.

Plus, when there is a problem, cloud services have teams available to reroute servers and repair the problem.

While the hospitality industry has traditionally excelled in phone-based services, customers often use email and social media.

Hospitality providers must be highly responsive to all contacts. They need to know more than who contacted them and why.

They must pay attention to how the customer contacted them and devise personalized ways to respond on every channel.

Above all, they must track and study reports that identify successful practices and areas for improvement.