With all things cloud casting a long shadow over the way businesses approach customer experience, it’s easy to forget that cloud is simply a deployment model for contact centre software and the customer experience it is designed to deliver.

And while cloud-based software offers a number of advantages, such as speed of deployment, scale, remote agents, and next to no capital outlay, the process of selecting and configuring a cloud-based contact system requires the same critical thinking and planning given to on-premise software.

What do you want your contact centre software to do?

It’s a good question, often poorly answered. I’ve heard people say: “We want a system that’s better than our current one.” Or: “We want something that’s affordable.” They’re reasonable wants, but they’re unhelpful to making a good decision. And when you don’t know what you really want and how it relates to the customer experience you wish to deliver, then you’re not in any position to weigh up the merits of a replacement system.

Broad feature sets in contact centre software make the job of evaluation tougher. But rather than being overwhelmed by choices, buyers should approach contact centre software as an engineering system for managing customers, rather than as a solution per se – in the same way Microsoft Excel is a system for collecting and verifying business data.

In both cases, users are required to follow a significant learning curve before they’re in a position to architect the system to address specific challenges. However, project managers rarely have the privilege of taking their time and, in the rush to get things up and running quickly, narrow their focus on rollout and integration – often at the expense of more critical but less visible business considerations. The end result often pays insufficient regard to the needs of customers and the people tasked with managing their expectations.

Where to start?

How do you want to control the customer experience? What do you know about your customers’ expectations? And is your organisation ready to embrace them?

Answering these questions shines a light on necessary features and functions. Get down to the nitty-gritty. For example, what happens when staff numbers can’t handle call volumes – how do you want to manage call queues? Do you need to offer call-back or web options? What escalation paths do you want to offer? Is queueing email to agents an option? Do you expect to use agents in different places and time-zones? Do you want to record calls? Does your system need to interface with a CRM system? Are you able to configure call-flows, add and remove agents, change announcements, and scale as you grow? And perhaps most important, is the system easy to exit if it all turns to custard? That’s a good start – and at least gets you looking for specific functions that can be ticked or crossed off.

Common sense checklist for buyers

Businesses are as unique as the customers they serve, and the only place to start an evaluation of cloud-based contact centre software is with customer experience. Nevertheless, there’s a list of considerations every business should address before jumping in:

  • Does the provider allow you to map local calls directly to your cloud contact centre platform? Some vendors funnel calls from New Zealand to the US, or through another international hub, to reach their platform. You’ll cop the international charges.
  • Will you need to change your advertised numbers? And will you retain ownership of said numbers?
  • What will happen if your internet connection goes down or your phones go dead? Can your business cope?
  • What happens when things go wrong, or you need help? Is it easy to attract the attention and interest of your cloud provider? Can you call actual people and rely on them to be available and keen to resolve your issues in a timely manner? Messages and emails don’t always cut it.
  • How about call quality? Has the provider built Quality of Service tagging and prioritization into their network and voice carriers?
  • And then there’s the issue of skills to configure and operate your new system. For example, your IT team might be able to order new SIP trunks, but can they connect them? Your contact centre manager will want queued calls managed a certain way, but isn’t likely to know how to write call flow controls in the new system. Managers will know what reports they need, but will need help configuring them.

Cloud-based contact centres, smartly integrated, are a quick and cost-effective solution to the problems of outdated and costly hardware, and ever-growing expectations of customers in an always-on world.

Choosing a contact centre system from a vendor with complementary skills is your best bet to overcoming hurdles and establishing a platform that delivers the experience your customers expect.

Contact Pyrios to put your cloud contact centre evaluation on the right track.

Author: Richard Presling

Technology Lead Engineer at Pyrios.

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