Published: November 02, 2021 | Comments
Over the past year and a half, there has been a monumental shift in how we do business, especially for service organizations that manage call centers. The COVID pandemic in many cases forced us to adjust to a work-from-home model.
Now we’ll need to look at our business with this new normal in mind. Having older, on-premises call management systems may not be optimal now that the focus will be on an effective work-from-home environment.
Fortunately, there are some good solutions in the form of contact center as a service (CCaaS), or cloud-based service centers. These tools, originally developed for a widely distributed workforce, have come into their own as businesses try to accommodate the new needs of employees who are no longer working from offices.
One of the biggest advantages that a CCaaS will provide is scalability. Unlike hardware-based systems, capacity can be scaled up or down without the need to purchase additional space or licensing that may go unused later. All of the systems I’ve evaluated have a very good graphical interface for setting up the IVR, with the capability of quickly making changes to call flows when necessary. They also generally have a full set of attractive and useful reports.
Different vendors may have a different approach to how a system is implemented. When considering a move to the cloud – which is not an insignificant decision – there are a few things to consider, and some preliminary work that should happen before engaging with the service providers.
Let’s look at the preliminary work first:
Good documentation is important. Note what phone numbers – internal and external – feed into the contact center, and if there is any special routing information. It’s also helpful to have a detailed map of the IVR and how those numbers feed into it.
Break down how many users will be on the system. Separate them by role - how many agents, supervisors, managers there are - and further break it down by schedule if there are overlapping shifts. This will help determine the best licensing approach.
What systems will require integration? Will there need to be ties to account management systems, employee databases, or service management? Document any systems that may provide data to the IVR.
Finally, work with your management team to brainstorm exactly what you would like to get out of the system. Do you simply want to duplicate what’s currently in place, or will you take this as an opportunity to improve the workflow and customer experience? Is there a need for data dips that drive screen pops or intelligent IVRs? What level of reporting do you require? Do you have any special needs around quality assurance – voice monitoring and screen captures?
Once you’ve gathered your documentation, you can select some CCaaS providers to provide product information and demos. Everyone’s needs are different, but there are a few things to consider before making a call to select a vendor:
The initial call with the provider will be mostly about discovery. Listen closely to the questions they ask. Do you feel they’re just going through a checklist or that they’re truly interested in your business? Keep detailed notes on how they answer your questions, as it will be helpful later when it’s time to select a finalist.
Next will come the sales pitch. This will generally be an overview of the company, along with a demo of their product. Did they take the time to build a targeted demo based on the feedback you provided during the initial discovery call? Did they seem prepared and knowledgeable about the product and how it could be leveraged to meet your requirements? If you ask questions that can’t be answered on this call, do they respond promptly afterwards?
A key thing to understand is their approach to implementation. Some providers will have dozens of tools and applications they can integrate with out of the box; others may need to do development work. The most critical integration will be with the CRM or incident management system used by the contact center.
Some providers build their systems by pulling in tools, applications, and APIs from other vendors, partnering with them to put together a complete system. Some of these solutions are very good, but keep in mind when dealing with these types of implementations the potential ramifications of a partner vendor going out of business or losing a good relationship with the provider. Evaluate the pros and cons of a partnered solution against a complete out of the box solution and decide what works best for the target environment.
These are some good thoughts to consider when starting your internal conversation about shifting to a CCaas solution, but every organization will have their own unique questions and concerns to add to the list. Think things through, as the shift to a cloud-based contact center can be a big, but welcome, change.