What to Look for When Buying a Cloud Communications System

A photo of a cloud technology

Our panel of experts discuss some of the product features that you should be looking out for when investing in a cloud communications system.

Easy Remote Working

Cloud communication systems offer flexibility for employees far greater than on-premise systems as the technology means organizations are easily set up for remote working.

With an on-premise system, getting set up to work remotely can be much harder and as a result can have an impact on the customer experience.

A headshot of Alex Stenton-Hibbert

Alex Stenton-Hibbert

Firstly, with cloud, the technology is browser-based. This means agents can access the system from wherever they may be.

Secondly, providing the option to work from home means providing employees with much more flexibility over their working hours and life. This means greater satisfaction for the employee, which in turn can result in improved customer service.

Thanks to Alex Stenton-Hibbert at Business Systems

Coaching and Performance-Management Tools

With more and more remote working, contact centres must ensure they have technology to bridge the gaps left by agents being physically apart from their colleagues and managers.

When working remotely, interaction levels need to increase to ensure motivation and performance remain high, and collaboration tools like messaging and video chat are vital for enabling employees to stay in touch, hold meetings, and work together productively.

A headshot of Craig Farley

Craig Farley

This is important for many reasons, including employee well-being and motivation levels, as well as continuous learning and development.

Having online coaching and performance-management tools within your cloud solution will also allow you to keep the contact centre on the right course towards excellence – while also highlighting where improvements need to be made.

With thanks to Craig Farley at IP Integration

Comprehensive Security Features

A cloud vendor should demonstrate that all of its infrastructure is housed in data centres with formidable physical protection, redundant power and disaster-recovery procedures.

Additionally, a vendor must ensure that both voice and data are encrypted.

Voice encryption prevents eavesdropping during live calls, while data should be encrypted in transit and at rest.

A cloud communications system should have built in-protections and a proven ability detect credentials theft, anomalies and other indicators of misrepresentation.

Data encryption ensures regulatory compliance and prevents theft of valuable intellectual property and trade secrets.

Fraud prevention is also a part of cloud security. A cloud communications system should have built in-protections and a proven ability to detect credentials theft, anomalies and other indicators of misrepresentation.

Furthermore, a cloud provider should offer expert guidance on mitigating human error during fraud attempts.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

In a cloud communications system, AI capabilities include speech to text, natural language processing and sentiment analysis.

These features offer innovations that can transcribe customer conversations in real time…

These features offer innovations that can transcribe customer conversations in real time, detect what callers are asking and gauge their emotions and intentions.

By analysing context and sentiment, learning patterns and understanding trends, a system can make predictions or suggestions to agents on the next best course of action to take with callers.

AI can also assist advisors in mitigating issues when they arise, improving customer experience and reducing churn.

Intelligent Routing

Intelligent routing is a feature that accurately connects inbound callers with an advisor who possess the best-matching skillset to resolve their issues

Two other important aspects of intelligent routing are virtual hold and voicemail routing – which are also made available within many cloud communication systems.

Intelligent routing is a feature that accurately connects inbound callers with advisor who possess the best-matching skillset…

They offer a callback to free up customers from waiting on hold and protect their place in the queue.

Both options are frequently implemented in the contact centres of public utilities, credit bureaus, government agencies and healthcare organizations.

Click-to-Call Options

Click-to-call is a button embedded on business websites and mobile apps, and tapping it enables smartphone users to connect directly to customer service reps.

Click-to-call eliminates “snipe hunts” searching for a phone number…

The user-friendliness of click-to-call eliminates “snipe hunts” searching for a phone number and engaging in a drawn-out process just to speak to someone.

With contact just a touch away, click-to-call provides the foundation to a positive customer experience.

Follow-Me Applications

Follow-me applications enable advisors, at-home or on-the-go, to field inbound calls on their smartphones, as if customers were dialling their IP desk phone extensions.

What’s more, follow-me apps can seamlessly hand off a call between an IP desk phone and smartphone.

This kind of flexibility and connectivity means an advisor won’t have to juggle conversations between two numbers or miss a call when they are out of the office.

A headshot of Yasir Bugrara

Yasir Bugrara

Keeping up with the incredible amount of innovative cloud phone features can be challenging, and it’s vital that features being considered for implementation are compatible with your contact centre’s IP phones.

However, with careful planning and research, you can make a successful switch from on-premise hardware and software to a cloud communication system.

Thanks to Yasir Bugrara at Voci Technologies

Features That Allow for Personalization

Customers find it frustrating to repeat themselves, so an effective cloud communications system should remove that pain point as much as possible.

Using data from previous interactions to understand the context of a customer’s call before it’s even answered will help personalize and improve the customer experience.

A cloud communications system that uses interactive voice response (IVR) enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) will help to determine the nature of a customer’s call and removes the need for the customer to navigate through a maze of menus.

The caller no longer has to explain the reason for their call as the advisor has all the context and information readily available to them.

The caller no longer has to explain the reason for their call as the advisor has all the context and information readily available to them.

A cloud solution may also allow us to personalize self-service.

For example, in the event that the customer cannot complete their query, they can be connected automatically with an agent who will be able to resolve the issue, without the need for the customer to start again.

Integrations With CRM and HR Systems

Advisors could be equipped with a cloud communications system tailored to a contact centre setting, but far too often these platforms are not integrated with CRM or HR systems.

Without integration, advisors will be able to see the customer journey and the call context – but will need to switch between different systems to access further details about the customer to help them understand the relationship.

A headshot of Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong

Implementing a cloud communications system that integrates with other leading solutions that are used across the organization, such as CRM or collaboration tools, will bridge the gap between the front and back office.

In turn, this enables real-time knowledge sharing for faster, more satisfactory resolutions for customers, and it allows advisors to view every piece of relevant information on a single platform.

Thanks to Mark Armstrong at Genesys

After-Call Work (ACW) Triggers

With a cloud communications system, ACW-related tasks can be triggered after each interaction to update customer preferences, change CRM information and much more.

This is an example of one of the many little benefits that a cloud contact centre offers.

Of course, there are larger benefits, with one being that advisors can log in from anywhere and immediately manage conversations over voice, email, live chat and digital messaging channels.

A thumbnail picture of Ken Reid

Ken Reid

With channels no longer siloed, advisors can also access data from across the business to provide contextual customer support.

In addition, advisors can quickly elevate conversations to different channels, for example, going from messaging to one-to-one live video support.

Crucially, all of this can be done from one console.

With thanks to Ken Reid at Rostrvm Solutions | IMI Mobile

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Features

Cloud communication systems are transforming contact centres through a range of capabilities, made possible through CRM integrations and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

Integration of AI enables highly accurate automated responses, starting with chatbots, and also enhanced routing decisions.

But there are many more features to look out for than that!

A thumbnail photo of Jeremy Payne

Jeremy Payne

Advisors can handle consecutive interactions across multiple channels and escalate as required from chat or voice to video, providing exceptional customer service.

New tools enable creation of follow-up outbound sales or service campaigns, so you can better manage downtime.

Further functionality enables video conferencing, real-time and historic reporting and call recording as well advisor-evaluation and work-scheduling tools that boost performance and efficiency.

Thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive

Full Integration

Contact centres typically have completely different solutions for voice calls, chats, emails, CRM and payroll, or by complete contrast, they are locked into one vendor’s contact centre platform.

The trouble with clunky, restrictive infrastructures is that they hinder advisor productivity and increase response times to customers.

So look for a truly integrated platform – not several clouds, but one where people can consume all the applications that they need on one cloud platform.

A headshot of Magnus Geverts

Magnus Geverts

For example, choose a cloud communication system with integrated call recording, quality management (QM), workforce management (WFM), analytics and business intelligence so that agents and supervisors can see all critical data on a single, unified dashboard.

Contact centres should avoid siloed products, replacing them with an all-in-one cloud solution that enhances CX and employee engagement.

With thanks to Magnus Geverts at Calabrio

An Analytics Cloud Application

While many cloud communication systems offer lots of applications – like digital channels, self-service solutions and even chatbots – one that isoften not included is an analytics application.

However, this can be a very valuable tool. One of the tool’s capabilities is to track relationship indicators. These provide advisors with useful feedback from customer interactions, such as how one-sided they were, how many times someone interrupted or whether the conversation took a positive or negative tone.

A thumbnail photo of Neil Hammerton

Neil Hammerton

Speech analytics can also identify key phrases. So if a call has a more negative tone, the tool can suggest who might be going wrong and how they can improve.

Equally, when a call is going well, the interface provides staff with information to build on their strengths.

By combining the core strengths of analytics in the cloud and the core strengths of people – emotional intelligence – businesses can raise the standard of their customer service.

With thanks to Neil Hammerton at Natterbox

Commercial Scalability

Modern organizations must bear in mind economies of scale, and web-based cloud solutions need to offer price per user (PPU) or price per interaction (PPI) options.

Controlling costs is indeed intrinsically linked to business volume. Payment plans should be customized to reflect the nature of a company’s business model and allow for increased capacity during seasonal peaks without burdensome costs in quiet periods.

Also, you want your cloud communications system to be agile and flexible.

What do we mean by this?

A headshot of Neil Titcomb

Neil Titcomb

Well, an agile solution delivers the capabilities of working anywhere, anytime and on any channel. Moreover, the nature of our times requires agility in reacting to new realities, overcoming unexpected challenges and seizing unique opportunities.

When we talk about flexibility, we’re talking about a cloud communication system that smoothly links all voice and digital channels, facilitates upgrades and delivers exceptional advisor and customer experience.

Thanks to Neil Titcomb at Odigo

Virtual Assistants Through the Cloud

The contact centre has become one of the largest generators of data in many organizations, from call logs and recordings to all the digital customer interactions.

Also, the latest automatic speech recognition and speech analytics make voice recordings the ideal source for training virtual assistants.

A thumbnail photo of Tim Kimber

Tim Kimber

These virtual assistants – which are made available through many cloud communications systems – are now being used to supplement live advisors.

They can make it easier and more effortless than ever for advisors to answer customer queries and, over time, they can learn and become customer-facing.

This new capability enables businesses to expand their contact centre offering, without increasing headcount, and provide 24-hour service with minimal human involvement.

With thanks to Tim Kimber at Vonage

An Open Cloud Foundation

A key feature to look for in any cloud communications system is its ability to integrate with other applications.

In order to do this the platform must be built on an open cloud foundation that allows APIs from other software applications to be used.

A headshot of Bill Yackey

Bill Yackey

As a result, your cloud communications system should allow advisors to access all applications from within the system.

In addition to this, some of the applications within the system should be integrated and “talking to each other”, to allow for a better user experience.

Take the advisor’s desktop and the advisor’s presence status (Available, Away, On a Call), for example. The two should be synced automatically, preventing the ACD from routing an interaction to the advisor while they are on a video call with a colleague.

Thanks to Bill Yackey at NICE inContact

A Cloud Subscription Service

A cloud communication system should respond to the needs of the clients in real time.

The ability to respond to market opportunities, consumer demands and competitive threats as they arise is vital. A cloud communication system should respond to the needs of the clients in real time.

On-premise updates and upgrades can be costly and disruptive. But a cloud-based system provides your business with greater flexibility and agility, meaning cloud deployments can be completed in a much shorter timeframe and with fewer staff than on-premises solutions.

After all, the hallmark of a cloud communications system is a highly dependable platform that scales with your business needs.

Omnichannel Service Integration

One of the greatest benefits of the cloud is that it eases omnichannel service integration.

Customers’ willingness and inclination to change channels according to their preferences is a golden opportunity that your business can’t afford to miss.

A headshot of Ben English

Ben English

If your call centre solution can’t meet your customers where they want, then you’ll be setting yourself up for failure.

A cloud communications system must deliver cohesive self-service and advisor-assisted service across all mobile channels, including voice, text, social and mobile web apps.

Organizations that provide a consistent and seamless cross-channel experience when customers engage, enquire and request service are poised and prepared to cover all their bases.

Thanks to Ben English at Aspect 

For more advice from our panel on best using cloud communication systems, read our articles:

Author: Robyn Coppell

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