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Cloud Contact Centres: Everything You Need To Know

2 February 2022      
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Cloud contact centre

If you’re thinking about moving to a cloud contact centre for the first time, there’s a lot to take in.

You’ll have already been bombarded with features and benefits and marketing jargon to make every “solution” stand out.

In reality, every cloud contact centre is incredibly similar under the hood. While this sounds like it should make your life easier, it’s often the opposite. Finding differentiation and use cases like yours becomes difficult because every vendor is trying to cater for the masses.

While we will cover the key features (and benefits) of a cloud contact centre, this post is designed to educate you on the bigger picture, the technical detail, and the implementation and adoption. 

Our goal is to, by the end of this post, have presented all the facts about cloud contact centres you need to you so you can make up your own mind which software best suits your bespoke needs.

Time and time again, cloud contact centres have been sold and rolled out only to do the same as the on-premises version. And that’s fine. But only if that’s all you intended to do.

And you can do so much more.

Let’s get started with the basics.

  1. What is a cloud contact centre?
  2. How do cloud contact centres work?
  3. Why are cloud solutions the obvious choice for contact centres?
  4. Features of a cloud contact centre
  5. Integration with other business applications
  6. Cloud contact centre case study
  7. Cloud contact centre providers

1 - What is a cloud contact centre?

A cloud contact centre is exactly what it says on the tin. A vendor with cloud infrastructure takes contact centre hardware and either stores it on their own hardware in data centres or creates a software version.

Instead of installing phone systems and call centre modules in your own office or data centre, everything is looked after by the vendor. You subscribe to a shared instance of the platform in what is often referred to as a hosted contact centre.

As cloud technology has progressed, the idea of hosted contact centres has dwelled and contact centre as-a-service (CCaaS) has come to the fore.

As software alternatives to clunky hardware become more reliable, secure, and innovative, it’s this CCaaS subscription-based model that now appeals most when souring a cloud contact centre solution. 

This software deployment model allows you to only buy the technology you need in your business. This means no more oversubscribing of agent licences or features you don’t need but are forced to pay for.

CCaaS not only lessens the overall cost of your contact centre technology but also opens the door to future innovation. When a new update or feature is enabled by your vendor, you’ll get this automatically if it’s included in your subscription (or you have the option to upgrade).

Upgrading in a CCaaS model is simple. There’s no longer the need to schedule downtime and replace components. Your vendor will upgrade your licence and the functionality becomes available. 

The same applies to scaling up and down licences. In peak periods, when you take on temporary staff, you can add more licences without entering into a new 36 months contract. When you release the staff, you release the licences too.

The move to CCaaS is often triggered by one of two common scenarios:

  1. Your legacy call centre solution is no longer fit for purpose.
  2. You crave multichannel or omnichannel functionality. 

Whatever your reason, understanding how they work must be the first part of your procurement process. Otherwise you’ll end up feet first with potentially the wrong solution.

2 - How do cloud contact centres work? 

Unlike traditional contact centre hardware, cloud contact centres mean you aren’t reliant on storing and maintaining your own equipment. There’s no longer hardware in your office or server room. 

You can still buy headsets and handsets for agents but that is the extent of the hardware.

Let’s look at the differences between on-premises and cloud contact centres. In the table below, we specifically call out CCaaS differences. While the hosted model remains in many businesses today, the market is shifting towards an as-a-service model.

On-premises vs cloud contact centres

On-Premises Contact Centre Cloud Contact Centre
Equipment stored on-site or in your own data centre Software-based
Equipment maintained on-site with expensive support contracts Support included in subscription
New kit needed for functionality New features rolled out via the cloud when available
Upfront, one-off charges to upgrade Upgrades either included in licence or option to increase monthly cost
Often restricted to calling channels only Multichannel or omnichannel as standard
Basic reporting Enhanced analytics with access to big data and AI
Renews roughly every 10 years Futureproof


So how does CCaaS actually deliver functionality to your office?

Like any as-a-service model, you need to subscribe to a vendor’s CCaaS software. Details of different vendors are included in section 7 of this post.

Once subscribed, you get your own instance of CCaaS built with your agents, supervisors, and all associated functionality. This might include omnichannel features like web chat, email, and SMS as well as virtual wallboards for gamification. Whatever is included in each employee’s licence becomes available when you install the relevant software onto an agent’s PC or mobile device. 

The installation process is as simple as any piece of downloadable software. You can either load this onto an agent’s device one-by-one or allow permissions and get them to self-download.

In the configuration process, provisioning teams will link accounts with phone numbers from your phone system. It's at this stage you can create custom ring groups, apply call queue treatment, and dig into new features that improve customer experience.

It’s these new features, and their instant availability, that makes cloud solutions the obvious choice for contact centres.

3 - Why are cloud solutions the obvious choice for contact centres?

The many benefits associated with cloud contact centres make them the obvious choice for today as well as tomorrow.

Rather than a shopping list of replacement features you already have, you can plan for business change and empowering your customer service team.

In the traditional call centre world, we spoke about features like wallboards and huntgroups. The rationale for wanting these was to speed up call times and make call centres more “efficient.” 

In the cloud world, we talk about improving the customer experience, upselling, and customer retention. Rather than a defence mechanism and a way to pay the bills for employees, cloud contact centres enable genuine change and turn your customer service function into the face of your company.

We can break the main benefits of cloud contact centres into 10 key areas.

What are the main benefits of cloud contact centres?

  1. Functionality
  2. Deployment
  3. Cost
  4. Flexibility
  5. Productivity
  6. Integration
  7. Innovation
  8. Reliability
  9. Security
  10. Support
Benefit Explanation
Functionality Access to omnichannel features like web chat, SMS, email, and social media.
Deployment Deploy in weeks rather than months with no hardware on-site.
Cost Pay for what you need on a monthly basis.
Flexibility Scale up and down during busy periods.
Productivity Manage multiple clients at a time and collaborate with back office teams.
Integration Embed contact centre interface into heavily-used apps like Salesforce and Microsoft Teams.
Innovation Access to new features and upgrades via the cloud.
Reliability Guaranteed uptime with the majority of vendors.
Security Secure storage of data and recordings.
Support Included as part of your CCaaS licence.

 

4 - Features of a cloud contact centre

Now that we’ve dug into the benefits of cloud contact centres, we can take a deep dive into the most popular features.

For those used to working with a call-only contact centre software, there are still the basics as well as some enhanced features introduced via the cloud.

Cloud call centre features

  • Auto attendants
  • Call queuing
  • Automatic call distribution (ACD)
  • Skills-based routing
  • Music on hold
  • Automated callbacks
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Wallboards (virtual and physical)
  • Click to call
  • Outbound dialler
  • PCI payment gateway
  • Agent status codes
  • Wrap up codes
  • Historical reporting

Supervisor features

  • Call recording
  • Agent listening
  • Call whisper
  • Barge in
  • KPI monitoring
  • Workforce management
  • Workforce optimisation
  • Quality management
  • Speech analytics
  • Sentiment tracking
  • Gamification

Multichannel features

When you move from call centre to contact centre, new contact channels are introduced. These include:

  • Live chat
  • Email management
  • SMS (text messaging)
  • Video
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram
  • LINE

Note that different vendors will support different contact channels.

Within these channels, you can receive inbound queries from the channel of your customer’s choice. Moving to a multichannel contact centre immediately gains favour with customers as they can contact you how they want to rather than stopping what they’re doing to call (and likely wait on hold for) you.

As well as supporting these channels to speak to your customers, you benefit from reporting and analytics across them too. Like measuring average handle time for your calls, you can see trends and patterns per channel. 

For example, your web chats might be taking longer to resolve. When you cross-reference your analytics, you might find that agents handle an average of five web chats. This correlation would suggest five is too many chats for an agent to handle at one time.

Some contact centre solutions can even provide these types of insights without you having to sift through data. Thanks to the cloud, your data now works harder than ever.

When you move to a multichannel contact centre, you also get the opportunity to operate in an omnichannel manner. This means you can service all your clients on different channels (multichannel) but keep the context cross-channel.

For example, if your customer gets in touch via the live chat on your website but disconnects and calls you instead, the agent who answers the call will have access to the entire chat history.

This information is not only stored on your contact centre solution but can be integrated with your line-of-business app.

What’s the benefit here?

5 - Integration with other business applications

With cloud contact centres, integration into other apps is seamless. If there’s an API, integration becomes possible. There’s no more popular example right now than Microsoft Teams.

With over 270 million monthly active users, Microsoft Teams is the most-used collaboration platform in the world. Hence, CCaaS vendors have spent considerable development time on creating Microsoft Teams contact centre integrations.

It makes complete sense for contact centres to utilise the Microsoft API or build bespoke functionality to use the Teams app. Why would you force an agent to use a second (and brand new to learn) interface when they know Teams like the back of their hand by now.

Microsoft runs its own certified partner program so Teams admins know they’re in safe hands.  Teams contact centre partners include Anywhere 365 and Enghouse Interactive, among others.

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Enghouse contact centre for Microsoft Teams

Find out more about cloud contact centre solutions for Microsoft Teams here.

Other common contact centre integrations include:

  • Salesforce
  • ServiceNow
  • Zendesk
  • Desk
  • Netsuite
  • Oracle
  • Velocity
  • Webex
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Salesforce contact centre integration

When integrating your contact centre with other cloud apps, expect functionality like click to call, shared data, an embedded agent interface, and cross-reporting. 

All in all, the integration of your contact centre with your line-of-business apps enables more efficient and productive agents, supervisors, and overall customer experience.

6 - Cloud contact centre case study

Cloud contact centres are by no means new. Nasstar has been providing cloud solutions as PBX replacements, feature upgrades, and multichannel enablements for decades.

One example is ToolStation, a leading retail supplier of trade tools.

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toolstation

During the coronavirus pandemic, ToolStation identified that it needed to enable remote agents with no time for planning or training. 

Where some businesses used this time to alter their working hours and play messaging letting everybody know they were working from home (and to expect longer wait times), ToolStation maintained their high levels of customer satisfaction and continued to take transactions in a PCI compliant manner.

With 450 branches across the UK and a head office contact centre, ToolStation needed to remain productive, keep processing transactions, and handling customers. With the head office closed, this created a disconnect between branches and their core customer service function.

As an existing Nasstar customer, Toolstation was already utilising Nasstar’s AgentPay to safeguard PCI-DSS compliance of payments processed over the phone, integrated with their existing on-premises telephony and contact centre solutions. 

But this solution restricted staff to being in the office. Following the government’s Covid-19 guidance which advised businesses to implement a working from home policy where possible, Toolstation asked for Nasstar’s help to deliver a secure remote working solution at speed. 

Within 72 hours of receiving the request, Nasstar had installed a hosted telephony solution and cloud contact centre.

This enabled ToolStation to keep its high customer care standards while processing new transactions as if in the office. Features included access to IVR which allows ToolStation’s customers to interact via DTMF tones to ensure they are successfully directed to the right department or agent. Just because agents were home-based, it didn’t mean the experience deteriorated.

ToolStation was able to maintain visibility over key metrics like agent handle time while still adhering to PCI compliance.

“During times of disruption, it’s comforting to know that we have a partner like Nasstar to turn to for help and guidance. The team was able to respond rapidly to our needs and ensure operations continued to run smoothly. We now have a solution that not only allows us to work remotely, but also delivers additional benefits in terms of efficiency and productivity, while completely de-scoping our agent desktop environments from PCI DSS whether working within our contact centre or remotely. My thanks to the team for pulling off a great service in such a short space of time.”

Paul Spencer, Head of Customer Experience at ToolStation. 

Click to browse more contact centre case studies.

7 - Cloud contact centre providers

The CCaaS market is booming. In fact, The global (CCaaS) market size was $3.07 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $10.06 billion by 2027.

As such, everybody wants to get in on the action. Even Zoom attempted to enter into the market in late 2021; coming close to acquiring Five9.

Gartner, a leading research company for business technology, publishes an annual Magic Quadrant of CCaaS leaders, niche players, visionaries, and challengers.

The latest edition, 2021, includes the following vendors as top CCaaS providers:

  • Genesys
  • Nice CXOne
  • Talkdesk
  • Five9
  • Content Guru
  • 8x8
  • Vonage
  • Evolve IP
  • Lifesize
  • Worldline
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Odigo
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Gartner Magic Quadrant CCaaS

Outside of the CCaaS Magic Quadrant, it is impossible to ignore contact centre market dominators like Cisco, Avaya, and Mitel.

And Microsoft even has its own version, Dynamics 365 Customer Service.

These types of vendors have a steep history in contact centre hardware, hosted solutions, and are - for the most part - now focussing on as-a-service delivery models throughout their portfolios.
 
While we use Gartner and historical market success as leading factors when identifying today’s best cloud contact centre solutions, we always advise to search for the solution best for you.

It’s no help buying contact centre software on the basis it helps speed sales if you’re a support-only function.

By the same token, if you run Microsoft Teams, the suggested options for contact centre providers are completely different to any other scenario.

The moral of the story is that cloud contact centres are the future. And while there are a lot of features and vendors to digest, the right one for your neighbour may not be the right one for you.

For help choosing your next contact centre solution, book a free call here.