Cloud contact centers are the future of customer service success and the only way to create the ultimate customer experience.
Today, businesses have to meet ever-changing and constantly growing customer demands. Even more than good products or services, customers want quick, intuitive, and personalized experiences. To keep up with these requirements, businesses have to utilize cloud solutions for their contact center software.
Cloud contact center software is the only tool that allows contact centers to pivot and adapt their strategies to meet shifting customer satisfaction needs. The scalability and opportunity provided by cloud-based contact center software supports and empowers remote work capabilities, offering access to cost savings and increased growth. Additional features, such as data analytics and artificial intelligence, can further benefit both companies and their contact centers.
Before you can enjoy everything the cloud can offer your contact center, of course, you first have to know what you need to make the switch.
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Building your remote-managed, cloud-based contact center
As with any decision regarding your customer service tools, you first need to ask the important question: “What hardware and software is required to remote manage a cloud-based contact center?”
For both inbound and outbound contact centers, your agents rely on the resources you provide for the work they do. The business systems you choose will determine the level of satisfaction you can achieve and the effectiveness of your customer journey management. You depend on your contact center agents for customer relationship management, so do your best to equip them for success.
What hardware does your contact center need?
All types of call centers — including virtual call centers, on-premises call centers, and inbound and outbound call centers — and contact centers use a basic set of tools. Though a cloud platform requires a significantly less amount of hardware than an on-premise solution, you still need some equipment for your remote contact center infrastructure.
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Phones or Softphones
For all contact centers, and call centers in particular, handling customer interactions over the phone is a must. When connecting with customers over the phone, even if you use cloud call center software systems, your agents need a phone to make and receive reliable phone calls.
Physical phones, such as those used with traditional IP PBX phone systems, may work for some solutions, but softphones are usually the best option for a cloud call center or contact center, especially if you want to give agents the flexibility to work from home. These phones connect seamlessly with your software, ensuring high call quality and reliable connections for every interaction. We recommend giving agents additional training with these phones to guarantee proficiency, but their ease-of-use creates an easy transition.
In our digital age, every call center agent needs a computer or internet-connected device. When running a remote contact center, however, this tool is even more important. Your agents need the ability to take and make phone calls through their laptops, computer or mobile device.
A company-issued computer, phone, or tablet offers access to your contact center software and tools, keeping agents connected from anywhere.
Your devices also allow employees to connect and collaborate without needing to meet face-to-face. They can connect over video, live chat, and email to accomplish tasks efficiently, even across time zones.
When your entire contact center runs on the cloud, your contact center agents need the ability to connect to your tools and data from anywhere. When hiring or transitioning agents to work from home, check their home internet connection and speed. You won’t be able to improve customer engagement if their interactions are spotty or slowed by a poor internet connection. Instead, check and upgrade internet support as needed to maintain quality service.
Headsets are vital for agent comfort and efficiency. If your remote workers are making phone calls, provide functional microphone-enabled headsets to use for these interactions. The headsets you choose may vary depending on the devices your agent uses, so pay attention to the compatibility requirements. It’s also a good idea to have agents check the headsets before their first shift to avoid problems during customer interactions.
What is the best contact center software?
When it comes to maintaining business continuity during your transition to the cloud, look for a software partner who can make the transition with zero downtime for a successful transition to the cloud.
Before you know what to look for in a contact center platform, you first need to know the difference between on-premises contact centers and cloud-based contact center software solutions.
On-premise call center software
On-premise or legacy solutions are physical systems that are hosted and maintained by the company. The contact center infrastructure typically includes servers, phone systems, and hardware that are kept on-site. If you want to add new communication channels, you have to install new hardware and software to offer these capabilities. Adding new seats to keep up with higher call volumes requires paying for and adding the seats you think you need, lines you have to continue paying for once the call volume lessens.
Your IT team is responsible for all upgrades and repairs, leaving you vulnerable to complex problems that require outsourced services. If you lose power to your office, your support system fails with it. Though you have access and control to every part of your system, your contact center and customer service are more vulnerable.
What is a cloud-based contact center?
Cloud contact center solutions give companies access to the features and capabilities offered by software hosted by their provider. When you choose cloud software for your business you are choosing a business partner and with the right partner you can enjoy improved customer service capabilities without the hassles of maintaining a physical system and hardware.
Agents and remote workers access customer success tools through the business’ contact center platform, connecting through the internet. You can scale up and down as needed without paying for lines you aren’t using. Your provider maintains your system, reducing your IT needs and ensuring consistent performance. No matter what happens at your physical locations, your customer support teams are always available for any customer needs. Look for a cloud contact center provider with a high uptime such as 99.999%.
Developing your remote contact center
As you begin to explore and plan your transition to the cloud, there are numerous questions and factors you need to consider. Building a remote-managed contact center requires even more planning. You know your business and customer service needs best, so it’s important to consider which features will best support your work. To help you build a picture of what your virtual contact center needs, use the tips below.
1. Consider your current environment
First, you need to understand what the transition to a hosted call center will involve. Does your current contact center platform support a seamless transition to the cloud or will you need to invest in a new solution? Moving to the cloud is a massive endeavor, so comprehensive preparation is a must.
Updating your hardware
You’ll need to evaluate your hardware and determine what you need to equip agents to work from home. Can you use your current equipment with your new software or will you need to develop a completely new set-up? Different agents may have unique needs, depending on location and capability, so learn what your hardware needs will be.
Building your team
Your agents are the foundation of your contact center, so it’s critical to deploy a team that is able to meet the demands of working from home. If you are transitioning an on-site team to a remote set-up, carefully evaluate each agent’s capabilities.
Attitude is also vital to your team’s success. Though 80% of American workers would only accept jobs with flexible work schedules, there are still employees who don’t want to work remotely. Make sure your at-home agents are eager to embrace their new working situation and prepared to maintain a productive work ethic. Your customer satisfaction is in their hands, so create a team that will positively represent your company.
2. Think about your goals
Once you know what you need to make your cloud contact center a success, you should next consider what you want to get out of a transition to the cloud. There are several obvious goals, such as excellent call quality and high uptimes, but you should also decide what your solution will allow your team to accomplish.
Providing remote work capabilities
While remote connectivity is an obvious need for your remote contact center, your platform should have more features than just cloud connectivity. Your agents and employees need a way to communicate quickly and seamlessly through your platform. Though you can connect over the phone for meetings, video conferencing improves connections and team building across multiple locations. Your platform is the basis of your operations, so ensure it offers everything you and your team needs.
Connecting through multiple communication channels
Today, customers want to connect with businesses over the channel they choose. According to Hubspot, 62% of consumers want to connect with companies over email, 48% want to use the phone, 42% prefer live chat interactions, and 36% want to use contact forms for communication. As new communication options develop, such as social media messaging and engagement, your future customer relationships depend on your ability to meet them where they’re at.
To build an omnichannel contact center, you need a software solution that supports omnichannel interactions. Your agents should have the option to move from channel to channel as needed, without having to direct customers to different agents. Create the ultimate, personalized customer experience by staying relevant through changing communication needs.
Offering unified communications
The more solutions your business uses, the lower your agent efficiency will be. Instead, look for a contact center solution that allows for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) integrations, connecting your agents to the entire company.
Along with providing excellent customer-centric communications, you can also provide a cloud environment that enables internal collaboration. By pairing RingCentral Contact Center with RingCentral Office, for example, your agents can easily jump from managing customer interactions to chatting with coworkers.
Integrating with apps and tools
Third-party integrations are essential to your business operations. When using customer relationship management (CRM) software without seamless integrations, for example, agents are often required to jump back and forth between multiple screens and solutions. This slows down their work and can lead to errors made when recording customer data.
By utilizing a system that directly integrates with your apps and tools, you give agents instant access to the tools they need to best serve your customers. As they spend less time looking for the information they need, they can decrease handle times and improve customer satisfaction.
If your team relies on a less-popular or niche application, it’s also critical to look for a platform that offers customizable integrations. RingCentral Contact Center, for example, uses open APIs to allow you to personalize your solution with the tools you need without requiring extensive coding knowledge. You’ll be able to equip agents to succeed in any and every situation.
3. Determine your budget
Cost is always a consideration. As a contact center manager, you need to find a software option that meets your operational and budgetary needs. Thankfully, remote-managed contact centers are typically more cost-effective than an on-premise system.
When using an on-premise solution, you have high upfront costs for the hardware you need. You also have higher payroll costs due to the need to keep a larger IT staff on-hand for any maintenance or emergency needs. Physical systems also require replacements of aging and outdated equipment. Any adjustments or repairs incur greater costs, demanding a budget that increases with time.
Cloud contact centers, on the other hand, require far lower costs. Without the need to pay for hardware and physical infrastructure, you can eliminate most maintenance, office, and IT costs. Your contact center platform will require recurring payments, typically through monthly or annual subscriptions, but your overall budgeting needs will be lower and more predictable than those of a legacy solution.
This greater affordability allows businesses of all sizes to have access to excellent contact center capabilities. Combining lower cloud costs with your remote operation savings will lead to improved financial flexibility. These savings can then allow you to invest more into the solution that’s perfect for your needs.
4. Understand current and future needs
In recent months and years, businesses have seen firsthand just how quickly circumstances can change. As you build your remote contact center, consider both current and future needs. Think about changes you see in technology and customer demands. You don’t want to invest in a contact center solution that will grow obsolete or prevent your contact center from adapting. Instead, find the solution that allows you to succeed now and prepare for future needs.
Preparing for artificial intelligence
Automation is already transforming areas of customer service and is poised to continue changing the ways we approach support. Today, artificial intelligence is helping our software understand how to respond to customer needs. Chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR) systems are relieving agent responsibility, using computer learning to more accurately communicate with customers.
Automatic call distribution also uses artificial intelligence to ensure inbound calls route to the right agent for the job, further improving the customer experience you can provide. Marketing automation uses predictive dialing to screen for busy signals and voicemails, optimizing agent uptime.
5. Consider remote training processes
When using remote agents for your customer support team, you need tools that improve the agent training process. Your managers and supervisors won’t have the ability to monitor agents on the floor, so you’ll need to provide tools that enable confidence and proficiency.
Maintain quality control
Once your new agents are taking calls and managing interactions, you need a way to monitor their performance. Features such as call recording allow you to listen to calls on your time, allowing you to manage a full team and find the areas that need improvement. In the event of a customer complaint, these recordings provide solid evidence of the interaction. You’ll be able to make decisions based on data, using this information to settle problems and disputes.
Provide active coaching
You can also use call monitoring to actively manage your current interactions. If you see an agent that needs help, you can use a whisper coaching tool to provide advice and guidance on how they should handle the call. For interactions that escalate beyond agent capabilities, you can then take over the call to avoid further issues. This can improve customer satisfaction while also encouraging agent happiness. The more support you can give, the better your agents can succeed.
6. Prioritize implementation processes
Deploying a new contact center solution doesn’t have to be difficult. Again, look for a business partner who offers professional services to get you switched over with little to no downtime throughout the process.
Making the switch with a team of professionals can be the difference between surprisingly easy or managing downtime and offline agents.
Ask about timing
When using an on-premise solution rather than one with cloud computing, deployment can take months. Cloud contact center solutions are thankfully much easier to implement. As you are exploring your options, be sure to ask about set-up time. Make sure these processes in place are designed for individual user installation and made to move quickly.
7. Think about security and privacy
Contact centers often deal with sensitive customer data, especially for businesses that work in healthcare and financial services. To maintain customer trust and confidentiality, ensure the cloud solution you choose has reliable security measures. Since your agents will be connecting to your system from locations around the country and potentially the world, you need a solution that will enable secure connections at all times.
Though cloud solutions are often considered less secure than on-premise platforms, cloud computing gives enterprise-level security to any solution. Before choosing your service, explore their security measures. Check for any security breaches that have happened in the past. Determine how much the provider prioritizes privacy and how they work to keep your data safe.
Ready to implement a remote-managed contact center? Explore RingCentral’s remote agent capabilities here.
Originally published May 12, 2020, updated Jan 28, 2022