Comparing Cloud-Based Contact Center Platforms

The adoption of cloud-based contact center platforms has been on the rise for more than five years now, and for good reason. Unlike traditional premise-based platforms, moving to the cloud has shown to improve cost efficiencies, reduce system maintenance and management, and provide high levels of flexibility and scalability—all while providing the security and reliability of a premise deployment.

Picking a cloud-based contact center platform should be easy, right? Just compare features and functions and jump right in. Well, not exactly. Like any other major business platform deployment, there’s more to consider than just the technology.

Many of today’s cloud platforms have similar architectures. Here are four key items that should also be on your checklist when evaluating a new cloud-based contact center platform partner.

Does the Company Have a Formal Discovery and Deployment Process?

Your organization isn’t cookie cutter, so trying to deploy a one-size-fits-all platform will probably end up taking longer, and be more painful and ultimately less rewarding than promised. But why should that be your problem? Partnering with a brand that understands your business goals and aligns its process to match yours takes the responsibility off your shoulders.

When talking to a potential partner, look at the platform provider’s process to get to know new clients. First things first—do they have a formal process? If not, it’s best to strike them from the list right away.

Next, how do they get to know your business? Look for a designated team and process, such as a discovery session that allows you to download the partner team with the information they need to make your project successful. A good get-to-know-you session should dive into your business’s pain points, goals, customer profiles, and more—allowing the deployment team to leave the session equipped with all the information needed to recommend a solution perfectly suited to your organization.

How Compatible Is the Platform and Who’s Responsible for Creating Interaction Points?

No one deploys a contact center platform in a vacuum. It is guaranteed that other business systems and applications will need to interface with the contact center system. Depending on your choice of partner, this seamless interaction can be perfection or a nightmare.

When partners take the time to understand your current service objectives, technologies, and infrastructure, they can provide a product that meets both your business and infrastructure needs. This should be part of the discovery session, and you should feel confident that the deployment team understands the technologies you’re running today and how all the pieces need to interact—not only from a software standpoint, but from a content, agent-workflow, and reporting standpoint as well.

When choosing a new partner, ask questions about their back-end integration expertise. How much time do they spend evaluating your current infrastructure? Do they have the tools to integrate with your current IVR, databases, and other applications? Are they open to customization to ensure tight integration at every level? How many times have they worked with these same systems or software applications? All these questions will help to ensure seamless integration and will give you confidence in the roles that your team and your partner’s team will play.

What Level of Service Is Provided After the Sale?

Many companies offer training once a platform is deployed—as they should. However, for some, the service stops there. So what if a problem arises, and whose responsibility is it to help you through future issues?

Having a service contract is a start, but how a partner lives up to that contract may vary by company. Here’s where you need to do some background research on every platform partner that is in consideration. Check out their customer service reputation, read reviews, check in with industry analysts like Donna Fluss, and ask for referrals. Find out the costs; whether your potential partner provides dedicated account managers to help with questions before, during and after the sale; and the role your internal team is expected to play.

Ideally, an account manager should be available to help with onboarding, act as the point person for all questions during the process, and provide guidance on updates throughout the life cycle of your platform. If all you get from your partner is a 1-800 number, it’s probably not the answer you want.

It’s important to understand what other support is provided after the sale as well. For example, some companies offer FAQ and how-to documents and/or videos for easy-to-answer questions. Others provide round-the-clock, in-house support that’s ready to answer questions—even if it’s 2 a.m. Only you know what “worst-case scenarios” you might run into, so have these discussions openly and honestly with potential partners to see which ones are willing to offer the right level of service you need.

What Is the Installation, Deployment, and Testing Turnaround Time?

One of the benefits of cloud deployment is the decreased time to get up and running. No hardware to order and install, no extra network cabling to run, and no software to roll out to 1,000 agents. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a simple one-click deployment either.

When evaluating potential partners, talk about timelines up front. Discuss any customization options and how that will impact the deployment. Ask about their schedules, staff availability, and workload—are you on a waiting list because their team is out fixing other installs? That’s probably a bad sign.

How long is their process? Some of the more well-known platform brands can take up to six months before you’re up and running. That’s a long time to wait if you have campaigns that are relying on the new platform and reporting tools.

Before committing to any platform, ask your potential partner for the typical turnaround time from start to finish, including each step in the process. If they can’t do it in six to 10 weeks, make sure you understand why. Get it written into the contract so you can have accountability, and you (and your partner) can flag any scope changes that might lengthen the time. This level of transparency and openness can be critical in creating a relationship where all parties are working toward the same business goals.

These tips aren’t to say that platform technology and architecture isn’t important—it is. A good cloud-based platform should provide consistent, connected customer experiences and real-time monitoring, and enable your contact center agents to increase their efficiency and productivity. However, the relationships behind the platform are equally, if not more, important to the ultimate success of your company.

So whether you’re implementing a platform for the first time or upgrading your current technology, consider these four tips and take a little extra time to get to know the people and processes behind the technology.

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Posted June 26, 2015