Contact Center as a Service – Explainers
In our previous article, we outlined the various benefits that your business could expect by incorporating a contact center as a service (CCaaS). However, if you want to understand the multiple reasons why CCaaS technology can help push your brand forward, you need to know all of its components.
So, with that in mind, we want to break down the different parts of CCaaS so that you don’t have to be confused when talking with a service provider. This article should illustrate both the complex and unknown topics, as well as some that may just require a refresher. Overall, implementing a CCaaS strategy is smart for your business, so learning as much as you can about it will be highly useful.
Contact Center vs. Call Center
One of the most prevalent items that you need to understand about the contact center is how they differ from traditional call centers. Many enterprise-level companies have call centers where customers can contact a service rep. These centers are designed to answer questions about a product, field complaints, or assist customers in other ways (i.e., billing).
The reason that these are called call centers is that almost all interactions are handled over the phone. The buildings are full of phone banks and computers, where reps can answer calls and look up customer information.
In today’s connected world, however, users are no longer just using the phone. These days, customers expect businesses to have multiple contact channels available. These channels can include:
- SMS Messaging (Texting)
- Live Chat
- Instant Messenger
Thus, contact centers need to provide access to these channels so that your brand can communicate more efficiently with customers. Better yet, all of these alternatives enable reps to connect with multiple customers simultaneously, which is why contact centers are so much better. A rep can text five or six users at once, while he or she can only talk to one person on the phone.
Overall, using CCaaS technology not only expands your customer service options, but it adds value to your customers, improving your brand image in the process.
As a Service
Thanks to cloud technology, more and more operations are being delivered “as a service” than ever before. However, what does that mean? You have probably seen it attached to a variety of operational items, such as software as a service (SaaS), unified communication as a service (UCaaS), and others.
Simply put, as a service means that the product (i.e., contact centers) are packaged and delivered over the cloud as a single item. Rather than building a contact center with various infrastructure and programs, now you can handle it all with a single application.
Thus, the different communication channels (texting, live chat, etc.) are managed through a single system, making it that much easier for reps to connect and for IT to maintain. Not only that, but the service provider is also in charge of updates, meaning that you don’t have to spend as much time on routine maintenance and upgrading.
Another benefit of using “as a service” technology is that you can pick and choose which elements you want. For example, if you want to incorporate live chat but not instant messaging, you can let your provider know not to include it. This way, you can save money and streamline your operations simultaneously.
On-Premises vs. Off-Site
One of the most significant problems with traditional call centers is that you have to maintain infrastructure to keep everything up and running. You need to buy phones and computers and manage the connections between them.
On-premises technology refers to hardware that needs to remain at the business itself. Off-site refers to mobile devices that may only need an internet connection. With CCaaS, you no longer need to require your reps to come to work in a specific building. Now, workers can field calls and other communications from home (or wherever they are). As long as employees have a dedicated internet connection, they can work for you.
Another term you might hear when comparing cloud-based software to traditional methods is legacy hardware. The term legacy refers to old-fashioned infrastructure that enterprises used to build and maintain a network.
In the old days, if you wanted multiple computers to be on the same network, they had to be connected physically. This kind of setup required modems, cables, and routers to ensure that everything worked together. As you can imagine, the cost of building this infrastructure was huge and maintaining it was also expensive. If a company wanted offices in different towns or states to be connected, it was a massive undertaking.
Not only was legacy technology expensive, but it was susceptible to hacking and security breaches. Updating the system required going into each terminal and each computer to install new software. When you have 1000 points of access, it’s much easier for anyone to bypass your security systems.
With regards to CCaaS, legacy technology includes things like phone lines and computer terminals. Thanks to the cloud, everything can be mobile, including voice calls. This updated system makes everything cheaper and more accessible for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
Although alternative means of communication are becoming much more popular among customers, phone calls are still the gold standard. However, the internet makes it even easier to manage these calls to your business, all thanks to VOIP technology.
Voice over internet protocol refers to sending phone calls through the internet. Now, instead of a call being tied to a specific phone line, it can be redirected as necessary. For example, you can forward calls from your business line to your mobile phone much easier. Also, those calls can be redirected to another person within the business if you’re not able to answer.
VOIP is an integral part of CCaaS because it modernizes your capabilities. Also, it’s a lot cheaper than having to manage banks of phones in a specific building. Anyone with internet access can make and receive calls, all to the same business phone number.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Another essential element of any contact center is getting customer information to direct the call to the appropriate representative. For example, if someone is calling about billing, it helps to put them in touch with that department immediately than to wait for a rep to transfer the call.
Interactive voice response makes this process much smoother and simpler, both for the company and the caller. The system will ask a variety of questions, and either has the caller speak the answers or use the touchpad to respond. Based on those responses, the call is directed as necessary.
This kind of technology has been around for a while, but modern IVR solutions can be much more sophisticated, particularly when interacting with customers. Response options can be more authentic, and the system can relay information much faster. For example, if a customer enters an account number, the IVR system can locate the person’s name and repeat it back for verification.
The best thing about IVR technology is that all of this happens before a representative answers the phone. This kind of process streamlines interactions and ensures that customers are handled with better efficiency. Also, you can tie IVR to your customer relationship management (CRM) software to make it easier for reps to get a user’s information before answering the call.
Automatic Call Distributor (ACD)
IVR technology is perfect for those customers calling your business, but as we’ve established, you are managing multiple communication channels. How can you be sure that texts are reaching the right representative, or that live chat is going to the proper department?
An automatic call distributor system is the answer. Despite its name, this program helps direct all channels, including email, texts, live chat, and instant messages. The system is designed based on user inputs, much like an IVR program.
As with IVR, the primary benefit of an ACD is that you can save time and money by fielding inquiries and gathering pertinent information before passing it off to a real person. Also, you can couple these systems with artificial intelligence to provide better interactions with customers. Overall, the user experience becomes more seamless, and reps are better equipped to handle each call.
When deploying a CCaaS plan, you can either manage the software on-premises, or you can let your service provider do it for you. Hosted services are usually much cheaper since you are using the provider’s infrastructure and don’t require many unique features. The downside of hosted CCaaS, though is that your data is being stored on a shared server. If you have compromising or sensitive information (i.e., customer billing info), you need to make sure that it’s well protected.
Most businesses have a mixture of hosted and private CCaaS services. For elements that can be utilized on a shared service, hosted options are ideal and cost-effective. On the other side, private data can be managed when the company keeps everything internal. You will want to talk to your service provider to see which elements can and should be hosted.