Questions to ask your potential cloud contact centre software provider – Part 2

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January 2015
Questions to ask your potential cloud contact centre software provider – Part 2

This is part 2 in a discussion with Justin Aldrich from Unity4 about the questions you needs to ask a potential cloud contact centre software provider. In this recording we discuss more about the functionality you should look for and about telecommunications charges and the topics of scalability and support that you should expect.

Simon: Excellent, alright, so moving on let’s talk about the modern contact centre being required to perform so much more than just being the place that handles the calls effectively. And it should be equally adapt at what happens before and after the call. The ability to send an email or SMS based on the outcome of the call might be a very simple example of this. Now Unity4 incorporates what you call a rules engine to automate these other elements of the campaign and that would appear to allow some very complex interactions and rules to be in place. Tell us briefly about that.
Increased productivity with a multi channel rules engine.

Justin: Sure and you’re absolutely right. Today’s contact centre is not necessarily just about picking up the phone or making an outbound call. Now in days gone past, you would find an agent make a phone which is effectively selling the products over the phone and then the next 10, 15, 20 minutes of their time is spent making sure that the appropriate email detailing the policy number, the premium and the receipt number are sent out. The product disclosure statement is physically put in an envelope and sent out to the fulfillment partner. Or at least a message is placed to the fulfillment partner. To take some of those elements away from a contact centre agent and automate them with what we call as you said the rules engine, fits very neatly into what we talked about earlier in terms of the scripting engine. As an agent moves through a particular script or a particular process on that call that requires certain actions to be activated, whether it be a free gift or whatever that might be, or a receipt number. Those are automatically generated. They will take the information from the record so it will take the clients name, address for example or a clients email address even down to a level of the clients mobile phone service What that does is it actually takes away the human element of the follow through that’s required by the legislation for compliance of governance reasons or really purely for complimentary reasons of making sure that you are interacting with your customer.

So whatever rules that are required around an interaction with a customer, whatever outcomes, whatever things which need to be sent a fulfillment provider, all of those things are developed in the rules engine and they happen automatically. So they’re tested here for user acceptance level and they automatically are triggered as an agent goes through a script or a process which allows a great deal more efficiency with in the contact centre because that agent, once they’ve finished that call is able to move straight on to the next call, make their next outbound call or be available for the next inbound call because they’re not running around the office trying to stuff an envelope with paper or jumping from the contact centre platform into a email platform, to send emails which inherently have a level of human error involved in that things can be mistyped.

So by putting all of that into a rules engine it allows a dramatic increase in efficiency and reduces error appearance dramatically as well.

Simon: Very good, okay so we’re talking about here about all the things that happen in the call centre, the contact centre other than the phone so then let’s talk then about social media and social media interaction and some of the concepts that you’d like to raise there around integrating social media with the contact centre.

Integrating social media with the contact centre.

Justin: Yeah absolutely. Over the last few years in the industry, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in how the new generation interacts with clients. . . with organizations.

We see social media just like we see telephone calls.

We see social media just as another channel for the client whether they be happy or whether they be dissatisfied, wants to interact with the bank. Now the fact of the matter is they’re interacting with the bank or the utility provider in a much more public manner.
So there are many applications out there on the market that will report back on what’s happening on social media. The ability for a subset of agents within a contact centre environment who can be alerted to social media interactions and to be able to jump up on those really quickly and to solve an issue, to rectify an issue or to actually in a positive manner, accept the customer’s suggestion or you know, accept praise accordingly and thank the customer for that: is key.

And we see that as no different to receiving a complimentary or a complaint telephone call on behalf of the customer or where it’s a complimentary or a complaint email or suggestion email from a customer. They need to be dealt with in the same way. So it comes down to integrating with some of those social media platforms and effectively training a set of a subset of contact centre agents to deal with those immediately. But it’s really a paradigm shift within the within the contact centre industry. But social media effectively is just another channel of communication that the client may choose to communicate with your organization.

Simon: Sure okay. So let’s move on to a couple of other things and Unity4 as a home based contact centre would have needed to have been on the front foot with different ways of training their agents and so now they have quite an advanced suite of online training rooms and online training tools. Tools that any of the users of the Unity4 system can benefit form. Briefly tell us about those.

Agent training resources

Justin: Yeah absolutely. Unity4 from an outsourcing perspective, just to give this as a little bit of background we have around 900 to 1000 agents, none of which sit in the traditional booths in modern contact centre.

They work from home across Australia, New Zealand and the UK soon to be the US as well. And so since the year 2000, we had to develop ways of communicating with those agents because we don’t have the ability to bring them into the office and sit them in the traditional training room. Which is very resource heavy anyway. So we developed a suite of training rooms that our clients can come into, via video conferencing, and show agents who are sitting in different geographical locations all around Australia and New Zealand and other locations, they can see a product, they can see how a product works from a technical support perspective, they can interact directly with the utility or the financial service institution that they represent on the phone and it also gives us the ability with team leaders here at Unity4 to be able to invite one or more agents into a training room and to discuss a particular call recording or a call monitoring process to assist that agent or that customer service representative to improve or you know to decide if additional training elements or to compliment that individual.

So they have the ability to be called into a training room where effectively it’s a one on one interaction with their team leader or a group integration with their team leader depending on what the team leader has set up but certainly in the same way that you would as a call centre manager or an operations manager within the traditional bricks and mortar contact centre environment. Walk onto the floor first thing in the morning, call your team meeting wake your team up, tell them what the KPI’s are for the day, praise them on their results from yesterday and you know talk about a big finish of the week, let’s really push through, and here are the latest stats or here’s the latest information that you might want to use on your calls. We do exactly the same but we’re just not looking at them face to face. We’re interacting with them via online training rooms and so on. And we find that our customer base certainly from an outsource effective, really enjoy that ability to be able to sit in their office and be able to interact with their team as well. So that’s on the outsource side. Now those training rooms and that functionality is also provided as part of our cloud based contact centre platform. And some organizations use that, some don’t. The ones that do, might use that if they have more than one contact centre location for example. If you look at someone in the financial services organizations who take customer service inquiries they may have a city based contact centre and they may have two three or four regional based contact centres. So again the ability to be able to bring all of those teams into one place at one time to deliver training once rather than deliver training in the city then jumping in the car or jump on a plane and go to remote sites, remote locations, regional locations, to deliver that same training.. . that’s all done with online training groups. And it allows those organizations who are using the platform and there is a big shift to this now that you want to start sending some of their agents to work from home, it’s still allows them to be involved in the team environment and have team interactions in those online forums and online training groups.

Simon: Excellent alright, well this next one is probably just getting into the nitty gritty a little bit but let’s talk about the about telecommunications charges. So a client on using the Unity4 system for example would be paying a monthly per user fee. Who pays the phone bill? What’s the normal arrangement there?

Justin: Okay there is obviously a telecommunications cost associated. If you look at for example when we are interacting with a potential new customer, we look at what their telco costs are right now. They’ll be making outbound telephone calls, they’ll be receiving inbound telephone calls so there’s a cost associated with that. And that cost associated with that needs to be put into the whole internal investment because those costs don’t go away. So on top of the per month per user cost that we have for using the system we work very closely with our telco partners and have extraordinarily competitive telco rates for outbound calls to landlines and to mobiles that effectively run from a per second to per second basis.
To date we’ve found that our telco partnership allow us to be incredibly competitive in terms of comparing to an existing telco relationship or any organization that we’re talking to might have.

So again when an organization is looking potentially at a cloud based contact centre platform, obviously those telco costs don’t go away they are obviously part of the very nature of making outbound calls and communicating with different customer base but we at Unity4 have been doing this since the year 2000 and we’ve developed incredibly competitive rates and we very rarely find we can’t be more competitive than the existing relationships that those organizations have.
And one question that springs to mind that we get asked regularly as well for example our organization has a relationship with XYZ communications company. That’s fine and that relationship can still stand for the rest of the organization. If that telco provider is not exactly the same telco provider as us. The fact that the call centre can actually sit outside of the rest of the business is very simple to do. we take care of all of that because effectively as a cloud based contact centre provider we route all the calls. so the fact that it may be provided through a different telco provider is seamless and effectively irrelevant to the organization as a whole.

Simon: Alright then great, let’s touch on support and we might start by saying that the platform you choose should be intuitive enough and simple enough that a lot of the campaign set up and a lot of the elements that are required by the campaign should be able to be set up by the campaign manager or a team leader. Rather than requiring IT resources to set up with all of the attendant time and expense involved in using IT resources. Is that fair to say?

Justin: Absolutely and the contact centre industry has come a long way in that regard. To a certain degree gone are the days certainly in our world, in Unity4’s world, where tickets are lodged in and you know, you effectively take a number and wait your turn. Support in the contact centre environment is absolutely critical because whether you’re receiving inbound customer service calls, inbound emergency based calls, or you want to be able to do something outbound from an emergency perspective whether it be bush fires or floods in a government or an emergency services prospective and on the outbound side of things, if a product changes, those agents need to be able to make changes or have changes made in their scripting almost immediately whether the product is taken off of the shelf or the product is enhanced, it’s key that those things happen really, really quickly.

And so our solution was designed specifically, where the initial configuration set up is typically done by our subject matter experts. That’s documented and it’s shared obviously between our tech support and operational guys as well as the client so the client always has something to refer to as to what the baseline is. We have clients who come to us and request changes to be made. We can do those update with all that documentation, run a quick test in a testing environment and then roll that back out to the client in a live production environment. On the flip side of that, we also have clients who because they do have certain resources and they do have some subject matter expertise they can actually do that themselves, they can do that immediately in their test environments which we would always suggest. So certainly from our prospective, if you give us your requirement let’s make it…let’s quote against it and give you a time in hours or days for that to…those changes to be made then waiting for a sign up process by which time effectively your emergency situation or your competitor advantage is gone. Those days are certainly gone and they should be gone with a cloud based contact centre provider. Because the…inherently the solution is much more simplistic.
Simon: Sure. Alright, now in terms of big picture items here, one of the main benefits of using a cloud based platform is the inherent scalability that’s available, the ability to ramp up your operation rapidly. Are there any elements that the buyers and the new customers of a cloud based contact centre platform should be thinking of and should be aware of?

Scalability in the cloud contact centre

Justin :Absolutely and I think to start the answer to this question, we have customers who have started a small and remained very small. That’s the very nature of their business. We have customers that have started small and grown very rapidly because that’s the nature of their business. I think the discussion of scalability of old was very much how much rack space do we need. How many IT resources are we going to need to maintain it, and from a traditional bricks and mortar prospective, how many more floors do we need to lease so that we can put people on the ground. With cloud contact centre platform perspective all of those things change slightly. Firstly rack space and room in your IT cupboard or your IT floor becomes irrelevant because ultimately the cloud based contact centre provider manages that aspect.

So we take responsibility for the IT functionality, we take responsibility for the hardware and the maintenance of that and the growth of that. And we plan accordingly not only for contingency disaster recovery but business continuity. The IT resources to maintain that, again that lies on the shoulders of the cloud based contact centre provider. And the final piece around scalability which has always been an issue for just about every organization out there whether it’s financial services, government in terms of shared services, or utilities. . as their client base grows the number of inbound customer service calls increases, the number of technical support calls increases and the number of outbound upsell, cross sell calls increases. Now in order to do that, technically they require more and more people. And in a bricks and mortar environment that requires leasing more space. And we all know that in this day and age that’s a costly exercise in itself and then to fit that out, then to recruit additional people to bring them in and then train them, it’s all part and parcel for a competitive operation.

With a cloud based provider it allows organizations to look at things slightly differently. Do they need to lease a floor in their existing building or can they now look at a more regional strategy? So for example an organization that maybe has a head office in the city of Sydney, they can now look at regional centres like New Castle to manage their expansion at a lower cost because they have a cloud based platform that effectively as long as there is an internet capability and a dial-able telephone number, the cloud based provider can route calls to that agent where ever they are. It also allows in terms of expansion and we’re seeing this much more readily now, organizations are looking at supplementing or complementing their existing bricks and mortar contact centre by enabling people to work from home. Or hiring the people that work from home. That allows them to hire a completely different demographic of individual and so typically an older individual, someone returning to work, someone who may be a subject matter expert but may not live near the centre of CBD, is absolutely perfect to take or make those calls. But using a cloud based contact centre platform, it doesn’t matter where the individual is seated so it really does change dynamically how we are going to scale our business. It allows you to take some of that cost out or certainly dramatically reduce it by using the technology platform that you have available to you.

Where the contact centre platform originated from, and why it matters

Simon: Excellent alright. Then let’s finish here with a discussion on where some of these systems evolved from. Some cloud based systems on the market are effectively traditional call centre hardware that was re-plumbed and converted to be able to function online, others like Unity4 started out as cloud based systems before the notion of the cloud was as it is today and being talked about and there’s everything between. So why is this an important consideration for the company that’s looking for a new cloud based contact centre solution.
Justin: Yeah look, good question Simon and you’re absolutely right. There are large well known brand names in this industry that have provided contact centre hardware and software for a very large number of years. They made a huge amount of money out of it and they’ve provided resource heavy maintenance hardware and software platforms that have run major contact centre operations and still do to this day. Where you’re also right is some of those organizations have taken those platforms, bought all of that hardware and bought all of that software back on to their own premises and then piped it back out to the customer by the internet.

Now that’s not a true cloud solution.

Effectively what that is, is you’re hardware and your software now just sort or sitting in a big room at the provider and they give you a log in and a password and effectively you access all of that there in one huge pipe so it’s effectively taking what you had and just putting it somewhere else.

Unity4 is a cloud based contact centre provider. Back in 2000 we came up with the unique model of agents working from home and needed a contact centre platform and to be able to manage a contact centre that was radically different at that time to everybody else. So we needed all of the functionality that any contact centre provider that takes work from an outsource centre prospective and works for utilities, telcos, banks, and government bodies, we needed all of that but we needed it in a platform that we could allow people to work from wherever they were.

As long as they had an internet connection and as long as they had a dial-able telephone number. So bearing that in mind we developed our platform from scratch, as you said, before cloud became a fashionable word or a word that we hear every day. We worked out how our team leaders and our contact centre managers were going to interact on a regular basis with individuals within the contact centre. We looked at all of the call recording, call monitoring, quality assurance elements, workforce planning, scheduling the predictive and preview dialling capabilities, skill based routing, all of those areas that we’ve kind of touched on in this, we developed into one platform and we developed it that way so that there is not need for an organization to put in a very large pipe.

Some organizations their provider is saying ‘look why don’t you go to our cloud solution, we’ll take all of your hardware, and we’ll take all of your software and then we’ll pipe it back into you via the internet.’ Our solution was developed as a full-blown contact centre provider platform that enables an individual to work from home with a standard broadband connection. So you know there is no requirement for that huge, costly pipe that cost tens of thousands on a contractual basis with the telecommunications provider. So those are some of the subtle differences.

Solutions created by industry professionals, not just software programmers

I think the real key for Unity4 is that all of our development staff, all of our technology staff and operational staff have all come from a contact centre background. The founder of our organization has come from a contact centre background. Myself, the rest of the team here and really shows because rather than continually developing or configuring something to meet specific tiny nondescript needs, what we’ve actually developed is something that actually runs a contact centre outsource organization, with over 750 contact centre agents, across multiple clients, with multiple needs so that when we take this platform as a technology platform to organizations we typically find that every requirement they have or every need that they may have now from an immediate prospective and what they’re looking to do, we actually have that capability within the solution rather than having to go away and continually develop or reconfigure at a cost to make things match or to work to have a change in business needs.
Simon: Excellent, alright, well thank you very much for that Justin, I’m going to wrap up here and to the listener or to the reader if you’re considering a cloud based platform for your business, the Unity4 platform has all of the functionality that we’ve been speaking about here today and much more. It’s already been used by many companies ranging from SME’s right to the government and Justin and the team would be very happy to discuss your requirements with you whether that’s for outsourcing or for software. And you can contact Justin and the team at