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Contact Centers in the Cloud: Smart Ways to Manage the Sales Cycle

Cloud Contact Center

Dan ShaperoBy Dan Shapero

Cloud-based contact centers are big business, as discussed at a jam-packed session underwritten by master agent CarrierSales at the 2016 Channel Partners Conference & Expo. Yesterday, I revealed market drivers and target acquisition advice gleaned from the session. Now let’s talk insights on overcoming objections and what to look for in a solution.

If there is an elephant in the room when discussing cloud services, it is almost always security. Issues ranging from regulatory compliance (PCI and HIPAA) to data sovereignty are likely to come up in the sales cycle. Most successful channel partners agree that it’s best to confront these issues head on early in the sales cycle; in fact, proactively exploring the topic of cloud security establishes you as a trusted adviser.

“PCI and HIPAA are common compliance issues fueling the security concerns of many business owners considering migrating their infrastructure and applications to cloud services,” said Darren Gill, VP of channels and sales development at Interactive Intelligence. “While you can deliver compliant calls across the public Internet, mission-critical, 24/7 solutions may be better suited for a local trunking or hybrid solution.” Brett Theisen, SVP of global channel sales for inContact also notes that while cloud services have won over mindshare, uptime is still vitally important to contact centers. Plan accordingly.

Other concerns about cloud services stem from where data resides and may be a matter of statutory requirement. For global deployments, getting ahead of this concern can shorten the sales cycle.

“Data sovereignty is emerging as a growing issue for international companies,” said Rob Clarke, SVP of global platform sales for LiveOps. “Many countries, including Germany and Canada, enforce stringent requirements on where data can reside.” Understanding these laws is important when moving a contact center workforce from on-premises to cloud.

What to Look For

There are a variety of deployment models for contact centers, and the diversity doesn’t stop at cloud versus on-premises. Private cloud solutions offer benefits to customers with stringent compliance requirements, while hybrid cloud may bridge the gap from a legacy contact center to a modernized solution and provide scalability.

One thing the experts agreed on is that a multitenant architecture provides additional benefits. Brandon Knight, director of consulting services at ShoreTel, which recently acquired Corvisa to capitalize on the growth of cloud contact center solutions, pointed out that ShoreTel owns its cloud and runs a true multi-instance offering with a multitenant network. That means one contact point for problems or requests.

Channel partners looking to add cloud contact center solutions have a range of other criteria to consider, too. Is the cloud contact solution built on a scalable architecture? What about integration with other communications platforms? Is there robust ad-hoc and historical reporting? Is the cloud contact center provider channel-centric, and how well will they support the sales cycle?

Each panelist had his own spin on what a channel partner should look for from a cloud contact center provider.

Bill Pieper, president of EPIC Connections, suggests agents leverage vendor support for assessment, design and optimization, while Wendell Black, VP of channels at Five9, says his company offers fast time to resolution, providing partners with quick answers, robust response and plenty of options.

Getting customers up and running quickly means partners get paid sooner — the coveted “fast time to money.”

“Real-time and historical analysis along with metadata, including recordings, should be table stakes from all providers,” Black adds.

Gill says a truly unified platform with seamless omni-channel support for text, chat, SMS and social provides a huge differentiator. Also look for elasticity, redundancy and APIs that provide open access to every function in the system.

Clarke says watchwords are “simple,” “smart” and “agile”: The solution should be easy for the channel partner and the customer to understand. Smart means analytics, while agility equates to the ability to scale up — and scale down — worldwide. He adds that the ability to manage remote agents’ productivity will be key, especially for customers with a global footprint. Test to ensure jitter and latency aren’t a problem (LiveOps runs on AWS) and ask about real-time, historical and dashboard-based reporting for end-to-end visibility.

Contact center buyers often speak a unique language, says ShoreTel’s Knight, that a vendor partner that started in the contact center industry can help decipher. Theisen cites tight integration with commonly used collaboration tools like RingCentral, Jive and others.

If session attendance is an indicator of opportunity, the market for cloud contact center solutions is red hot. With a range of cloud contact center providers vying for leadership positions, partners have many options. The question is, are you agile enough to transition your business to take advantage of the market opportunity?

Richard Murray, president/owner of CarrierSales, offered insights based on his company’s growth. “We focused on transformation,” said Murray. “As everyone started talking about the cloud, CarrierSales used the same model that made us successful with CenturyLink, by having deep expertise and dedicated support. We took the same focus and success model and built up capability and competency around contact center solutions, including infrastructure and support. As a result, it is now the number one driver of growth at CarrierSales.”

Dan Shapero, founder of ClikCloud, is a highly skilled, results-driven technology marketing and business development executive. He has a track record of driving revenue growth and positioning companies for public offerings or acquisition. Shapero is a member of the CompTIA board of directors and held executive positions at Ingram Micro Cloud, Kaseya, Avamar (EMC), Vicinity (Microsoft), State of the Art (Sage) and Platinum Software Corporation (Epicor). He is a frequent speaker on topics including digital marketing, business transformation, managed services, cloud computing, cybersecurity and mobile computing.


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