Picking the right cloud-based call centre technology infrastructure provider

In a previous article, 1Stream dealt with the need for companies setting up cloud-based call centres to find a provider that offers a service component. But how do you know your provider is a trusted provider and not just in it for the consulting hours?

February 20, 2012

Negotiate fixed-rate inclusive service upfront in your contract

By Bruce von Maltitz, Director of 1Stream

In a previous article, 1Stream dealt with the need for companies setting up cloud-based call centres to find a provider that offers a service component. But how do you know your provider is a trusted provider and not just in it for the consulting hours?

There are many tell-tale signs.

Contractual guarantee
It sounds deceptively simple, but many cloud-based call centre clients are ambushed into paying substantial consulting fees long after the deal is signed.

This is because many contracts do not include service in the price. Providers that are guilty of this are only too happy to charge for any subsequent problems, such as integration with current technologies, quality issues or the sticky problem of reporting.

The latter issue is bigger than it seems – with the dearth of good middle management skills in the industry, including consulting in the upfront price can help you decide the correct reports for your business. Should your provider leave you to make sense of the many different report types available yourself, confusion could set in and agents will find loopholes to exploit. A consultative approach gives the customer the assurance that managers will be walked through choosing and understanding a few reports that will work best for the business. Contracts without a service element, on the other hand, can leave managers overwhelmed and at the mercy of abuse.

Most contractors provide administrator and end-user training, but with the high churn in the industry this is often money in the water, so the provider can still earn high recurring revenue. The solution in all instances is to negotiate consulting, trouble-shooting and managed service elements upfront.

Many clients baulk at having service quoted, but it should be clear that an installation of the complexity of a call centre may require support throughout the project life cycle. Having the fact of service guaranteed at a fixed monthly hosting fee will prevent future surprises and minimise the upfront investment.

Specialist call centre provider
Geared for big and small companies
Large systems integrators by their very nature have a broad skills base supporting multiple vendors’ technologies. Their scale and generic skills mean they are geared for dealing with large corporates, which are in turn likely to have the skills on board to manage call centre setup and operations themselves.

Small and mid-range companies, however, require specialists that can run with the entire project. In fact, even big companies can benefit from a hands-on technology provider, given the continuing skills dearth in the industry.

All-round experience
Ask about the collective experience of your provider’s core team. It’s not enough to have vendor experience – providers ought to offer a well-rounded perspective from the side of the vendor, managed hosted service provider, integrator, consultant and even call centre management.

All-round experience will increase the likelihood of your provider being “plugged into” the industry and being able to easily resolve or broker a solution to any problem you may encounter.

Methodologies
An experienced, well-rounded team will have the project templates and methodologies to guide you through every stage of the project – from requirements gathering through to implementation and support.

A powerful all-round knowledge base further provides continuity in your dealings with the provider, which few generic integrators offer. Large integrators make use of large teams of sales, project management, implementation and support staff, with little or no personal relationship or continuing knowledge of the client.

But continuity goes further than one project or mere personal acquaintance – in the case of churn, it may amount to a serious erosion of the provider’s knowledge of a client account or even the technology it supports.

Proven technology credentials
While your call centre infrastructure resides in the cloud, your staff and management will come in frequent contact with its management systems. Call centres are all about reports and management of agents: aside from the issue of being able to interpret reports correctly, you have to be able to trust the technology in the first place.

An agent who games the system is a management issue, but an unproven call centre management system can give rise to a crisis of faith in the technology, which is far more fundamental.

Setting the scene for success
There are many ways in which to fail at the risky business of setting up and running a call centre. Picking a service-minded hosted provider is one way of ensuring you don’t fail before you’re even out of the gates.