As the shift from on-premise hardware to SaaS-based cloud offerings extends across all subsets of technology, more and more companies have begun to transition applications, workloads, and communication services to the cloud as a way to build competitive advantage, lower costs, improve customer service and enhance the customer experience.
The global cloud communication market alone is forecasted to reach $4.45 billion by 2021, driven by the bring your own device (BYOD) movement and the increasing cost-effectiveness of cloud-based solutions. Given this, many enterprise decision makers are turning to cloud-based service providers over legacy telco carriers.
IP-based “hybrid” carriers that support voice and messaging over a high-speed Internet connection have emerged as an increasingly popular, cost-effective, and reliable alternative for your communications services. Because communications services have become a must-have business feature to optimize the customer experience, selecting the right cloud-based service provider is critical. In fact, a recent survey found that the availability of SMS has a large influence on customer brand loyalty. So much so, that 58 percent of consumers indicated they would view a business more positively if they offered SMS capabilities.
The transition to cloud-based communication service providers has uncovered two common trends, (1) the shift from standalone communications to embedded communications and (2) the shift from on-premise systems to cloud-based services. These major market drivers are accelerating at a fast pace. Luckily, for companies contemplating the switch, there are multiple configurations to choose. Below are three of the popular configurations for cloud-based communications available today.
- Purpose-built software solutions. This solution is industry-specific and pre-integrated into a workflow. In this set-up, communication becomes an embedded capability within a critical and valuable software solution. For the healthcare industry, this business process application allows a dental or medical receptionist to better schedule patients, the salesperson to handle communications within their CRM, or the claims processing unit to automate claim status using SMS notifications.
- Cloud-hosted PBX technology. Cloud-hosted PBX offers the least amount of disruption to an organization while providing the same capabilities customers are familiar with, including making and receiving calls on a traditional handset and multi-party conference calling, etc.
- Be Your Own Carrier (BYOC) model. A BYOC configuration leverages Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) and allows developers to build and customize communications within their applications using APIs. This helps developers avoid the complexity involved with operating network infrastructure while still maintaining control over their customer experience.
After you have selected the configuration that will best fit your company and industry needs, the next step is to assess service providers and select a partner. As with any big purchase decision, it is important that you conduct the proper research to consider all options.
That said, switching service providers can be a complicated and expensive process, with implications for not only a business’s bottom line but also their corporate reputation. Dropped calls, degraded service, and complicated onboarding processes are just a some of the very real concerns that a business should consider when taking communications to the cloud.
Below are five criteria buyers should employ when evaluating cloud communications providers:
- Performance. Quality of service is paramount. It’s critical that your service provider can ensure carrier-grade voice and messaging services and minimize the presence of latency and jitter. Other performance-related functions to evaluate include the carrier’s ability to provide E911 emergency service, caller ID, troubleshooting and ensuring that telecom regulations and taxes are handled appropriately. Providers with attention to quality and technical expertise are a must-have, as these benchmarks can seriously impact the customer experience and your bottom line.
- Operations. Operations encompass the onboarding, automated porting, call flow design, support, service, and custom implementations processes. Reliable operations throughout the relationship guarantee ease of adoption and integration within a business’s processes and applications. A provider that has extensive experience with these operational requirements will be able to ensure processes run efficiently, and with little disruption to your business and customers.
- Visibility and control. Here, businesses need to evaluate whether the carrier provides developers with direct access to telecom resources such as phone numbers, inbound/outbound calls, text messaging and advanced signaling data.
- Insight. Cloud-based communications platforms can provide immense amounts of data that can help improve marketing and operating processes. Whether addressing a problem or assessing which numbers and channels receive the most traffic, providers that offer unparalleled access to telecom data will eliminate the need to manually log call information, saving time, and improving accuracy.
- Best-of-breed features. New features beyond the basic offering of auto-attendants, call reporting, call management and voicemail, help partners maintain competitive advantage and provide added benefits to their customers. These high-value features can involve enhanced voice, messaging, video development and application exchange in cloud communications. As well as SMS, MMS and call recording and transcription. A provider that can easily integrate and add new features to the product offering should weigh heavy in the selection process.
Developing a strategic plan for selecting a cloud communications provider is key to maximizing the benefits that cloud-based services can offer. While communications have lagged somewhat behind other categories in the shift to the cloud, we have seen the value of the cloud becoming more widespread. Weighing the deployment options, service provider offerings and assessing your company, partners, and customers’ needs will assure that you’ve developed a high-value strategy for a successful move to the cloud.