Having the right solution to support inbound and outbound communication between you and your customers is crucial and requires careful consideration.
This blog covers several key factors that should be considered when looking at whether your current solution is fit for purpose, or when you are considering purchasing a new one.
From our extensive experience, we have listed 8 key factors below that businesses should take into account when considering a communication solution. We have then expanded each factor, providing further detail on each one, as you go scroll down the page.
Functionality: The solution should offer a range of features and capabilities including multiple channels, IVR(s), routing and queuing, recording and QA, integration, reporting and analytics, and customisable workflows.
Scalability: It should scale up or down, including the ability to add or remove agents, increase or decrease capacity, and support increasing interaction volumes and data traffic, based on changing needs.
Reliability: The solution should have a proven track record of uptime and availability, ensuring customer satisfaction and minimising issues.
Security: It should have robust security features to protect against data breaches and other cyber threats, including encryption, access controls, and regular security audits and updates.
Cost: The solution should offer good value for money, and fit within your budget, taking into account the upfront costs of implementation as well as ongoing maintenance and support costs.
Ease of Use: It should be user-friendly for your employees and minimise training time to ensure that staff can quickly and efficiently handle customer enquiries.
Integration with Existing Systems: The solution should be able to integrate with the company's existing systems, such as Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) or ticketing software, allowing employees to access customer data and history, thus helping to improve the overall customer experience.
Vendor Support: The vendor should offer comprehensive support and training resources to ensure a smooth transition and ongoing support for the company.
The Functionality of a Communication Solution
Below we expand on functionality and have listed some of the requirements that should be taken into consideration.
Multi-channel/Omnichannel: Via their smartphones, your customers have access to many channels, e.g. voice, email, SMS, etc, so you need to have these too. This will allow customers to communicate via their preferred channel, helping to improve customer satisfaction.
Call routing, Queuing and Call-back: Effective routing and queuing features ensure customers are connected to the right agent, with the right skills to answer their query in a timely and efficient manner. When agents are busy, these allow customers to request a callback at a time that is convenient to them.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR): IVR(s) allow customers to get to the right place first time by selecting options on their phone keypad or using natural language. IVRs can also allow customers to self-serve, helping to streamline call handling time, reduce agent workload and increase customer satisfaction.
Automatic Call Distribution (ACD): Routes incoming calls to the most appropriate agent based on business rules, such as skillset or availability, helping to improve call handling efficiency and reduce wait times.
Recording and Monitoring: Consider solutions that offer recording and monitoring features that allow monitoring for quality assurance purposes, as well as for training and coaching purposes.
Integration with other Systems: Communication solutions should integrate with other business systems, such as Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) or ticketing systems to enable agents to access customer data and history, which can help to improve the customer experience.
Reporting and Analytics: A good communication solution should provide reporting and analytics capabilities, which can help businesses to track and analyse their call centre performance. Report results are vital to highlight where changes should be implemented to improve efficiency and customer service.
Customisable Workflows: These allow businesses to tailor their communication solution to their own unique needs, helping to improve efficiency and reduce errors.
Mobile Support: For remote agents and those requiring 'on-the-go' access to their communication solution, this is vital, and allows employees access to customer data and history, and to handle calls from anywhere, at any time.
The Scalability of a Communication Solution
Below we consider scalability requirements, which will allow businesses to ensure their communication solution is able to grow and evolve with their changing needs, helping them to remain competitive and responsive to their customers.
Ability to add Agents: As teams expand or reduce, businesses need to be able to easily add or remove agents as their team numbers change. This should include the ability to assign roles and permissions, add skills and allocate phone numbers.
Flexibility in Licensing: Flexible licensing options allow businesses to add or remove licenses as needs change. This can help to keep costs under control and ensure that the business is only paying for what it actually needs.
Integration with Third-party Solutions: Integrating with third-party tools, such as Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs), software, marketing automation tools, and Help Desk systems allows businesses to better support their customers and the customer journey.
Scalability of Infrastructure: The solution should be able to scale its infrastructure to support increasing call volumes and data traffic. This includes the ability to scale server capacity, increase bandwidth, and distribute the load across multiple servers.
High Availability: Solutions need to have high availability, with redundant systems in place to ensure that the service is always available. This includes failover mechanisms, Disaster Recovery (DR) solutions, and redundancy in the underlying infrastructure.
Ease of Maintenance: The solution should be easy to maintain, with tools for monitoring and managing the system. This includes tools for monitoring performance, diagnosing issues, and deploying updates.
Cloud-based Architecture: Cloud-based communication solutions can offer greater scalability than on-premises solutions, as they can be easily, and quickly, scaled up or down as required. They also offer greater flexibility and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.
The Reliability of a Communication Solution
Reliability is a key consideration when reviewing your business communication solutions.
Below are some thoughts on reliability requirements that will allow businesses to ensure the solution delivers high-quality customer service, ensures business continuity, and minimises the risk of data breaches or downtime.
Uptime and Availability: A proven track record of uptime and availability is fundamental, with minimal downtime or service disruptions. This is critical for ensuring uninterrupted customer service and maintaining customer satisfaction.
Redundancy: Having redundant systems in place ensures high availability and minimises downtime. This includes backup servers, redundant power sources, and other failover mechanisms.
Disaster Recovery (DR): A disaster recovery plan must be in place to minimise the impact of unexpected events, such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks. This can include regular backups, redundant Data Centres (DCs), and other contingency plans.
Security: The solution should have robust security features to protect against data breaches and other cyber threats. This includes encryption, access controls, and regular security audits and updates.
Compliance: Compliance is crucial. The solution should comply with relevant regulations, such as HIPAA and PCI-DSS, to ensure that customer data is handled securely and responsibly, and that the business remains compliant, thus avoiding possible legal consequences and damage to brand reputation.
Support: The solution should offer comprehensive support, with a dedicated support team available to assist with any issues that may arise. This includes 24/7 support, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and fast response times to minimise downtime and disruptions.
Scalability: The solution should be able to scale up or down based on changing demands. This includes the ability to add or remove agents, increase, or decrease server capacity, and support increasing call volumes and data traffic.
The Security of a Communication Solution
Security requirements to protect data and ensure compliance with relevant regulations is a key factor when considering communication solutions. By considering the following security requirements, businesses can ensure that the solution protects their data, meets regulatory requirements, and minimises the risk of data breaches or other cyber threats.
Encryption: Solutions should use encryption to protect data both at rest and in transit. This includes using secure protocols, such as HTTPS and SSL/TLS to encrypt data as it is transmitted over the internet.
Access Controls: There should be robust access controls in place to ensure that only authorised users can access sensitive data. This includes multi-factor authentication, password policies, and role-based access controls.
Data Protection: Measures should be in place to protect data against loss, corruption, or unauthorised access including backups, redundancy, and disaster recovery plans.
Compliance: The solution should comply with relevant regulations, such as HIPAA or PCI-DSS, to ensure that customer data is handled securely and responsibly. This includes regular audits and assessments to ensure ongoing compliance.
Regular Security Updates: Security updates should be carried out on a regular basis to address known vulnerabilities and protect against emerging threats. This includes applying software patches and updates in a timely manner.
Secure Integrations: Integration with other systems must be secure, such as Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) or ticketing software, to protect against data breaches and other cyber threats. This includes using secure APIs and other protocols to transmit data between systems.
Employee Training: The solution provider should offer employee training and awareness programs to ensure that employees understand their role in protecting sensitive data and following security best practices.
The Costs of a Communication Solution
As we continue to review key considerations for business communication solutions, we now consider the below cost requirements. Businesses need solutions that meet their needs, while remaining within budget and providing a positive Return on Investment (ROI).
Upfront Costs: The solution should fit within the company's budget, including the upfront costs of purchasing and implementing the solution, hardware, software licenses, and any required infrastructure.
Ongoing Costs: Over the term of the service, the solution needs to be cost-effective, and consider ongoing maintenance, support, and operational costs. This includes costs associated with hardware and software maintenance, support contracts, and any other recurring costs.
Scalability: The solution needs the ability to scale up or down, based on the company's changing needs, including the ability to add or remove agents, increase or decrease server capacity, and support increasing call volumes and data traffic, without incurring significant additional costs.
Return On Investment (ROI): Benefits should outweigh the costs of implementing and maintaining the solution, including factors such as improved efficiency, increased customer satisfaction, and reduced costs associated with agent training and turnover.
Customisation: The solution should offer customisation options that allow businesses to tailor the solution to their unique needs, without incurring significant additional costs.
Bundled Services: Some solution providers may offer bundled services, such as carrier service, e.g. call minutes, training or support, that can provide additional value at a lower cost than purchasing these services separately.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): The company should consider the TCO of the solution over its entire lifespan, including both upfront and ongoing costs, to ensure that the solution remains cost-effective in the long-term.
The Ease of Use of a Communication Solution
When it comes to looking at your communication solutions, ease of use should be a consideration. By considering the following requirements, businesses can select a solution that is user-friendly, efficient and maximises productivity. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction, increased efficiency, and reduced agent workload.
Intuitive User Interface: The solution should have an intuitive user interface that is easy to navigate and understand, minimising training time and maximising efficiency.
Minimal Clicks: The solution should require minimal clicks to complete common tasks, reducing the time it takes to handle customer enquiries and minimising agent workload.
Simple Call Routing: The call routing process should be simple and easy to understand to ensure that customers are connected to the right agent quickly and efficiently.
Automated Features: Automated features, such as IVR and chatbots should be included to handle common enquiries, reduce agent workload and increase customer satisfaction.
Agent Support: Support for agents, including access to customer history and data, scripts, and other resources should be available to help agents handle enquiries more efficiently.
Mobile Support: The solution should offer mobile support, allowing agents to handle enquiries from anywhere, at any time, increasing flexibility and availability.
Training Resources: The solution provider should offer comprehensive training resources to ensure that agents are fully trained on how to use the solution efficiently and effectively.
The Integrations of a Communication Solution
Integrations are getting more and more common and should be a key consideration when considering and comparing communication solutions.
By considering the following integration requirements, businesses can ensure a solution integrates seamlessly with their existing systems, maximising productivity and efficiency which can lead to improved customer satisfaction, reduced agent workload, and increased efficiency.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Integration: The solution should integrate with the company's CRM system(s) to provide agents with access to customer data and history, allowing them to provide a much more personalised, and efficient customer service.
Ticketing System Integration: If a ticketing system is used, the solution should provide integration to it, enabling agents to view and update customer tickets and track the status of customer issues.
Email Integration: The solution should integrate with the company's email system to allow agents to receive and respond to customer enquiries via email.
Chat Integration: If chat integration is not provided as an integral part of the communication solution, the solution should have the capability of being able to integrate with the company's chat platform to allow agents to handle customer enquiries via chat, providing real-time support to customers.
Social Media Integration: As for chat integration above, if this is not included with the communication solution, the solution should have the capability to integrate with the company's social media platforms to allow agents to respond to customer enquiries and complaints on social media platforms.
API Integration: The solution should provide APIs that allow the company to integrate the solution with other systems or applications as required.
Custom Integration: The solution should also offer customisation options that allow the company to tailor the solution to their specific needs and integrate it with other systems or applications.
Communication Solution Vendor Support
Last but not least, Vendor support is definitely a key factor when considering your business solution.
By considering the following requirements, businesses can ensure they receive the necessary support and resources to maximise the benefits of the solution. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction, increased efficiency, and reduced downtime or disruptions.
Dedicated Support Team: The solution provider should have a dedicated support team available to assist with any issues that may arise, including 24/7 support, Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and fast response times.
Training Resources: The provider should also offer comprehensive training resources to ensure employees are fully trained on how to use the solution efficiently and effectively.
Documentation: Detailed documentation, including user guides and technical documentation are key to helping businesses troubleshoot issues on their own, and this also educates employees on the solution, thus gaining experience and saving time in the future should problems re-occur.
Community Resources: Community resources, such as forums or user groups, should be available to businesses so that they can connect with other users and share best practices and experiences.
Upgrades and Updates: The solution should provide regular upgrades and updates to ensure that the solution remains up to date and current, and meets the company's evolving needs.
Customisation Support: The vendor should offer customisation support to help businesses tailor the solution to their unique needs, where required.
Migration Support: If the business is migrating from an existing communication solution, the solution provider should offer migration support to ensure a smooth and timely transition.
We hope this blog has provided you with some thoughts on the areas and requirements that should be considered when looking at communication services, and you have found this helpful.