Cloud Security Keeps Getting Better – Here’s Why

Online-Cloud-StorageSecurity concerns have long been the single greatest barrier to cloud adoption. Companies have been leery – and rightly so – of letting a third-party vendor store and manage their data, particularly when it includes sensitive data. They were hesitant to jump to the cloud knowing there could be risks.

However, the tide of public opinions in changing because cloud security has greatly improved. That is, in part, because vendors are well aware of security concerns and have taken significant steps to boost security. But there are other factors at work, too. We’ll examine all of them here.

What vendors have done 

For cloud vendors, their success depends heavily on security. If they can’t keep a company’s data secure, they’re not going to succeed in this market. The good vendors – including most of the large ones – have realized that. Many of them now provide better security than most on-premise systems.

The best vendors have complex security strategies that include:

  • Encryption – Most providers offer some form of encryption, but the key here is who owns the encryption keys. You should have control of who accesses the data and when, not the provider. The best providers give you the tools to encrypt but allow you to be in control.
  • Multi-factor authentication – More advanced providers require two or more factors of identification to verify log-in credentials for administrative access. This includes something you know (a password or pin), something you have (a USB device or secure mobile app) and sometimes something you are (biometrics). Be wary of providers that one require only one factor of authentication – that’s a huge security risk.
  • Tight physical security – The vendor keeps their servers heavily protected with access controls, surveillance and more.
  • Data loss prevention – This is no supplement for your own internal policies on data loss, but many cloud vendors are now offering this as a service to alert you to potential violations of security.
  • Strict firewall controls to secure cloud-based servers.

These security tools and procedures have made the cloud a much safer home for data. However, keep in mind that no solution is foolproof. And you should always read a complete copy of the vendor’s security policy before agreeing to trust them with your data. Every vendor will tell you they’re secure, but not all vendors are equally secure. It’s up to you to get specifics and hold them accountable.

Need more info on how to approach vendors about security issues? Here’s a good article on 10 security questions you should ask.

The rise of third-party security vendors

Third-party security vendors are popping up that specialize in cloud security, and many of them are very good at what they do. Many third-party encryption services leave the keys completely with you so that all the encryption and decryption is done internally on your own systems. This means the keys are never in the cloud, so they can’t be compromised by the provider. It’s impossible.

The difficulty here is deciding what kind of third-party security you need and choosing a vendor. There are many options, and different vendors address different types of security risks. Here’s a rundown of 20 vendors that are making waves – along with a description of the services they provide.

How companies have contributed

Finally, some of the improvement in cloud security can be attributed to the users themselves. Companies are getting smarter about security, and they’re doing their research before working with a vendor to make sure the product is secure. Companies are also rethinking and reworking their internal security policies. They’re realizing that data breaches are sometimes the result of an internal mistake, not an outside factor. They’re developing policies on things like who can use sensitive data and when, whether emails should be encrypted and how data should be stored and protected on laptops and mobile devices.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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Transitioning to the Cloud: The Burden of Legacy Systems for Big Businesses

iStock_000040644242_SmallSmall businesses tend to be nimble and agile. They can adapt to changes quickly, and implementing new technology is fairly easy because there are not as many burdensome and expensive systems already in place. For those reasons, small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud software.

Big businesses don’t always have the same luxuries. Transitioning to the cloud is more complicated when you have legacy systems in place. In many cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone in to on-premise hardware, systems and data centers. Large companies don’t want to just throw all that away, despite the benefits of moving to cloud software.

When Is It Time to Transition to the Cloud? 

For large companies, transitioning to the cloud is often a slow process. A lot of serious decision making goes in to when and how to start making the transition, and how to carry it out. For most enterprises, the transition starts with adopting cloud business applications here and there. When it’s time to introduce a new application, most of the time it’s in the cloud. But that doesn’t mean abandoning existing business applications that run on your own hardware.

Where the decision gets more complicated is: When is it time to transition existing or legacy software, applications and infrastructure to the cloud? How do you know when the existing tools have outlived their useful lives or fulfilled their ROI? If you’ve invested heavily in data center technology, will it ever make sense to switch over to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

There are no simple answers to these questions because no two companies have identical IT infrastructure. Most enterprises are still in the early stages of cloud adoption, and most are focusing on hybrid cloud for now to combine the best qualities of both – the control and security of private cloud and the flexibility and efficiency of public cloud. (More on that here from TechTarget. As you’ll read, there are multiple ways to go about that, too.) Yet, very few big companies are running a large portion of their IT in the cloud now.

The decision to move mission-critical systems to the cloud is a juggling act because it involves many considerations: estimated cost savings, difficulty of the transition, lifespan and usefulness of existing systems, security, reliability concerns and more. If it were an easier decision, more companies would already be almost exclusively in the cloud. However, it can be done. If you’re skeptical, check out this CIO Journal piece on a large company that did it. Despite some challenges, the company said the value of cloud made it worthwhile.

When Will Cloud Be the Norm? 

No one knows exactly how long it will take for cloud to become the norm, but a recent study suggests the transition is well underway. This is not the first study, by far, to make that claim, and the results won’t be shocking to most. But it’s another data point that confirms what most of us see coming.

Verizon’s State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2014 incorporated data from a variety of sources: Verizon’s enterprise cloud customers, outside analyst firm 451 Research, and other third parties like Gartner, IDC, Accenture and Forrester.

The data from 451 Research showed that 65 percent of enterprises are deploying some form of cloud computing now. Spending on those services has increased 38 percent over the year. More than 70 percent of enterprises said they plan to use cloud for external-facing operations by 2017.

Also telling: Companies that are already using cloud in some capacity said they planned to spend 54 percent of their IT budgets on cloud services over the next two years. That does suggest a clear shift to mainstream.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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How to Use Social Media in the Contact Center

social-media-monitoringExperts will tell you over and over again that customer service must be provided over social media. But the advice has been ignored, in large part. There are varying statistics on the subject, but it is widely agreed that the vast majority of customer service inquires via social media go unanswered. Some studies say 70 percent; others say 80 percent or more.

That’s problematic because customers want you to talk to them via their preferred channel. If they tweet about a problem, they want you to tweet back. If they post a Facebook comment, they want you to reply via Facebook. Often, even when companies do reply, they simply tell the person to call or email customer service. That places the burden back on the customer, which is frustrating.

The good news? Social media and customer service can peacefully coexist. Making that happen involves a slight change in strategy and a shift in resources. Here, we’ll share a brief case study of a company that has been widely praised for getting it right, along with some tips on where to start.

Zappos: Getting Social Customer Service Right

In a 2012 study examining social customer service behavior of the top 25 online retailers, Zappos was one of two companies who answered all – yes, 100 percent – of social media customer service inquiries. Zappos has since been the subject of countless case studies, and for good reason: They get it right.

Zappos has developed ways to connect with customers across many social media platforms, in some cases creating its own unique tools. The company’s social media efforts are too broad to discuss in detail here, but one of the biggest successes in terms of customer support has been the company’s use of Twitter. While other brands are ignoring Twitter mentions, Zappos has a Twitter account that is dedicated to customer service and monitored 24/7. At least 25 people from customer service help run the account, but only one person at a time directs the conversation. All Zappos employees, even outside of customer service, are trained on how to use Twitter and encouraged to use it to connect with customers.

The result has been a high level of customer satisfaction and praise from customer service experts. A lot of positive brand value came just from using Twitter for customer service. Zappos has become something of a leader in social media customer service and a model for other companies to follow.

How to Merge Social Media and the Contact Center 

So where to start? It’s best to start with just one – or two at the most – social media platforms. Once you get the process down and develop a rhythm, then it’s time to tackle other platforms. Twitter and Facebook are usually good places to start because they are commonly used for customer questions and complaints. There are many ways to go about starting, but here are some tips:

  • Determine your goals. Is your plan just to start integrating customer service and social media, or will you go the Zappos route and address every customer comment? (Hint: if you can, do.)
  • Set your strategy. Will you address customer service inquiries and complaints through the company’s pre-existing social media page, or will you create a separate account just for customer service? Zappos and many other big brands have separate customer service accounts, but you don’t necessarily have to. (And even if you do, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to ignore customer service-related posts on the main account.) What is the brand image you want to convey to social media users, and how will you pull that off? Will responses be scripted (usually not a good idea) or more authentic?
  • Select your team. Who will manage the account, and when? This needs to be clearly defined to avoid confusion. Perhaps you divide the task among existing customer service employees and supervisors, splitting the job into one or two-hour time slots. Once you have a team in place, train them on social media best practices and how to address customers, just like you would for telephone agents.
  • Consider investing in tools. There are countless social media monitoring and listening tools on the market that make it easier to track social media mentions. In fact, your CRM system might already have those capabilities. If not, look in to whether it makes sense to invest in one. These save resources and make it easier to communicate with customers in real time.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us

Why the Cloud-Based Contact Center Market Will Triple in Five Years

Customer ServiceAs cloud computing continues to grow and take off, we’re seeing all kinds of reports, surveys and predictions about what the IT landscape will look like three, five or even 10 years from now. While no one has a crystal ball, it’s interesting to see what’s predicted for the future of cloud growth.

One of the latest reports makes some big predictions for the future of the cloud-based contact center market. A report by research firm MarketsandMarkets expects it to reach $11 billion by 2019, nearly triple its $4 million size now. That’s a growth rate of more than 20 percent each year, which is huge.

We don’t know exactly why or how MarketsandMarkets came to that conclusion – a copy of the report costs $4,650 – but we’ve got some good ideas, since this is what we do everyday. Here’s why the cloud contact center market is poised to not just take off, but to explode in growth over the next five years.

1. Do more, spend less

Cloud call center software offers greater functionality than the vast majority of existing on-premise software, but it costs less. Very few things in life work that way, which is why the cloud has taken off. Rather than paying tens or hundreds or thousands upfront for call center software, you can can pay a low monthly per-agent fee with no long-term commitment.

2. Flexibility 

With the cloud, you’re not committed to one software vendor for years, as is the case with on-premise software. Obviously, you don’t want to change vendors all the time and constantly have to learn new software. But if a product doesn’t work for your call center or doesn’t offer all the features you want, there’s no reason you can’t switch.

3. Aging IT infrastructure

Contact center leaders, CIOs and IT experts have long known the benefits of cloud software. But many are still tied to legacy on-premise systems. They haven’t wanted to abandon expensive systems that are still functional. However, as more of these systems finally age out and become obsolete, contact centers will be ready to make the move. This should spur growth year after year.

4. Remote agents 

Contact centers are increasingly warming to the idea of remote and/or home-based agents. When there are no geographical limitations, the pool of talent from which to choose is much broader. And studies have shown that home-based agents are happier and more productive. Allowing agents to work from home also keeps facilities costs down. With cloud-based contact center software, people in remote locations can work together seamlessly. On-premise software, on the other hand, means they need to be in the same building.

5. Changing perceptions 

For many years, call centers were hesitant to make the switch to the cloud. As with anything that’s relatively new, there was some fear of the unknown. Would cloud software be reliable? Is it secure? What are the pitfalls of handing over system control to an outside vendor? Those fears are easing as the IT world becomes more comfortable with the cloud and more companies make the switch. People better understand the advantages of the cloud now, and they realize it’s not a passing fad but here to stay.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more. 

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us

Cloud Security: Five Ways to Keep Your Business Data Safe

Online-Cloud-StorageSecurity has long been one of the greatest concerns in the transition to cloud computing. Many companies, particularly those who haven’t adopted any cloud technology, are afraid their business and customer data will be at risk.

In truth, some of that fear is overdramatized. Most cloud computing providers are highly secure. They have to be: Even one small slip-up can erode trust and chip away at their customer base. In fact, many cloud vendors offer products more secure than those on in-house servers, particularly for SMBs. They have greater resources than smaller businesses to invest in IT security. Because of all that, cloud data breaches are currently very few.

However, the concern has always been – and remains – that relying on cloud vendors means a loss of direct control when it comes to security. It is impossible to know for sure that your business information is properly secured when it’s in another company’s hands. That requires trust, which can be scary. However, there are steps you can take to make sure that data is as safe as possible.

Research the vendor’s security policy

You can’t expect to feel safe if you don’t know exactly how your business data is both stored and secured. When you’re shopping for cloud vendors, make sure you find out exactly how the company addresses security. What measures are in place to keep your data safe, and how are they enforced? Who has access to your company data and when? What happens if a breach does occur?

Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt

Many vendors offer data encryption as part of their service. They make sure your data is encrypted on your own devices and in the cloud. Some vendors offer encryption so secure that they can’t even access your information. However, keep in mind that there’s no way to completely guarantee your data has been properly encrypted. The best way to feel good about this is to choose an established and reputable vendor.

Use multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication provides a second or even third layer of security when employees log on to business applications, secure networks, web portals and the like. Rather than just entering a username and password (something they know) employees also have to provide something they have (a token or secure mobile app) and perhaps something they are (biometrics) to be authenticated as a legitimate user. Security experts have long emphasized this as absolutely crucial, but many companies have not heeded the warning.

Set limits

Sensitive data should only be in the hands of those who absolutely need it – both internally and externally. Make sure the cloud vendor has strict rules around who can access your data and when. Then develop your own in-house policies. Who needs what sensitive data, and when? How can sensitive data be shared among employees? Do sensitive emails need to be encrypted?

Regulate the use of devices

Do your employees use their own smartphones, tablets and laptops for work purposes? If so, what kind of information can be stored on these devices? If a device is lost, how is the data protected? Even with business devices, you need to ask these questions if they’re taken out of the office. You might be surprised by how often data breaches occur from stolen devices.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more. 

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Six Technologies Modern Call Centers Shouldn’t Be Without

iStock_000043197226_SmallThe call center is a much more complicated place than it once was. We used to interact with customers solely over the phone, but now we have to be available on multiple channels – mobile, web, social and more.

Technology has changed, to say the least. The pace in which contact center technology is evolving is dizzying, and it be difficult to decide where to invest your technology dollars. Here are six technology trends that have officially moved from new to mainstream. The common denominator? They improve the customer experience and make call centers more efficient. If you’re not looking at these tools and technologies yet, you might be falling behind.

1. Mobile Customer Service

Customers are accustomed to interacting with companies on their smartphones and tablets. These days, they’re surprised when they can’t. Early mobile apps were more transactional in nature – booking reservations, checking account balances, etc. But newer versions incorporate customer service functions, too, allowing people to seek help or support without leaving the app. In-app customer service functions will become increasingly important as consumer behaviors continue to shift. Customers expect to be able to interact with you on the platform of their choice, rather than being redirected to email or your website.

2. Cloud Software 

Cloud call center software has been a game-changer for the industry. It is far more affordable than on-premise software, and it offers new features and advanced functionality such as customer chat. Cloud software has also enabled remote agents, making it easier for call centers to attract and retain talented employees without the constraints of geography. Other benefits include scalability, speed of deployment and reduced IT costs.

3. Automatic Callbacks

Your customers will most certainly thank you for this one. Rather than waiting on hold – which is every customer’s nightmare and a major source of complaints about call centers – customers can choose to put their number in queue and receive a return call when an agent is available to help them. No more listening to elevator music for 20 minutes. This also improves the lives of your agents – they’ll deal with happier customers on the other end of the line.

4. Social Media 

Even some giant brands have struggled to figure out how social media can be used for customer service. They use Facebook, Twitter and more for marketing, but they don’t understand that it has to be broader than that. Customers want social media to be a two-way street. They don’t want to be blasted with marketing messages while their complaints are ignored. This also goes back to the idea that customers want to interact on their platform of choice. If they complain on Twitter, they want to hear back from you on Twitter. They don’t want you to simply direct them to call or email customer service. Need some inspiration in this category? Check out how brands like Zappos and Dell have made social customer service work.

5. Virtual Agents

Human interaction isn’t needed with every communication. For simpler customer service requests, virtual agents can solve the problem without wasting manpower. Virtual agents use artificial intelligence – similar to Siri and others – to answer questions. They can be less frustrating for customers than IVR because the interaction can be more complex. However, virtual agents are not replacing IVR altogether, which is still effective for basic call routing.

6. Video 

Video has long been talked about for its potential customer service applications, but the idea is finally taking hold and being put to use. There’s video chat with customer service agents, of course, but there are also more creative uses. Agents can send troubleshooting videos to help address customer problems, for example, or an instructional video on how to activate a product or device.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more. 

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us

Cloud Call Center Software Pricing: Unraveling the Mystery

cloud computingThere are many different ways to price the same thing. You find that in every industry. Some restaurants sell sides a la carte, while others include them in the price of the dish. Some smartphone phone plans offer unlimited minutes and data, while others have limits and impose fees for exceeding them.

The cloud software industry is no different. With cloud call center software, sometimes a flat monthly fee covers all the features you need, and in other cases you might be billed extra for calling or advanced features like predictive dialing. This can make it confusing to compare vendors in an apples-to-oranges kind of way, and to figure out which offers the best bang for your buck.

To demystify things a bit, we’ll break down the pros and cons of three common pricing structures to help you decide which makes the most sense for you.

Flat monthly fees 

If predictable pricing is your goal, this is the way to go. These vendors offer a flat monthly fee for each agent that includes all features. In most cases, there’s also some sort of flat per-agent deposit required upfront. There’s no clear downside to this route as long as the flat fee and deposit you’re quoted are fair and affordable. Flat fees make for easier budgeting, and you’ll never be surprised by the bill. Still, even if a vendor advertises a flat fee, make sure to find out which features are included in the price. Not all vendors offer the same set of features. And some vendors offer a few different flat-fee plans with varying features.

Per-minute fees

Other cloud call center vendors offer per-minute pricing. Typically, there’s a monthly fee that includes all call center features but caps your telecom minutes at a certain number. Vendors that price this way usually have several tiers of plans based on the number of minutes you expect to use each month. If you go over, additional per-minute fees are charged. This is a reasonable choice if your monthly minutes are consistent and predictable (and you like what the particular vendor has to offer in terms of features). In that case, the cost should be about the same every month. However, if your minutes fluctuate from month to month, this probably isn’t the way to go. Keep in mind, too, that many vendors tack on additional fees for international calls.

Flat fee plus minutes 

Here’s where it gets even more confusing. These vendors advertise a flat monthly fee that looks low, then tack on additional telecom fees for each minute. Keep in mind, a fee is not truly flat if there are additional charges of any kind. Generally, this fee structure is only a good idea if your call center volume is very low and will stay that way. In that case, the approach keeps monthly costs down. But if your call center volume is higher or fluctuates, don’t go this route. You’re apt to see some shocking bills at the end of the month.

Other considerations

In addition to the pricing structure, we can’t emphasize enough that it’s important to find out exactly which features are included in the monthly price you’re quoted before making a decision. A low rate is not a good deal if it doesn’t come with the functionality your call center needs. For example, some vendors don’t offer predictive dialing at all, while others charge extra for them.

Other questions to ask the vendor include:

  • Is a deposit required, and if so how much?
  • Is there any sort of monthly minimum?
  • Do I have to sign an annual contract to get this price, or is it a month-to-month plan?
  • Are software upgrades included in the price?

ABOUT US: Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more. 

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us

How Much Does Cloud-Based Call Center Software Cost?

Comparing Pricing and Features Among Top Vendors

Dollar symbol in handsContact centers are increasingly moving to the cloud for the convenience, flexibility and affordability it provides. However, shopping for cloud-based call center software can be tough. Many vendors do not publish their prices online, and some are not transparent about which features are included in their plans and which cost extra.

This presents a problem for buyers because it can take days, weeks, or even months of legwork to get enough information to compare products. We wanted to simplify the process, so we contacted various vendors and conducted extensive web research to get a sense of what our competitors are charging and how fees are structured. We couldn’t get every piece of information from every vendor, but we were able to collect more detailed information than what you’ll find anywhere else on the web.

Five9

Pricing structure: Monthly per-agent fee, plus additional telecom fees for calls outside of the continental United States

Cost: The blended call center product, which includes inbound and outbound calling and all features below, costs $165 a month per agent if you have more than 10 agents and $175 per agent if you have fewer than 10. One-time setup fee of $250.

Features offered: CTI and screen pop; VoIP; power dialer; interactive voice response (IVR); progression dialer; automatic call distributor (ACD); preview dialer; skills-based routing; web callback; queue callback; campaign and list management; CRM integration; text-to-speech; cloud APIs; real-time reporting and dashboards; 10-plus standard reports; predictive dialer; social customer care; mobile customer care

Features not included in monthly price: Calling outside the continental U.S.

Transparency: Medium to high

Five9 does not disclose pricing on its website. When we contacted the call center, the agent was helpful and straightforward about pricing and features. She also provided her direct line for future inquiries.

Telax

Pricing structure: Flat monthly fee that varies based on features

Cost: $35 to $185 per agent per month, depending on features

Features offered: IVR; ACD; call monitoring, reporting and recording; dashboards; queue management; and more

Features not included in monthly price: Telax does not offer a predictive dialer, so that is not included in any plan. The lowest-priced plans include basic inbound and outbound calling, basic auto attendant, and a few additional features. More expensive plans include the full range of features.

Transparency: Medium to high

Telax is clear about the fact that it offers a flat monthly fee for each agent, and it guarantees there are no hidden costs. Pricing is not published online, and an agent via web chat would not disclose it. However, a call to the customer service line resulted in detailed info. The agent was friendly and helpful.

As a side note, Telax advertises that it is the “only contact center solution in the world with a fixed-firm price.” However, other a few other vendors offer fixed pricing, too.

CallFire

Pricing structure: Billed on a per-minute basis; tiered pricing plans include a preset number of minutes

Cost:

  • PRO – $599 a month for 20,000 minutes/text
  • STARTUP – $199 a month for 5,500 minutes/texts
  • LITE – $99 per month for 2,500 minutes/texts
  • PAY-AS-YOU-GO: $0.05 per minute/text. Local or toll-free numbers can be rented for $1.75 to $3 per month, depending on your plan

Features offered: Single-line autodialer; contact upload; unlimited call transfers; call dispositions and statistics; campaign and list management; customer history and notes; real-time reporting; APIs; CRM integration support; and more

Features not included in monthly price: None

Transparency: High

CallFire publishes its rates on the website, and an agent was happy to help explain pricing and features via web chat. He explained that the price is strictly based on the number of minutes used. It doesn’t matter how many agents are working as long as the minutes are not exceeded. There are no setup fees, and IVR and autodialer are included in the price, he said.

8×8 Virtual Contact Center

Pricing structure: Fixed monthly price, but varies depending on features

Cost: $115-$185 per agent per month, depending on features

Features offered: Skills-based routing; IVR; desktop sharing; web callback; call recording; real-time reporting; historical reporting; real-time monitoring; CRM integration; virtual queue; and more

Features not included in monthly price: Unclear

Transparency: Medium

Like many vendors, 8×8 also does not publish prices on its website. The customer service representative we spoke with was willing to provide a price range for monthly service, but she would not specify whether there are setup fees. We were also unable to get a clear idea of what features are offered at which price points.

InContact

Pricing structure: Fixed price per agent for the core platform with additional fees for additional features

Cost: Unknown monthly per-agent fees based on services; $2,000 a month minimum for all customers, regardless of the number of agents

Features offered: Multi-channel ACD; speech-enabled IVR; CRM and CTI integration; customer feedback; predictive dialer; reporting and analytics; workforce management; quality management; network connectivity; disaster recovery; free software updates twice annually

Features not included in monthly price: The core platform includes features such as ACD, IVR, reporting, a predictive dialer, self-service and more. However, we could not get a clear picture of exactly what it does not include.

Transparency: Medium

InContact does not list prices on the website. The customer service agent shared the $2,000 a month minimum, and mentioned that the product usually only makes sense of companies with 15 agents or more. He did not share the per-agent, per-month price, saying that is dependent on the features that are selected and the needs of the business. He referred us to a member of the sales team for specifics.

As a side note, this customer service agent was one of the friendliest and most helpful we encountered. He was forthcoming about the fact that inContact may not make financial sense for very small companies. He spent a significant amount of time on the phone walking us through features, options and scalability of the product.

Interactive Intelligence

Pricing structure: Fixed monthly price

Cost: Unknown. However, the company does offer three tiers of its cloud software: CaaS Small Center for businesses with 10-50 agents; CaaS for 25-5,000 agents; and PureCloud for companies with 10-unlimited agents.

Features offered: Multichannel routing (voice, email, chat); IVR; speech recognition; multi-channel recording; predictive dialer; quality management, real-time speech analytics; post-call and IVR surveys; Salesforce integration; supervisor and reporting applications; mobility; and more

Features not included in monthly price: Unknown

Transparency: Low (as far as we can tell)

Interactive Intelligence does not list prices online. We tried twice to initiate a web chat for details. The first time, the chat tried reaching four agents, each of whom did not answer, and then we were put in queue with an estimated a one-minute wait time. That was 3:26 p.m. The session timed out at 4:05, still without a response to our first question. The second time, an agent joined the chat four minutes after we initiated it, then quickly signed off. The marketing department sent a follow-up email with links to the plan information we found online, but no specific details. We later called customer service but sat on hold for 25-plus minutes without a response. (Note: After this blog was complete, a representative did leave a message trying to get back in touch.)

TalkDesk

Pricing structure: Flat per-agent monthly rate, plus additional per-minute fees for calling

Cost: The monthly rates if you agree to annual contract are:

  • BASIC – $15 a month per agent; suited for small businesses
  • PROFESSIONAL – $25 per agent per month; SMB market
  • ENTERPRISE – $45 per agent per month; large businesses

Incoming calls cost $0.02 per minute and outbound calls cost $0.03 per minute. Those are U.S. and Canadian rates only; international calls have different and unpublished rates.

Features offered: IVR; built-in CRM; call queues; skills-based routing; team dashboards; a wide variety of software and email integrations; and more

Features not included in monthly price: Depends on the plan you choose. Click here for a side-by-side comparison of the features that come with various plans. None of the plans include calling fees or a predictive dialer.

Transparency: Medium to high

TalkDesk clearly states its prices on the website, and the side-by-side comparison of features is very useful for deciding what tier of service meets your needs. The only downside is that the per-minute pricing and the lack of a predictive dialer make your monthly costs difficult to predict in advance. However, the company does say it plans to add a predictive dialer down the road.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more. 

 

 

 

 

 

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us

How the Cloud Can Make Your Small Business Function Like A Big One

cloud computingBefore a customer calls your business, there’s a good chance he or she might not know much about the scale of the operation. Who’s to say whether they’re calling a home office or a call center with 200 agents?

What happens when someone picks up is what tells that story – and what strongly influences a customer’s perception of your business in terms of size, credibility and professionalism. If someone picks up and yells “Hello?!” with the dog barking in the background, the brand is instantly tarnished.

One of the ways to grow your small businesses into a much larger one is to give the appearance of a larger and more professional operation. Purchasing cloud-based call center software can affordably get you there.

The cloud: removing technology barriers

The cloud has narrowed the technology gap between small and large businesses. Software that was once available only to big businesses is now accessible – and affordable – for companies with 50 or fewer employees.

Because cloud-based software is delivered over the Internet, there is no expensive hardware or software to install. That brings costs down considerably. Small businesses can purchase cloud-based software with the same features as traditional on-premise software for a low monthly fee. In most cases, no long-term commitment is required and upfront expenses are small.

As Dan Levin, chief operating officer of Box, told the Huffington post: “Now, for the first time, there is a technology available that doesn’t require hardware or technical expertise and gives small companies the same technology as a big company. That gets rid of the technology advantage, and that’s a huge change.”

How will cloud call center software help my business?

Cloud-based call center software streamlines all of your inbound and outbound calling. Features include predictive dialers, automated answering, call routing, call prioritizing, CRM software integration, real-time statistics and reporting, live call monitoring, web scripting, queue management and more.

For inbound calls, the software puts an end to callers being bounced around from one extension to another until they find the right person to answer their question or address their issue. Rather than a live person picking up, the automated system directs the caller to choose the appropriate department. For very small businesses, this might be all you use – at first. But at a cost of $100 to $200 per month, in most cases, that’s OK. Your callers will get the impression that they’re calling a larger, established company.

Businesses that have moved beyond that startup or micro-business phase will benefit from more advanced features that increase productivity. A predictive dialer can speed up sales calls by automatically dialing phone numbers and only routing the call to a sales person when/if someone picks up. Call prioritizing ensures that customers with product issues reach a customer service rep in a timely fashion. CRM integration allows you to incorporate calling features with your existing software and track the history of customer interactions. The list goes on.

Generally, you’ll provide a more streamlined experience for your customers and improve internal efficiency. Aside from cost, cloud-based call center software is ideal for small businesses because it is scalable. If you only have three people in customer service, buy only the three licenses you need. When the business expands, add more licenses with a quick phone call to the software vendor. With expensive on-premise call center software, businesses had to purchase enough hardware and licenses to account for future growth, which priced many of them out of the market.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user.

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us

Five Reasons My Small Business Should Move to the Cloud

iStock_000040644242_SmallCloud-based technologies have taken off among small and large businesses alike, but it’s the smaller businesses that stand to gain the most. For the first time, the cloud has made complex business software and applications accessible and affordable for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

Whether you’re still operating mostly on paper or you’re looking to transition from basic office applications like Gmail and Quickbooks to more sophisticated software, the cloud has a lot to offer small businesses in terms of features and cost. Here are five of the best reasons to finally make the move.

Enterprise-level technology

The cloud makes it possible for small businesses to function like much larger ones. There are cloud software products and applications for just about every business function, from marketing and lead generation, to payroll services, to managing your call center operations. These products offer the same features as much more expensive on-premise software, which is installed on site and managed by an in-house IT staff.

How can you get the same features for a much lower price? The method of delivery. Cloud providers sell software as a service, not a product. Because the software is delivered over the Internet, there’s no expensive on-site hardware and software to install, and there’s little if any in-house IT work required.

Predictable monthly payments

Many cloud-based providers charge a flat monthly fee. That means there are no surprises when it comes to cost. You know exactly what you’ll be paying each month, which allows for better budgeting. However, it is important to note that some vendors advertise low monthly fees and then tack on extra charges for additional features. Always find out exactly what the advertised price includes. If you can, go with a vendor that offers a completely flat rate with no hidden charges.

Small upfront investment

One of the biggest draws to cloud-based software is that it requires very little money upfront. Traditional on-premise software often requires tens of thousands or more in upfront costs for the purchase and installation of hardware and software. Because cloud requires no on-site installation, those costs don’t exist. In many cases, startup fees are $100 to $200 for each software user.

Reduced IT tasks

Many small businesses have tiny or nonexistent IT resources. Even if they can afford on-premise software, they don’t have the in-house IT staff to update and manage it. Cloud software providers handle the technical aspects for you, which saves time and money. There’s no need to hire an in-house IT specialist or shell out big bucks for an outside consultant.

No long-term commitment

When you buy on-premise software, you’re stuck with it for a long time. Chances are, you’re not going to spend tens of thousands on hardware, software and installation, then switch vendors a year later. This ties you to a product longer than you’d like, and, in many cases, it ties you to a product long after it is out of date or obsolete.

Cloud-based software vendors usually do not require a long-term commitment, so you can cancel at any time. Most offer month-to-month plans, making it easy to switch vendors if you’re not happy. Signing a one-year contract will usually score you a discount, but don’t commit before you’ve thoroughly researched the product and have completed a demo. Even better, try the software for a month and then consider a contract.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user.

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us