For many companies, contact centers are a vital part of business operations. They’re where problems get solved and customer relationships are saved. But the way customers prefer to communicate has evolved much faster than legacy call centers have, which can be frustrating for businesses using older contact center software.

Maybe you’re familiar with the following problems. You want to integrate a channel like Facebook Messenger, but you can’t get it to work with your system. You want customers to be able to reach you via SMS text, but you can’t add SMS onto your existing platform. You might even be struggling to update your phone menu. All these things slow down your contact center, and that’s going to lead to frustration for both your employees and your customers.

The classic contact center model, also known as the legacy model, was built before the age of the cloud and continuous improvement. These contact centers are highly customizable, but only via costly professional services or a small subset of developers who are trained on the platform. This infrastructure simply wasn’t designed to keep up with disruptive changes in consumer behavior, which is why so many businesses are migrating to the cloud today. DMG Consulting predicts that the number of seats in cloud-based contact center infrastructure will grow by 23 percent in 2019 and 2020.

For businesses that are handling complex contact centers, upgrading to a cloud-based option makes it easier to keep up with customers’ changing needs and preferences. But before diving in, it’s important to know how to choose the best cloud-based vendor for your business.

5 Questions to Ask When Considering a Cloud Contact Center

The following questions will help you gauge whether or not a cloud-based contact center vendor would be a good partner for your business.

1. Does the provider offer reliable service?

Consider for a moment that a customer needed immediate assistance but was unable to contact your company’s help center by any means. Uncontrolled downtime can really hurt a company’s image. You’ll want to assess whether the provider offers service at all hours and how it intends to deliver that service robustly and in a way that minimizes service interruptions. Look at the businesses the provider is working with — finding a recognized cloud contact center provider that’s already working with leading companies worldwide will help you choose a superior cloud communications platform.

One keyword to look for here is “proactive carrier rerouting,” which means the provider has multiple paths to connect with customers should something go wrong. You should also inquire as to whether the vendor has a global carrier network or a single-provider network. Hint: Global carriers are more reliable.

2. Is the provider truly omnichannel?

New channels become available every year, and each of those channels has different capabilities and best practices. Staying up-to-date on all of these communication channels and maintaining the integrations to support them can feel like a learning curve that never ends. Instead, choose a contact center platform that gives you access to multiple channels through a single API with all of the integrations built in. And look for one with a demonstrated history of adding new channels as they become relevant.

An omnichannel platform handles communications across multiple channels — from voice to video to SMS to social media and even to old standards like email and chat. And ideally, your platform will transfer the context between communication channels. This won’t work with just any contact center platform, though — legacy and siloed systems can’t handle hand-offs like that. That’s why it’s critical to choose a contact center platform designed for true omnichannel communications.

Customers love the flexibility of meeting brands directly on the channels they prefer. For example, they might start their customer journey on a website but soon find themselves in a friendly SMS chat with a customer service rep or interacting with a live agent via a two-way video chat. In fact, research from Aberdeen found a 91 percent increase in customer retention when omnichannel options were offered compared to when they weren’t.

3. Is the provider secure?

With the advent of GDPR’s enforcement in the European Union, security and regulatory concerns have never been more top-of-mind for company leaders. Lean into that awareness by looking for vendors that adhere to major privacy protocols — not only GDPR, but also ISO 27001 and SOC2. Your cloud-based contact center will handle a lot of your customers’ data, so it’s important to be certain that data is treated with care.

While you’re inquiring about these protocols, also ask how the prospective vendor stays up-to-date on compliance practices. Answers might include third-party audits, pen testing, or even bug bounty programs. All of these efforts reveal a level of transparency and show a commitment to crafting and honing software that upholds customers’ rights to privacy and control of their data. Some vendors will even bake these privacy measures right into their APIs.

4. What is the provider doing about fraud?

Telecom fraud continues to be one of the leading drains on revenue in the industry. In fact, the Communications Fraud Control Association found that telecom fraud cost companies almost $30 billion across the globe in 2017, so it’s imperative that any partner you use for your cloud contact center has some level of fraud prevention in place.

Be sure to ask about not only the vendor’s fraud prevention strategy, but also how it monitors its systems for fraud and how it responds when fraud is detected. Savvy vendors know that staying on the cutting edge of fraud prevention — like using AI systems for real-time threat analysis — is critical for staying competitive.

5. Will updates be a headache?

Staying up-to-date with your software is critical, but so is minimizing disruption or system downtime. Make sure your vendor has a way of rolling out features without those updates compromising your operations. Good documentation is also crucial for any planned changes, so be certain that prospective vendors commit to excellence in documentation practices when they do product maintenance.

When discussing updates, be as specific as possible. Ask about expected downtimes, which are usually expressed in terms of uptime SLA, or the percentage of time the systems are online and running. You’ll want to have an uptime SLA of at least 99.95 percent.

Likewise, when you make changes to your contact center, you’ll want a platform that doesn’t constrain your abilities. A contact center platform should be programmable, which allows you to develop, customize, and manage your customer-centric applications.

The call centers of yesteryear are evolving into omnichannel communication centers that can create lasting customer satisfaction and even brand advocacy. Moving your contact center to the cloud empowers you to build the exact solution that works for your business to communicate with and service your customers. The right cloud contact center lets you constantly iterate and improve as your business needs change — without having to build back-end infrastructure and interfaces.

While cloud-based contact centers offer a more flexible, adaptive customer engagement strategy, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting before committing. These five questions will guide you to finding the right partner for your needs.

To learn more about using a customizable contact center platform to move at the pace of your customers, watch this video.