A Business Guide to Selecting a Cloud PBX Solution

Estimated reading time: 9 min

What is cloud PBX?

A cloud PBX, as the name suggests is a cloud / internet-based phone system. To use this, your business typically signs up with a service provider that hosts the phone system in the cloud. Calls are routed from an IP phone through the internet to the provider’s PBX (public branch exchange). Since the service provider hosts the phone system, the provider operates, maintains, and upgrades the service for businesses.

What are the benefits of cloud PBX?

Since this technology is hosted in the cloud or the Internet, employees can access and use this type of solution anywhere that has an Internet connection. The benefits of an internet-powered telephony system are well known. For what it’s worth, here are the salient points:

  • Easy set-up: Set up is quick and easy, compared to hard-wired phone lines, where considerable investment in hardware is required. In the case of cloud PBX, it’s mostly about plugging in and getting started, with minimal infrastructural investment. Of course, the only requirements being: a reliable high-speed internet connection and good headphones/microphones. Further, businesses don’t need to invest in fax machines as faxing can be done through the cloud too. Phone systems can be moved to another location (be it a new city or country) by simply disconnecting and connecting to the internet connection in the new location.
  • Employee flexibility: Employees can work remotely, with flexible work schedules, regardless of where they are located. Because all phones are connected to a unified phone system. Businesses don’t need to invest in a brick and mortar office space, making it a “win-win” for both, employee and employer.
  • Economical: As mentioned earlier, low infrastructural investment, remote workspaces, save businesses considerable money. Also, since these systems are deployed via the internet, maintenance costs to companies are from zero to minimal, as the provider maintains the service and is responsible for system upgrades. Moreover, businesses don’t have to maintain an on-premise phone system, which is cumbersome and expensive.
  • Business continuity: Natural disasters like fires and floods don’t have to necessarily stop business operations, as no wiring or any other hardware exists to be impacted. This provides business continuity in the event of natural disasters.
  • Virtual receptionist: Businesses don’t need to hire receptionists to answer and route calls. Through one number, multiple customers can call simultaneously, and calls can get routed to the right department or agent. Add-ons that make a human receptionist redundant are as follows:
    • Virtual voicemail
    • 800 and local numbers
    • Call recording and forwarding
    • Auto-attendants/IVRs (up-to 2 levels)
    • Call queuing and music on hold
    • Office hours
    • Phone directory
    • Intercom paging
  • Meets scalability needs: Cloud PBX offers customizable features on a more individual basis. Businesses have the freedom to scale up or down depending on their business needs. The fee structure changes accordingly and companies aren’t bonded to a rigid fee. The fee structure is relatively fluid since it’s not a pay-per-seat model, which requires businesses to pay for capacity that might never be used. Cloud PBX typically allows users to pay based on usage, meaning businesses pay for what they use.
  • Unified communications: With cloud PBX, businesses can unify communications (fax, video, web conferencing, phones) across locations. Additionally, all these communications and services can be managed from one place. Businesses can remain flexible and employees can work from anywhere, yet effectively collaborate.

Limitations of cloud PBX

  • Usage patterns & predictions: Cloud PBX providers cannot predict usage patterns accurately. For example, there is no way to predict spikes in usage. As a result, there is no way to ever accurately predict (or scale to) patterned uses. Usage spikes impact the cloud service for every user on the shared network.
  • Storage capacity: Aside from the volume of usage, storage capacity can be another limiting factor. For example, if users have 500GB of shared hard drive, space is going to fill up quickly.
  • Security: How and where is the data stored? Cloud-computing is a vulnerable space. It is, therefore, worth taking the time to understand the security measures offered by the service provider to ensure data security and client privacy.
  • Limited CRM integration & analytics:
    • Limited integration options like Screenpops, report call back and click2call need to be integrated through a “lite” web-based CRM. Today cloud contact centers offer greater and seamless CRM/ ticketing integration with Salesforce, Zoho, among others. This is further discussed in the next section of the article.
    • Reports are limited and very basic. For example: whether a call was answered or not, the caller’s number identification. Deeper performance metrics such as wait time, wrap time, employee productivity, busy/lull calling periods, etc., are not available. These latter metrics, for example, are critical to making insightful tweaks to staffing needs to boost overall call center productivity and efficiency.
    • Call control options (hold, mute,  transfer, and conference) are innately missing. These are typically done through third-party/ web-based services.

Also Read: What are Screenpops and how do they improve customer experience

When should you choose Cloud PBX?

A cloud PBX is an optimal solution for an industry vertical such as a small-scale sales company where agents are on the go, making and receiving calls through manual or click-to-call functions. The cloud aspect makes it easy for agents to be mobile while cold calling or closing on a sales lead. If an agent misses a call, (s)he can access messages through a voicemail, or provide clients a local or an 800 number for future communication. Typically a cloud PBX is used when:

  1. You don’t have a dedicated team of agents to handle your inbound/outbound calls.
  2. Your existing PBX system integrates smoothly with your existing CRM
  3. You aren’t handling such large call volumes that segregating them into campaigns will benefit you.
  4. You don’t require Data/Business intelligence.

Alternatives to Cloud PBX: The cloud contact center

There are two prime cloud options available to businesses. Namely, cloud PBX, aka, Unified Communications; and cloud contact center solutions. Often small and mid-size businesses choose cloud PBX or Unified Communications solutions, based on the notion that it is more economical. Sometimes, this is a good idea. But businesses scale, the limitations begin to show. Businesses need to know: Can my business make do with a cloud PBX or does it need a cloud contact center?  And, when is it the right time to switch from cloud PBX to a contact center solution?

We try to answer these questions in this guide.

What is cloud contact center?

A cloud contact center is software as a service (SaaS) that is deployed and stored in the cloud. It is always up-to-date with new updates automatically applied out by the provider. It offers an omnichannel communication experience from where all inbound and outbound customer communications are managed. Cloud contact centers make multi-channel interactions through voice, email, social media and the web accessible from anywhere.

According to ‘MarketsAndMarkets’, the cloud-based contact center market is expected to grow from $6.80 billion in 2017 to $20.93 billion by 2022. A Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 25.2%. This exponential increase would be boosted by the need for improved consumer experience, the rise in the number of enterprises adopting, and harnessing the benefits of the cloud. Cloud-based contact center offerings provide cost-effective contact center solutions for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) is expected to be the largest growth segment.

What are the benefits of a cloud contact center?

The cloud contact center space is a little more sophisticated and nuanced when compared to cloud PBX. Some benefits of a cloud contact center are comparable to those offered by cloud PBX. As mentioned previously, these are:

  • Zero to minimal infrastructural investment.
  • Reduced overhead costs as employees work remotely.
  • Reduce operating costs, as providers usually charge per-monthly user fee; significantly lower than per-line charges of traditional phone lines, for instance.
  • Easy setup and configuration across the board, as no hardware is involved.
  • Easy to understand so agents get up to speed quickly, making training cost almost zero.
  • No maintenance cost.
  • Employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere across geographical and time zones.
  • Flexible scalability.

Additionally, cloud contact centers have greater benefits relative to cloud PBX thanks to their greater capabilities and offerings. These are:

  • ACD logic: Automated Call Distribution ensures that calls get routed to “Maximum Idle Agent”. This means that total calls get divided equally amongst agents. This is essential for fair workforce management when you have a dedicated team of agents.
  • Multi-channel communication: Today, businesses need to reach customers across channels – social media, email, text messages. Capabilities such as SMS plug-ins, Facebook & Messenger integration, allow businesses easy real time, seamless personal customer communication.
  • Instantly reach interested prospects:
    • Chats & chatbots: The chat feature offered by some cloud contact centers can help connect a prospect (who is surfing a company website, for example) to the right agent the moment the prospect shows interest in a product or service offering.
    • Missed call service: This nifty service offered within a call center platform helps businesses reach a prospect immediately rather than having an agent manually dial a number.
  • Insightful analytics: Through cloud contact center software, it is possible to get detailed and real-time, insightful reporting on key performance metrics like call details and agent productivity reports. Call details, for example, are useful in understanding customer needs, sentiment, and could help a business strategize around up/cross-selling opportunities, organizational realignment, etc. Agent productivity reports provide intelligence around talk time, wrap up time, call volume handled, etc., so staffing may be tweaked to optimize for lull and busy call periods.
  • Auto-dial abandoned calls: Sometimes customers hang up. Auto-dialing of such calls (abandoned calls) is a great way to reach these customers who could provide potential business. Moreover, this can be done pretty much instantly after the customer drops out of the queue.
  • Seamless CRM integration: Business needs are complex, customers’ immediate, varied, and, multi-channeled. Cloud contact center software providers meet these challenges by offering customizable CRM capabilities. This ensures that overall business efficiency and streamlining is vastly improved, as a lot of manual labor is automated. For example, some cloud contact centers can:
  • Reach customers easily by allowing agents to simply click to call within CRM.
  • Display details of customers’ incoming call history on a user-friendly screen pop.
  • Map calls to tickets and connects customers to the last agent they spoke to (“sticky agents”).
  • Auto dial to reach customers who left messages on weekends and holidays.
  • Easily access relevant data on leads and customers on screen-pops as agents talk to /chat with them without having to toggle between windows.
  • Use IVR to send reminders for last dates, renewals, payments, greetings, announcements and other updates.
  • Integrate with other leading small business CRM platforms like Zoho, Salesforce or Zendesk to create automated and efficient workflows (communication tracking, prompt issue resolution, identifying high-volume interaction times, etc.)

When should you migrate from your cloud PBX to a cloud contact center?

A cloud contact center software solution should be considered over a cloud PBX if business needs are among the following:

  1. You have a dedicated team of agents and need better workforce management. When you have a dedicated customer support center or a large team of agents to manage, then a cloud contact center solution offers better workforce management tools such as
    • ACD logic: Automated Call Distribution ensures that calls get routed to “Maximum Idle Agent”. This means that total calls get divided equally amongst agents. When you have a dedicated team of agents, this is essential for fair workforce management.
    • Skill Hunting: Skill hunting lets you divide your agents into groups or skills, and route calls accordingly. Not only does it create more sophisticated routing options, but it also helps you manage hierarchies and roles within your agent population, for better training and management.
    • QA monitoring tools.
  2. You require greater control over customer experience. A cloud contact center gives you the following features that ensure greater control over customer experience.
  • Multi-level IVRs
  • Self-service via IVR
  • Intelligent call routing options with skill hunting
  1. Better Inbound lead management
    With a cloud contact center, you can automate and track your inbound leads better. For instance, you may have dashboards that let you know how soon an agent called a lead, whether their call was answered, and how many calls they made to that number. Alternately, you can even customize your workflows and ensure that inbound leads are auto dialed and connected to your agents. This makes the conversion process even faster, ensuring that you call your lead back within a 5-minute window.
  2. Auto dialers
    There are multiple ways in which auto-dialers may be used by a business to optimize its sale. They can also be used to automate callbacks and improve their inbound call center experience.  Read our complete guide to auto-dialers to know more.
  3. You need deep data and deep integrations
    To truly reap the benefits of a CRM integration, a cloud PBX will not suffice. A cloud contact center can help you use our CRM integration to automate sales and support workflows.

Cloud PBX or cloud contact center software?

Now that you have the skinny on cloud PBX and cloud contact center software, it all boils down to your business needs. While these are both strong options, it maybe worth mentioning that relative to cloud PBX, a cloud contact center solution offers a greater depth and breath of functional capabilities that make business operations more time and labor saving.

The table below lists the salient features of the two cloud-based solutions.

Feature / Benefit Cloud PBX Cloud contact center
Low fee structure Y Y
Low CAPEX & infrastructural investment Y Y
Zero-minimal maintenance fee Y Y
Anytime, anywhere internet-powered access Y Y
No pay-per-seat fee; freedom to scale up or down Y Y
Seamless CRM integration with cloud APIs for enhanced productivity   Y
Detailed reporting & analytics for insightful business decisions   Y
Social media integration for greater reach and presence   Y
Advanced features to meet increasing business complexity and needs   Y
In-depth call center management capabilities (call queue management, 2-level + IVRs, advanced call distribution, etc.)   Y
Chatbots   Y
Labor/time-saving features like auto-call, auto call scheduling, CTI pop-ups from within the call window with customer call history and data   Y
Economical Pricing model Y Y

Ozonetel has award-winning cloud contact center solutions that can be availed at multiple price points and flexible pay as you go plans. Moreover, we provide 24 x 7 lice phone support and completely free onboarding and training. Besides, our feature-packed solution offers unmatched flexibility, making us the best solution for growing businesses. Learn more about our solution or see our pricing plans here.

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