How Cloud Numbers and cloud communications are benefitting the contact center ecosystem: Q&A with BICS’ Divya Ghai Wakankar

Being able to communicate with a brand quickly, easily, and at low cost is a key consumer requirement. This could be calling a contact center about a broken washing machine, using a website’s embedded chatbot to check the status of delivery of an item, querying a payment with your bank or (re)scheduling a flight. For brands too, the process has to be quick, easy and low-cost.

It’s for this reason that digital services and solutions have become so integral to how we communicate. And central to this communication are Cloud Numbers. So, what better time than now to delve into the topic in a bit more detail? And who better to speak to than BICS’ own Divya Ghai Wakankar, Head of Digital Communications Solutions. In case you missed it, Divya was included in Capacity’s 20 Women to Watch 2020. More recently, she’s been heading up a new deal with Talkdesk, a cloud technology provider for contact centers.

Let’s start with the basics. What are Cloud Numbers?

BICS’ Cloud Numbers can be used just like local telephony numbers over PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) – but they are hosted in the cloud. These numbers are enabled over SIP network, providing access flexibility for companies’ employee communications and external communications with their customers. They enable two-way communication, are secure and scalable, and are hardware and software agnostic. And because BICS has such an extensive global reach, we can offer local (toll) and toll-free numbers in 120 countries.
Cloud Numbers are also playing a critical role in the digital transformation of contact centers. They enable omnichannel communications such as messaging, which helps in maintaining the same number used for Voice and Messaging channels. They are now also playing a critical role in the new flexible, hybrid working environment.

What are the benefits of Cloud Numbers for contact centers?

Scalability and ease of adoption. A company might base its contact centers in India, for example, but have customers in Australia and the UK. Our Cloud Numbers enable the company to offer local numbers to customers in both these regions. These connect the customers to the contact center in India, but without the significant costs traditionally associated with this. Plus, being able to use local numbers for different countries gives the brand a regional ‘presence’, tapping into the sense of customer proximity, an important part of brand identity and accessibility.

Cloud Numbers are also easy to implement. Brands are able to make the most of BICS’ global network and operator partners, while remaining confident that they’re adhering to local regulations. Traditionally, if a contact center wanted to buy numbers in different countries it would have to establish relationships with multiple operators. It would also have to navigate telecoms legislation in each region. BICS already has these relationships on a global scale, and can provide and manage immediate connectivity to contact centers under a single contract.

Talkdesk is a great example of how Cloud Numbers can fuel business success and support the contact center ecosystem. Thanks to our partnership, Talkdesk is using BICS’ Session Initial Protocol (SIP) Trunking and Cloud Numbers to enhance its software solutions. These solutions are used by contact centers across the world. As a result, we’re helping Talkdesk to enhance its global solution offering that enables its contact center customers and its agents with efficient communication and collaboration capabilities. And finally, we’re helping to ensure a better level of service for consumers calling these centers. The benefits extend to the whole contact center ecosystem!

What are the benefits of getting Cloud Numbers from BICS?

Not every other provider has the infrastructure backbone that we do. This enables us to deliver capabilities in the cloud. We can also enable end-to-end encryption at the signaling and voice packet level. This is something we’re seeing more and more customers demanding. In addition, we offer DDoS prevention; our secure infrastructure is capable of mitigating network-level attacks. Security is becoming a big talking point in cloud communications.

How has covid-19 impacted the adoption of Cloud Numbers by contact centers?

We’ve seen a couple of things driving the adoption of Cloud Numbers this year. Pre-2019 the majority of enterprises were in the process of digitally transforming. Lockdown, our reliance on digital services, and remote engagement have accelerated this. What was once a three- or five-year project has been condensed into a matter of months. Enterprises need the tools to be able to communicate and collaborate virtually. Importantly, rolling out these communication tools must have no impact on the efficiency or productivity of a business, nor the level of customer service it provides.

Also, what many consumers forget is that they’re not the only ones who’ve had to adapt to new remote working set-ups. Due to covid-19, the closure of many workplaces has meant that contact center agents have had to quickly adapt to working from home. Now, some restrictions are lifting yet the uncertainty of sudden re-closures remains ever-present. As such, brands and employees must be sure they’re well-placed to support the new hybrid working environment.

Contact center agents can use Cloud Numbers to make and receive local calls, regardless of where they’re located. They can dial out to customers and customers can reach them. It’s a bit like an employee taking their entire desk (with all the hardware, software, and wired communications infrastructure) and placing it in their home! They’re fully equipped with all the tools they need to communicate seamlessly with colleagues and customers.

What opportunities do you see for development and monetization in the cloud communications space?

There’s one big thing I think is missing from the cloud communications space today, and that’s a strong omni-channel offering.
A good customer experience should involve omni-channel communication between the contact center agent and the customer. You might be waiting for a delivery from Amazon, for instance, and you get a message update on the delivery time. You should then be able to follow up via a dedicated phone number to change the time of the delivery or query the address. You should also have the option of communicating via SMS, or chat over platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook messenger or call them up. This kind of rich, omni-channel communication will be a key part of customer service and brand engagement. It will be a key differentiator for brands, and offers a significant opportunity for other stakeholders in the cloud comms ecosystem.

The other element here is making sure that this omni-channel engagement is seamless, whether its messaging or voice. As a customer, you might respond to that Amazon delivery via SMS, and then receive a link to communicate with a chatbot on the retailer’s website. If your query can’t be answered, the issue will then be escalated to voice comms with a human agent. We’re seeing this today, but it’s not yet ubiquitous.

Do you have any predictions in terms of cloud communications in contact centers?

I think we’ll see a greater merging of unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS), contact center-as-a-service (CCaaS), and customer relationship management (CRM) as-a-service solutions. At the moment, organisations have to buy each solution separately and integrate them into their contact center environment. Their operations team is then tasked with monitoring and operating these different platforms. This is complex and it takes time.

At some point in the near future I think we’ll see a convergence of all of these software solutions into a single, flexible, service offering. Microsoft for instance already has its Teams and Dynamics solutions – I think contact center is the missing piece of the puzzle for them. While Amazon has launched its Chime and Connect solutions bringing UCaaS and CCaaS solutions convergence.

We’re well placed to support the development of the contact center ecosystem. BICS’ solutions are interoperable with all types of hardware and software platforms. Migration and integration with existing – and future – setups are seamless. We also offer a flexible, pay-as-you-go model, giving organizations more control over their infrastructure and allowing for greater scalability.

Indeed, this is part of another trend – BYOC, or bring your own carrier. If enterprises are investing in a CCaaS solution they can pick us as part of a BYOC strategy. They can directly benefit from our global network, unrivalled service availability, and great customer support.

If you’re operating a multinational contact center, offering a conferencing service, are a cloud comms provider, or simply looking to expand your business into new markets: BICS, and our Cloud Numbers, can help.