Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Getting to the Bottom Line for Cloud Solutions

Cloud vendors regularly crow about their “fast and easy” delivery of advanced contact center capabilities. When their benchmark is premise-based solutions, they’ve certainly got an edge. However, contact centers still need to put themselves and their prospective vendor partners through the planning paces before signing on the dotted line to ensure there’s a good fit and that everyone understands the forthcoming business relationship.

We recently published a Buyer’s Guide for Cloud Solutions that focuses in on the all-important Statement of Work (SOW), Service Level Agreements (SLAs), and Pricing. As I previously authored posts om SOW and SLAs, I’ll zero in on pricing today.

cloud solution costs

Pricing is primarily about licensing – except when it’s not! Market disruptions have created an interesting mix of possibilities, and you must spend the time to find the best fit for your usage profiles. Here are some concepts to familiarize yourself with before getting too far with any vendor.

  • Named vs. concurrent agents – Get these well-defined and figure out best fit based on shifts/hours of operation, how much you peak, your seasonality, etc.
  • Consumption model  – This relatively new alternative, driven by Amazon and Twilio, can lead to options of per minute or per hour usage-based pricing. It is often a good fit for more basic, less “heads down” centers and for those who have highly volatile volumes. Make sure you are clear on what functionality is included.
  • Licensing levels – License levels could be all inclusive or vary by media or functionality. A higher level could define specific channels, or just number of channels. Some vendors require all users on the system have the same level, while some may allow buyers to segment by group.
  • Agility – Everyone thinks cloud provides built-in agility, but not all agreements allow it. Explore minimum monthly charges and any bursting impacts (e.g., more than 20% above commitment).
  • Other license add-ons – Many buyers need robust contact center functionality, and some need Unified Communications (UC). Clarity on what is included in a license and where add-on costs come into play is critical to happiness once you go live (and get a bill!). Typical add-ons can include outbound dialing, workforce optimization (e.g., QM, WFM), and third party connectors like Salesforce.

Network costs vary based on your configuration and who will provide the carrier services. Make sure you are clear on the costs based on your chosen configuration, addressing these questions:

  • Does the vendor bundle the carrier costs into licensing? If so, are there any limits? More typically there are limits with outbound, so find out the maximum minutes and the cost for excessive minutes.
  • If carrier costs are not bundled, what is the per minute cost for inbound and outbound and any variations based on geography?
  • What is the per minute cost for toll free services?
  • If you do BYOC, do they still charge a fee?
  • Do you have to pay for porting numbers? (see sidebar) Porting may have a small cost per number but it’s a good catalyst to clean up your numbers!

Many cloud solution buyers don’t want or need phones. For those that do, know that you can buy (approved) phones separately, or purchase or lease them from the vendor. Leasing is a good fit when you are looking for a full managed services approach. Purchase or lease options exist with any routers or switches or storage (e.g., for recordings) as well.

Depending on the vendor and your situation, you may see no cost, low cost, or high cost professional services to get started! For complex, multi-channel implementations with integration, expect $100k and up. If your needs are more basic or you will do most of the work in-house, the costs can range from around $10k to over $100k. You must define what you need and know there is a difference in services that aligns with the cost.

Finally, ongoing support may be included, in which case it is focused on the trouble ticket/resolution process. You could choose a “Premium” level option for more hand-holding and prioritization. We have seen fixed (e.g., $5,000/month) or variable (e.g., 15% of licensing costs) pricing for these services. Regardless, they are likely to have limits based on some defined unit (e.g., time or task types).

In pursuing a cloud solution, many are looking to manage costs, deliver greater functionality, and have the agility they need to support their business. You may be chomping at the bit to move forward and realize all of these goals. Be sure to pace yourself and really understand what you’ll pay so that you don’t get unpleasant surprises downstream.