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The recent COVID pandemic prompted many banks to convert their customer contact centers into a network of remote employees working hard to help customers with urgent financial needs and concerns. For many financial institutions that were not yet operating in the cloud, the move to remote customer service teams was challenging. For others still waiting to convert to cloud, the months ahead may bring another clunky transition when they move back to an in-office or hybrid operation.

Regardless of their situation, most financial institutions have renewed interest in migrating to the cloud to ensure continuity in the future, given the changes caused by COVID. They recognize the cloud offers many benefits, including increased business flexibility, reduced costs, and a more seamless, connected work environment for remote employees.

With unprecedented pressures to adapt and get on with business, many financial institutions would like to simply flip the switch and be in the cloud as soon as possible. But it’s not that easy. The process involves several critical steps and considerations that must be thoughtfully addressed to ensure success and optimize performance of the contact center over the long term.

Take time to understand how to avoid costly mistakes and streamline implementation of a new cloud contact center solution as you consider a move toward the cloud.

Pace at Incremental, not Monumental, Steps

Understand that a cloud solution won’t immediately replace everything your legacy system now does. Consider how long it took for you to get your current legacy system in place, and how you’ve updated and modified it to meet the changing needs of your bank over the years. Variables that need to be put in the cloud – like supervisor and agent preferences, your organization’s unique terminology, or features of your products – will take time to be translated.

Start small, with realistic expectations. Consider moving just a few business units to the cloud at first, such as your contact center. This will allow you to test systems in a controlled manner and thoroughly train affected team members along the way. Training will be effective if it is paced accordingly. As with any major institutional change, you won’t want to overwhelm users by teaching all the cloud system’s features at once. Start by familiarizing the team with the basics of the cloud product and only a few features, such as voice and chat communications channels. Rely on your technology team and outside tech partner-vendors to lead the trading process. For example, cloud vendors like Genesys offer generous ramp-up periods that allow you to start small and grow to full capacity over a period of time, typically three to four months.

Reframe Your Thinking: Improve Your Systems, Don’t Overthrow Them

The pandemic brought many changes to employee teams at financial institutions. Teams went through a lot in 2020, so more change may be met with resistance or exacerbate the “change fatigue” that is already present. In normal times, change related to technology is already fraught with trepidation as it requires relearning of previous methodologies with the use of new tools.

Communicate early and often about technology change, and focus on the benefits new systems will bring to a team’s daily work and the impact on customers. Acknowledge that there will be a learning curve and focus on the future – setting a vision for when the bank will be operating at peak performance, using the latest technologies that enhance both employee and customer experiences. It’s likely your employees will have heard of cloud-based technologies such as IVR, skills-based routing, and speech analytics. Most employees will be excited that you’re modernizing operations, and will look forward to being able to have the latest tools at their fingertips. Support them with a thoughtful onboarding strategy that is paced for optimal learning, acceptance, and implementation.

Don’t Let Your Legacy System Trap You in the Past

You’ve likely connected various software applications to your contact center over the years. While they’ve served you well in the past, it is unlikely they will work in a cloud environment. Legacy systems are familiar and comfortable, so you may be tempted to piece together a hybrid system to ease the transition. This can be especially true if you’re in the middle of a commitment to software you’ve purchased or subscribe to.

It can be difficult to leave legacy systems behind, but it’s imperative to move wholeheartedly to the cloud.  Ultimately, you’ll save time and money, while increasing efficiencies and effectiveness for employees and customers, through full use of the cloud features working together. Rely heavily on your partner-vendor to lead you forward.

Choose All-In-One Over Best-In-Breed

There is so much technology on the market today. The number of technology vendors in every product category has grown. There is always one company that represents the “best-in-breed” in a specific product set, such as outbound dialing. Because these companies specialize, their products must connect to other companies’ products to build a complete solution. If you bring multiple product vendors into the mix, be prepared to manage each individually, and collective, to achieve a cohesive system. Your workflow will require separate administration, logins, and reporting. Vendors come and go, and (especially if there are too many cooks in the kitchen) as they say, the soup may spoil. Specialty vendors tend to blame others’ products when IT challenges arise.

When choosing partners, your goal should be to have at least 80 percent of your essential features come from one product that satisfies at least 60 percent of the peripheral needs of other departments. Choosing as complete of a solution as possible allows for more streamlined onboarding, training, administration, and supervisor reporting than using several “best-of-breed” products put together.

Look for Experience. Don’t Get Distracted by Shiny Objects.

There are hundreds of cloud contact center vendors that will wow you with a slick interface and fancy features but offer no depth with the product or experience in the contact center space. When interviewing vendors, watch for the warning signs of their unfamiliarity with common industry terms like ACD, barge-in, and skills-based routing. Roadmaps that aren’t oriented to the contact center operation or promises of flashy upgrades that are not yet available are also key flags that the vendor won’t have the experience needed to partner with you to execute the final solution.

Two vendors who have the most significant experience in moving contact centers effectively to the cloud, while continuing to be stable to consult on your system after implementation, are Genesys and Microsoft. Both have decades of experience developing and deploying contact center and back-office applications. Add one or both of these companies to your consideration set when evaluating vendors, and the contrast from others will become clear. Even at the vendor evaluation stage, you will gain good knowledge about the significance and complexity of moving to a cloud environment, before you even choose your partner.

The silver lining of the cloud environment shines brighter than ever in the midst of the chaos and change caused by COVID. The pandemic pushed financial institutions toward modernizing their technology through a cloud conversion. If you’re accelerating your plans, remember to move forward at a measured, methodical pace that involves thorough evaluation of vendors, optimal timeframes for change management with teams, and a evolved realization that old ways need to be left behind in order to emerge as a stronger, more effective business.

Robert Wakefield-Carl is senior director of the innovation architects team at Avtex, a full-service CX consulting and solution provider focused on helping financial services organizations create better experiences for customers. Avtex partners with leading technology vendors like Microsoft and Genesys to address CX challenges through CX design and orchestration.

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