Established in 2001 and based in San Ramon California, Five9 is a leading provider of cloud hosted contact center software. Virtual contact centers have been around since the early 2000’s and have been growing in popularity and uptake as internet connectivity has matured to provide high bandwidth reliable connectivity. Subsequent growth in cloud services and technology has boosted the virtual contact center market to such an extent that many providers such as Five9 are now offering Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS).
CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service)
This service is similar to the high-end (unified communications as a service) UCaaS offerings from RingCentral , that we have reviewed previously but importantly differs due to its focus on providing the tools and technologies required to run contact centers rather than generic small medium business. As the focus is on providing the specialist tools that call center agents and supervisors require such as advanced call queuing, call handling and real time reporting Five9’s features and capability goes beyond even the most capable UCaaS offerings. Five9 is a highly specialized contact center solution that despite the fact that it shares many common features is not really comparable to the hosted cloud based IP/PBX or virtual telephone systems that we have reviewed previously, which were targeted at the SMB market. Therefore, Five9 has specifically designed their products with sophisticated call routing facilities in mind, as well as high-end call handling and management functions that are grouped to provide specific contact center functionality, such as inbound, outbound or blended services.
Five9’s CCaaS product comes in one of three flavors that typically mirror contact center functionality. For instance, Five9 has an ‘Inbound’ product, which is suited for contact centers where the emphasis is on inbound calls, such as a customer care center or technical support service. Conversely, there is an ‘Outbound’ product, which is suited for contact centers where the ratio of calls is heavily weighted in the outbound direction, such as sales and marketing department or a market research company. In order to provide a comprehensive CCaaS solution Five9 also offers a ‘Blended’ service, aimed at contact center’s that have both incoming and outbound responsibilities, which naturally enough is a combination of both the Inbound and Outbound products. Additionally, there is also a ‘Multichannel’ product, which provides additional seamless integration with social media, email, chat and mobile
The Five9 Inbound product is tailored to meet the requirements of agents receiving many inbound calls relative to the number of outbound calls so the emphasis is on call answering, routing, queuing and delivering calls in the most efficient and optimized manner. In order to achieve this Five9 uses three different components, an IVR, ACD with algorithms, and a CTI module.
1. IVR (Interactive Voice Recognition)
Inbound call centers handle large amounts of incoming customer calls so it is essential to have an automated IVR to manage this workload and ensure no calls go unanswered. The solution is to use an automated call attendant that automates the answering of inbound calls and provides the caller with a menu of options before routing the calls to the correct destination. However designing IVR flows is often troublesome especially when the goal is to optimize the IVR menu options. Five9 provides a graphical design tool for designing flows and prompts. Similarly, Five9 also provides professional scripts and prompts for providing callers with effective self-service. Another contact center feature that would be nice to see make its way into the SMB cloud services is the In-Queue and Estimated Wait Time Announcements feature. The five9 IVR has all the other common features of an IVR such as advanced call transfer, time of day scheduling and voice-mail routing.
2. ACD (Automatic Call Distribution)
Five9’s inbound product relies on sophisticated call routing that ensures calls are delivered to the right resource at the right time. This is provided via Five9’s ACD system, which is responsible for providing the routing strategies and algorithms that enable fast, efficient queue configuration based upon amongst other criteria, skill-based, time-of-day, round-robin or priority routing. However, this is all pretty standard stuff where Five9’s ‘Inbound’ product differs from the competition is that it provides a much needed self-service solution where routine calls are delivered and managed. Freeing agents from handling and answering routine calls can dramatically improve their operational efficiency.
CTI (Computer Telephone Integration)
Five9’s CTI features, are as expected in a CCaaS product, very advanced and they are clear differentiators from even the high-end SMB UCaaS solutions. How CTI works in Five9 is that when a call is routed to an agent the caller’s details are shown on the agent’s careen and the appropriate scripts are automatically run to bring up the callers history or CRM file. By integrating the virtual telephone system to the agents computer allows the agent to seamlessly call up details from applications, databases or from the local call history This provides the agent with a wealth of information on the customer and their prior call history so that they do not have to ask the customer to repeat their query or complaint in detail. Furthermore, agents can also access CRM, FAQ or Technical Support databases without leaving their desktop as a screen pop-up will open within Five9’s dashboard application. Other inbuilt third party application APIs available out of the box are connectors for Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft and Netsuite amongst others.
Whereas Five9’s inbound product was very similar to most of the high-end UCaaS products such as RingCentral for example, as they and Five9’s provide many of the same features, and functionality, the ‘Outbound’ product is radically different. Where the Outbound product differs is its technology is dependent on dialers, which enable sales, marketing and promotional teams to optimize outbound campaigns based on algorithms. By using Five9 to optimize outbound lead and campaign management, for example by integrating CRM or Five9’s own local customer database, sales and marketing funnels can be created to feed the dialers which automates the entire outbound campaign, which can make the campaign goals more predictable. Five9 has three basic types of dialers, such as the predictive mode, which enables supervisors to plan the optimum number of calls to dial based on real time historical agent statistics. There are also power dialers and progressive dialers, which automatically dial based on either a fixed or variable call rate respectively. Additionally, there is also a preview dialer, which pops-up via CTI the dialed party’s details prior to dialing in order to familiarize the agent with the called party’s details. The amount of preview time is configurable so campaign planners can optimize dialer performance.
There are many benefits to using automated dialers and their algorithms. Some advantages are optimized campaign planning and agent utilization, more effective connection with prospects and customers than with manual dialing as well as better agent efficiency and performance. However, Dialers are only one of the tools five9 provides to boost agent performance. In addition to their range of automated dialers, Five9 also has advanced CTI tools such as screen pop-ups and click-to-dial functions from within the application as well as Cloud APIs so that agents can connect to external online data stores for example Dropbox. In addition, there are online web call back features that integrate with a web site whereby prospects or customers can request or schedule a call from an agent.
Moreover, campaign managers require being able to assess performance and efficiency so they require call recording as well as detailed reporting and Five9s provides for over 100 customizable reports.
Five9’s blended product is a merge of both the Inbound and Outbound products, which provides a comprehensive product for contact centers that require both inbound and outbound capabilities.
Consequently, Blended has all the capabilities of both the ‘Inbound’ and ‘Outbound’ products we have discussed above. However, there is another additional product that five9 provides which is aimed at addressing the requirements of agents working with multichannel technologies, such as email and social media. This of course unified communications (UCaaS) which provide integration and multi-channel management. However, the way Five9’s approaches the problems of integrating diverse communications channels such as email, chat, mobile and voice is though Five9 Connect. This is a Natural Language Processing engine, which categorizes and filters inbound messages or interactions, removes spam and can even determine sentiment within the message. The way this is applied is via a cycle of inspecting the interaction to decide what is important, relevant and trending. It then has to decide what to do with the interaction, such as how to categorize, prioritize, route and assign possible resources. Finally, the processing engine will aim to resolve issues using its historical database and scripts and hopefully increase conversion rates.
As a CCaaS Five9 provides the performance and scale to deliver a company of any size with a market leading solution. Together, the All-In-One product brings features such as:
Nonetheless, despite its capabilities and advanced features Five9 is easy to install and use, which makes it suitable for SMB as well as enterprises. Some of Five9’s most notable characteristics are that it is designed from the floor up to be:
- Simple to use with a user-friendly interface for Agents, Supervisors, and Administrators
- Yet have robust and advanced pre-built connectors for most leading CRM solutions available out-of-the-box
- Supports intelligent Call Routing that ensures calls get to the right agent with the right information at the right time
- Makes real-time reporting and historical analytics available at your fingertips
Work Force Optimization
Work Force Management or Work Force Optimization as it is as known is a newish trend in CCaaS platforms but is becoming seen as almost an essential feature for SMB as well as enterprise customers. This is because even an SMB contact center is a dynamic and complex machine with many moving parts that you have to manage. This makes managing a contact center a difficult task without the correct tools for the job. However, Five9’s provides the right tools so that managing a modern-day contact center is not such a daunting task.
To achieve this level of support Five9 WFO includes agents’ call and screen recording in real-time, additional quality management tools, workforce management features and reporting metrics, as well as advanced performance management and speech analytics. Five9’s also provides a wealth of real-time information for use by the contact center supervisors and managers so that they can efficiently manage call handling and reach Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and improve customer and agent experience.
The WFO solution that Five9 delivers is accomplished through wide-ranging partnerships with leading vendors in the industry to extend the flexibility and choice of functionality.
Five9 determines pricing via a quotation system depending on the number of seats amongst other criteria. Therefore, as the prices are customized per customer request/survey only Five9 can provide a quotation. However, as an estimate, the price range appears to be with the $100 to $200 per user per month range so it isn’t cheap. Five9 does offer flexible payment options based on either monthly or annual payment options.
Five9 is a CCaaS product that relies on high performance routing and a range of predictive, power and progressive dialers to provide a comprehensive specialist product for contact centers. The product can be supplied in Inbound, Outbound and Blended flavors in order to provide a service suitable to all types of contact centers. The Inbound service does not provide much more than can be provided by a high-end UCaaS cloud provider, which would also provide much greater range of functionality for an SMB. However, contact centers may be willing to pay for Inbound due to its CTI features and application integration, which is its differentiator from the UCaaS service providers.
The real differentiation between Five9’s CCaaS and the UCaaS service providers is with Outbound where there is a marked difference due to the advanced dialer technologies required for campaign management. It is here that Fve9 comes into its own as a real contact center service, which no UCaaS provider could hope to match, as they are just not geared to doing outbound campaign management, as it is such a specialist area.
Consequently, Five9 CCaaS is specialist product aimed at companies that wish to virtualize their contact centers and as such it is a very attractive alternative to on-premises solutions or under powered/featured UCaaS solutions with contact center features.