Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

How to Buy Call Center/CRM Technology and Services Judiciously

October 09, 2008

(This article originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions.)
As the industry’s first and pioneering publication since 1982, it is our paramount responsibility to offer the highest quality and relevant content to help our readers.
Accordingly, we devote an entire issue each year to this vitally important topic.
Early Adopters Benefit The Most
Competitive advantage comes when, and only when, you are a first adopter of new technology. Let us all remember the first law of positioning, which says, “It is better to be first than to be better.” Given that being the first in just about anything is far more important than being the best, it is a no-brainer that being an early adopter is vitally important to any company’s success.

Industry Leaders and Leading Vendors’ Views On Acquiring CRM Solutions
Here are some excerpts from contributions made by industry leaders on the topic of purchasing CRM solutions.
  • Select a solution that allows you to quickly deploy CRM on-demand for front-line users, while tightly integrating with the industry-specific, enterprise CRM used to manage your most complex business problems.
  • Look for integrated business intelligence tools that deliver actionable intelligence for each business function and user role.
  • Look for proven solutions that both your business and your IT users can adopt and support in the short- and long-term.
For on-demand CRM solutions, consider the following:
  • Multi-tenancy — The multitenant model allows companies to run a single code base that is shared by all users and upgraded simultaneously — delivering all the benefits of innovative new releases, with none of the painful legacy of upgrades. With a multi-tenant architecture, customers can scale and innovate quickly, and enjoy the economies of scale of a world-class infrastructure that typically would have been out of reach. Multi-tenancy also ensures that customers do not have to rebuild their customizations or integrations every time the service is upgraded to the next version.
  • Multiple applications — When purchasing a SaaS solution, customers should look for vendors that provide multiple on-demand applications. These multiple applications provide a consistent user experience and an integrated source of knowledge for employees and customers. By using multiple applications that all run on one platform, it’s easy for customers to integrate their data and workflow, and manage the administration of users and changes to applications. It also makes it easier for users to use applications since they have a common look and feel. This reduces training and time searching for information.
  • Platform-as-a-service — Companies in the market for on-demand CRM should look for global service, complete customization and out-of-the-box integration to all of their enterprise and desktop systems.
Too often, customer-facing communications operations are rigid and hardware-based, which can make it difficult and expensive to organize customer service and telemarketing programs that flexibly respond to customer needs. Executing an effective communications strategy becomes even more difficult as customers seek real-time contact through text messaging, e-mail and the Web. Delivering an effective multichannel customer experience to customers requires a more comprehensive solution.
Customers looking to revamp their contact center environment would benefit from asking the following questions:
  • Across which channels do I want to interact with my customers?
  • How can I make my call center work to my advantage as a competitive differentiator?
  • How can I empower other parts of the business with customer insights garnered through my call center?
  • Will I be running operations across multiple locations and communications channels?
  • Do I need my users to be able to access this information remotely or through a mobile device?
Once a customer determines their customer call center requirements and defines their objectives, they should ask the following:
  • Does the solution offer flexible deployment options including the use of a hosted contact center so that I can tailor my contact center to changing needs and environments per location?
  • Will it be able to flexibly handle peak loads and random call arrival?
  • Does it provide a shared knowledge repository for better first-call resolution?
  • Can it help control the call routing and resolution process with standardized call scripts and workflows, and provide agents with a unified desktop and managers with tools needed to manage and analyze call center operations?
  • Does this solution offer comprehensive support for inbound customer contact centers – even those that are spread across multiple sites and serve multiple contact channels?
  • Does the solution allow you to link contact center interactions and efforts to sales and marketing planning and execution?
Organizations should choose CRM solutions that:
  • Are highly agile – to prove their value, call center software today needs to show it can directly capture business objectives, automate the programming and any associated work. Systems must be able to accept a change and then apply it specifically where it’s needed within an application;
  • Bridge the gap with disconnected channels by implementing a single and scalable process across multiple channels, yet still allow for specialization such as UI presentation and service levels where needed;
  • Are able to integrate application functions, essential enterprise data and human tasks together into efficient and streamlined customer-centric processes; and
  • Possess the tools to consume enterprise customer information without replication, and then deliver the conclusions and processes that match specific business goals and anticipated customer needs, and help CSRs provide higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Questions to ask when considering the purchase of CRM solutions:
  • Ask, what path do you want to take? Determine if your needs are for a more data-centric tactical solution or for a process-centric system that will impact more than just one facet of the business. This can help meet expectations in terms of implementation time, integrations and overall cost.
  • Check references and specifically ask if the vendor did what they said they were going to do. Did they do it on time and on budget? How responsive were they to your questions and requests?
  • When looking to buy for a call center, it is important to consider looking for a solution to manage the information going to a customer-facing Web site, or Web self-service, in addition to a traditional relationship management system. Having both the “front office” and “back office” speaking to each other will have a greater impact of customer satisfaction.

Nadji Tehrani is Chairman and CEO of Technology Marketing Corporation.

Edited by Erik Linask