Realities of technology for the small center, including cloud, suites and managed services
ILLUSTRATION BY Matthew Hall

Every small center aspires to deliver good (or great!) service to customers and offer a good (or great!) place for employees to work. The realities of small centers and big technology can make these rather simple goals feel daunting. But excitement abounds with today’s technology solutions, including cloud, suites and managed services.

The Cloud for Small CCs

The cloud is a good fit for small centers. These solutions offer robust functionality with agility and flexibility for growth in capacity or maturity. They accommodate seasonal staffing changes (e.g., during enrollment or the holidays) without saddling centers with peak license fees year round. And they support additions in functionality as centers grow and mature (or budget allows).

MANY choices await the interested buyer from cloud-only vendors and premise vendors who now offer cloud solutions. Many offerings target small centers—even if these options are really about packaging, marketing, and pricing. Vendors also offer out of the box integration with popular CRM solution like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and Sugar.

You Want a Suite? Sweet!

Most vendors targeting SMB centers start with a suite of core technology such as ACD (routing and reporting), IVR, CTI, and call recording. Most of these will offer a wide range of channels. Some suites offer performance tools like WFM, QM, VoC, analytics, scorecards, etc., many of which weren’t typically the realm of small center solutions or came from third parties. The suite offering doesn’t mean you have to turn it all on at once. For example, a small center may start with the QM functionality to go with the recording capability, then add more functionality later. You may even find desktop elements such as CRM and KM as options from a VAR.

Most vendors targeting SMB centers start with a suite of core technology

Managed Services Provide Added Support

If you can’t get IT help or hire support staff in your center, you can buy additional expertise and support to go with your technology. With Managed Services, the vendor takes on more of the traditional IT role, with a spectrum of possibilities for implementation and ongoing management, and proactive and reactive tasks.

Managed Services is not a low-cost solution and requires diligence when defining scope and pricing. For example, will you have a monthly allocation or pay per action? Does the service include proactive optimization or just reactive tasks? Is it more about monitoring, supporting and managing the system, or user administration and adding business value? Find a provider that has the right services to go with that exciting solution.

Technology Success Demands Support

People must USE technology effectively, whether in the contact center or IT (or vendor/VAR through services). If your focus is to do more within the bounds of your center, try to secure an analyst with the technology responsibility. Otherwise, the responsibilities typically fall to Managers or Supervisors (or a Team Lead or top performing CSR). This approach can work—and provide a great career growth opportunity—if it’s the right individual with properly allocated responsibilities and the time to go with it.

Process needs for frontline contact handling, from identify to transact to follow up, demand that centers of any size be smart about how technology is applied. Processes for support functions such as QM, WFM, Analytics and ongoing process optimization also ensure good use of that robust technology. Place this process focus in the hands of the assigned people and make sure you clearly define who is wearing what hats. With the right people and processes in place to leverage the exciting technology available, small centers can do big things!

Make the Right Choice

Small center technology options are pretty exciting, but centers must choose the right solutions. As you define and document your requirements, be sure to address functionality, architecture (including BC/DR), and vendor roles and responsibilities in implementation and support. Get clarity on the pricing, covering network, licenses, per minute, etc.—no surprises! Ensure there is a good Statement of Work (SOW) for implementation with a project plan and timeline that includes testing and on site time if appropriate. A good contract and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) give you the protection you need.

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