Navigating the Call Center Agent Desktop
Illustration by Alex Dolan

Technology selections without strategy, requirements and criteria are like rudderless ships that roam the sea of options without docking at the right ports. Some captains may fall prey to “dog and pony” shows that focus on what “could be,” whether the “could be” is a requirement or not. Others are paralyzed by a Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) or Fear Of Better Options (FOBO). They keep collecting information and struggle to move forward. Still others use speed to forge ahead without due consideration for charting a proper course.

It is very tempting to just request proposals/bids for several solution combinations. The goals seem straightforward: compare costs, functionality, and avoid FOMO/FOBO! Unfortunately, an unfocused approach places undue burden on vendors and reviewers alike. In fact, some vendors don’t bid since they see the process as not serious or worth their time. Others choose what to bid and may not pick the best solution for you. And clear choice may not emerge for lack of solid criteria on which to render judgments.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your next technology selection process stays on course.

Take a top-down strategic approach. Focus on what really matters to your center. In addition to functional requirements, consider your desire for control in the administration of the solution, expectations on user needs such as mobility, ability to handle seasonal peaks, and business continuity plans. Factor in IT’s resource constraints and hot buttons. Think about functional gaps, agility and scalability.

Define the project scope based on the presence, age of, support for, and satisfaction with all enterprise and contact center technology components. Define what’s in for this round of consideration, and what may be postponed to a later date. Make sure any decision reached today works compatibly with technology that may be integrated downstream.

Define manageable timeframes that keep vendors (and the project team) engaged with a clear purpose and goals. Build in milestones to help move the process forward.

Describe your requirements and preferred sourcing strategy to ensure vendors present the right types of solutions (sourcing, price point, functionality, etc.). Consider operational features, technology specifications, and the vendor’s role in implementation and support. Include integration requirements for screen pop, data-directed routing, IVR self-service and CRM. Get hard data about reliability and explore Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and the response and remediation that goes with them.

Don’t let future “dreamland” discussions drive the decision. Minimize the “what if” discussions (e.g., “What if… we do CRM, “What if… we add text or chat…”) and put them in the right context and time frame. Awareness building is all well and good so long as it doesn’t pull you off course!

Anchor the decision-making process in defined strategy, requirements and selection criteria. Define what is most important to you and what will differentiate one vendor from another. Avoid commodity type functionality that doesn’t vary much from one vendor to another. Weight the criteria on importance and use them to score vendors throughout the process and work through the inevitable tradeoffs you will face.

It’s an exciting, though tumultuous time for both buyers and sellers of contact center technology. The best way to live in this market and survive the internal business pressures is to define, execute and trust your process. Accept reality and know there probably isn’t a perfect answer, but there are some perfectly good options. It’s likely you can’t have it all. But if you have strategy and plans, you can limit how far you go off the ideal course. Find something that is going to work well and get the job done. Acknowledge the risks and mitigate them through thoughtful, defensible decision-making.