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Your guide to contact center technology purchasing decisions

Selecting the right contact center technology for an organization is essential to its success, but with so many options, how do you know which is the best fit?

Contact center software applications require a significant investment of resources, including integration into...

a company's technology stack and training and adoption by front-line staff. Making the wrong decision could cost an organization much more than the software licensing fee.

When selecting contact center technology or cloud services, the decision process must start with the organization's requirements. They must be defined, documented and shared with bidding vendors to assure that their proposals will support the needs of the business for both the short and long term.

In many organizations, however, the software selection process does not take into account the detailed needs of the business. As a result, end-users are often disappointed in the capabilities of the new software, and the solution may not fulfill the needs of the business.

How do you go about cataloging the needs the right contact center technology will fulfill? Start by defining requirements in these areas: usability, channels supported, features and reporting. It's also valuable to note when each capability needs to be available because, often, not all of the features will be used right away.

The following breaks down the considerations of cataloging your organization's business requirements for call center technology.

Users and usability

While IT looks at implementation and integration issues, and end users give much-needed feedback on the usability and efficiency of a particular application, the needs of call center management cannot be ignored. There will be many users of the contact center technology, all with differing needs, and all of their requirements must be identified and supported.

  • Contact center agents interact with the contact center software system on an ongoing basis when resolving customer inquiries. The system must have a user-friendly interface, features that allow agents to perform their jobs with minimal effort and capabilities that support key internal processes.
  • Contact center leadership includes managers and supervisors. Individuals in these roles have specific needs, such as the ability to move agents, prioritize work and monitor results. These capabilities necessitate tools to assure that the appropriate individuals are handling customer inquiries, and that the business is meeting its service-level agreement (SLA) obligations.
  • System administrators have a highly specialized role in being able to perform very specific and highly controlled activities. Some of these capabilities include updating call flows and routing trees.

Channels supported

Call centers have evolved into contact centers. Customers now have the ability to communicate via a variety of channels. Organizations must decide which channels of communication their contact center software will support. Once that decision is made, the organization must define how it wants the contact center system to support the processing of inquiries in those specific channels.

  • Inbound phone calls are still a major channel of use in contact centers. Detailed business requirements must include items such as how inbound calls are going to be routed and messaging capabilities for enhancing the customer experience.
  • Outbound dialing capabilities need to be defined and supported. Moreover, some contact centers require the use of automated dialers, and requirements should be developed to document the necessary dialing capabilities.
  • Email integration should be included. Many organizations use email applications separate from contact center systems. As contact centers strive towards efficiency, processing emails in a similar manner as they do inbound calls makes more sense, workflow-wise.
  • Other channels of communication may include chat, text messaging, social media and video. Organizations must decide if they want to utilize contact center software to support those channels and, if so, to develop the appropriate requirements for each of these channels.

Features

Take a hard look at what the organization needs to deliver the best customer experience. Poll employees to find out if they have been accomplishing tasks in ad hoc workflows or if they have been using shadow IT hacks to do their jobs. The features wish list will become clear, though the organization won't over-buy.

  • Call monitoring capabilities are primarily related to inbound and outbound call centers. The ability to perform real-time monitoring, both side-by-side and remotely, must be defined, including the capabilities required for coaching agents during calls (e.g., whisper coaching, barge, etc.)
  • Contact recording is for future playback. Most contact center software platforms have the capability to record calls. Requirements need to be developed to identify what is needed regarding the scheduling of recordings, retention of recordings, etc., to assure that the capabilities of the selected platform are sufficient.
  • Post-contact surveys can be helpful for improving the customer experience, as well as unearthing sales opportunities. Requirements should be defined regarding the types of surveys that will be performed, along with any specific reporting needs.
  • Workforce management tools are critical to contact centers to assure there is enough staff properly scheduled to respond to customer inquiries. Workforce management software can perform many functions at various price points. Organizations need to decide the specific capabilities they desire from workforce management software (e.g., forecasting, scheduling, intra-day management, etc.), and should document those requirements.
  • Additional features that can be part of a contact center software package (e.g., speech analytics, integrated voice response, etc.) should be identified and outlined when narrowing vendor selection.

Reporting

In order to monitor key performance indicators and get to the heart of operations, a contact center technology package must have reporting capabilities that offer insights into call center performance.

  • Real-time dashboards provide up-to-the-minute statistics regarding the status of the contact center. A detailed list of dashboards must be defined. Next, it is important to determine if the required dashboards are available out of the box or if they need to be customized. If customization is required, it is critical that easy-to-use tools be available for the end user to create the required dashboards.
  • Reports provide after-the-fact information regarding the results of the contact center. A detailed list of reports must be defined. Next, it is important to determine if the required reports are available out of the box or if they need to be customized. If customization is required, it is critical that easy-to-use tools be available for the end user to create the required reports.

By now, you've probably gotten the point that purchasing contact center technology is not merely an IT play -- it should never be selected without input from business users. There are many specific capabilities the contact center requires out of its software, and those specific requirements must govern the decision-making process in order for an organization to get the most value out of its investment.

Next Steps

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This was last published in May 2017

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