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How to define contact center technology requirements

Whether launching a new contact center or updating an existing one, CX leaders must evaluate their contact center technology requirements before selecting a provider.

CX leaders have myriad options for contact center technology. Whether an organization wants to build or reassess its contact center requirements, technology considerations should include the core platform, workforce optimization software, AI-enabled applications, analytics, voice of the customer survey applications and more.

In order to deliver quality CX, an organization's CX leaders should conduct a full analysis of current and planned customer service operations to make the right technology decision for the business. The analysis should show how the organization defines its basic contact center technology requirements, the necessary features and capabilities and how it will train staff.

CX leaders should ensure the following points are part of their requests for information and requests for proposals to understand what each vendor does and does not offer, and how the answers differentiate the options. These answers will help narrow down the providers to a shortlist and, ultimately, the organization's final choice.

Define the organization's basic contact center technology requirements

When selecting new contact center infrastructure or services, CX leaders should consider these factors to find a service that best fits their organizations' contact center technology requirements.

The contact center's purpose. Interview business unit leaders to capture why the business needs either a new contact center or to update an existing one. Is the reason primarily to sell more products, serve customer warranty claims, provide outreach for loyalty programs or something else? The answer to that question will help determine the applications and services required.

Types of contact centers. In addition to identifying the contact center's purpose, CX leaders should evaluate the different types of contact centers. Would the organization benefit most from inbound or outbound call centers, or a blended, omnichannel approach with contact centers? Will the business outsource contact centers?

Architecture. Does the organization have corporate policies that require use of cloud-based contact center services or on-premises platforms? If so, those policies limit which platforms the organization can consider, as some vendors -- such as 8x8, Five9, RingCentral and Talkdesk -- only offer cloud-based contact center services. In other cases, a hybrid architecture, with on premises used locally and cloud used for global expansion, may suffice. Providers such as Avaya, Cisco, Genesys or Mitel offer both on-premises and cloud-based contact center services.

Interaction channels. CX leaders must consider how their organization interacts with customers. Options include voice, email, SMS, mobile application SMS, webchat, video and various mobile business chat applications. They should compare these channel choices with the vendors' options to see which products support the contact center's requirements for interaction.

Agents' workplaces. Where do agents reside? Do they all work from home or from the contact center? In the future, will the agents have a mix of workstyles, with some people at the office, others at home or all doing both? Does the business plan to enable agents to work from anywhere? The type of workplaces that the business supports typically dictates architecture -- as remote workers generally are easier to set up with cloud services -- as well as contact center software provider, depending on what it offers.

Management and monitoring. CX leaders should evaluate what type of management and monitoring tools they want. Options include platform-provided tools, as well as tools from stand-alone specialty providers for contact centers, including Empirix -- an Infovista company -- Kurmi Software and Voss, and endpoint management providers, such as Poly. Communications service providers generally limit which technology vendors' products they measure.

Also, CX leaders should evaluate how they want the tools to function. Is the goal to measure a cloud provider's performance with an objective, third-party tool? Is the goal for the tools to automate implementation and administration? Should the tools provide business metrics, such as utilization or efficiency gains?

Determine the necessary contact center software features and capabilities

The basic contact center has no shortage of add-ons in addition to the typical Automatic Call Distributor and interactive voice response capabilities. Beyond those features, numerous other software applications and hosted or cloud-based services exist, including the following.

Workforce optimization (WFO) software. WFO and workforce engagement management are umbrella terms for a variety of applications that help supervisors manage, improve and analyze their teams. WFO software includes workforce management, quality management, speech analytics, performance management, desktop analytics, predictive analytics, gamification and call or screen recording. Organizations can buy these applications from a single provider -- such as Calabrio, Genesys, Nice inContact or Verint -- or buy individual applications.

Multiple types of AI and analytics. Contact center technology requirements should include AI and analytics to maintain a competitive advantage. CX leaders must prioritize which applications to use and which AI platform -- there are options from AWS, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and contact center and CRM providers -- will serve as the core platform.

From there, CX leaders can consider what use they have for AI in the contact center. Examples include the following:

  • language translation or transcription services to reduce operational costs;
  • natural language processing or sentiment analysis for improved customer service; and
  • virtual assistants to guide customers in their self-service journeys.

Those answers will help identify contact center providers that offer relevant services.

Omnichannel support. If the business plans to offer multiple customer service channels, they must be integrated. Otherwise, customers may become frustrated if they have to repeat themselves.

Ability to customize. CX leaders should also consider how much customization they need. Does the organization want to add click-to-dial capabilities from within a website, for example? Or, for an on-premises platform, the business may want to innovate and add cloud-based applications. For these projects, CX leaders should consider communications platform-as-a-service providers, including Avaya, Bandwidth, IntelePeer, RingCentral, Twilio and Vonage.

Training staff

A new contact center or new applications can benefit the business, but these initiatives may fail without appropriate training for the support IT staff, as well as the operational staff who use the technologies. When it comes to training, consider the following.

Provider assistance. Does the business have enough people internally to train these teams? If not, see what the product vendor or the vendor's partners offer for training, including free training. Negotiate with selected providers for videos, lunch-and-learns or other types of training that work for the organization.

Market the capabilities. Many companies only rely on their IT staff to educate, inform and enlighten employees about the technology. These companies need marketing expertise to explain to employees and customers why they should care about new technologies before explaining how to use the tools. What will change in employees' and customers' lives if they use these technologies? Adoption will be higher and more successful if employees and customers understand those answers.

Agent analytics. Contact center agents need coaching to improve their skills, whether on phone calls or digital systems. CX leaders should ensure agents have the data and analytics to document their performance and help them achieve improved metrics.

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