Free Contact Center Buying Help

By Robin Wilding
Updated: July 15, 2011

Millions of small to medium businesses will be purchasing contact center solutions this year—and it feels like there are about a million solutions available. When purchasing a contact center solution business owners need to keep in mind why they are purchasing/renting a solution: to improve time-to-lead qualification, cash-to-order processes improvement, churn rate improvement, and error reduction. After all a contact center is a customer-and brand-retention center, as well as a income generator.

In order to narrow down your solution options you need to decide what type of buyer you are, as this will decrease your option exponentially:

Basic Needs Buyer

These buyers need a solution that is easy to install and use that has business intelligence features that don't cost an arm and a leg—or your first born. The solutions for basic buyers generally include features like predictive dialing, real-time quality monitoring, call routing, and speech and interactive voice response (IVR).

Often basic-level contact center and call center solutions will consist of a finite set of features—but will be modular and upgradable, which makes this solution perfect for contact centers with visions for growth. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) packages are collapsible and expandable—and have upgradable features, which makes them perfect for small to medium sized contact centers looking to begin with a less-expensive option then upgrade depending on their company's success and needs.

Questions

When determining cost/budget you need to ask yourself, what capabilities will your center need? What features will your company truly use and benefit from? How much customization and support services will your company require?

How To Evaluate and Buy

When evaluating your vendors you should do some preliminary research to come up with an ideal budget. Then narrow down the vendors in your price range based on the features that are most-needed by your company. When short-listing vendors consider foremost price, but then later consider scalability, customization, features, integration (with existing or legacy systems), and after-sale support.
Once you have your short-list of no more than two or three vendors, based on your feature needs, ask them for demo's or trials of their solutions. From there consult with your staff to find which solution works best.

Advanced Need Buyers

If the above doesn't sound nearly adequate, then you are likely an advanced-need buyer. These advanced buyers are looking to leverage technology to create enterprise-level customer service and sales techniques—by correctly utilizing advanced contact center features.

Features

Advanced features include all the basic features, plus: call campaigns with voice messaging, work-from-home options, advanced inbound call processing, flexible dialing programs, automated contact management, custom integration with CRM software, custom hardware and software integration, telephony links to enterprise applications (including proprietary), and online admin tools and reporting.

While most companies desire these advanced rosy-eyed features you need to consider whether your company can afford them and whether they will properly implement and utilize them—if not then the solution will be throwing your money down the drain. If you have the capacity to turn those features into tangible results, but lack the IT staff to implement it then you simply require an advanced hosted or managed solution.

How To Evaluate and Buy

Should you require an advanced solution you will want to carefully evaluate which features you need before you begin short-listing vendors. Once your business-critical features are chosen, set a budget based on your preliminary research—then create a list of vendors within your budget. Be sure to find out the total cost of ownership (including cost related to software, hardware, installation, maintenance, upgrades and service contracts). You will need to ask vendors for demos and ask them how they plan to customize their product to your currently employed software solutions. You will need to do a background check on the company and their after-sale service, in addition to getting a firm service contract in writing.  

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