2019 Contact Center Software Buyer's Guide
In recent years, “customer experience” has evolved from a buzzword in business, to an initiative-and for good reason. Establishing customer loyalty through stellar service typically leads to higher satisfaction and retention levels and boosts profits when well-cared for customers spend more with your brand.
While the overarching importance of customer service has been a main business component for decades, technology and customer savviness are changing the service industry as a whole and creating a new set of customer expectations.
Contact center solutions are becoming more advanced each year, and in 2019and beyond, you can expect to see tools and features that are highly tailored to improving your customer journey from sales to service. Customer service is integral to the success of companies, no matter the industry or size, and contact center software solutions are more available and affordable for all levels of business than ever before.
This guide will provide insight and tools for selecting the best Contact Center solution for your company.
Contact Center Benefits and Features
While Contact Center needs may vary by vendor (and by industry), there are certain features that will benefit all businesses, including:
- Multi- or Omni-Channel Support Options (Email, Phone, Chat, Social Media)
- Self-Service Support Tools
- Social Media Integration
- Call Recording and Monitoring
- Agent Coaching Tools
- Customer Data Organization
- Workflow Automations
- Integration with Other Business Software Solutions
- Remote, Mobile Access
- Easy to use Interfaces and Dashboards
- Reporting and Analytics
Implementing a contact center solution in your business can generate many key benefits for your business, including:
- Enhanced customer experience
- Improved customer acquisition and retention rates
- Increased efficiency and productivity
- Support brand-building
- Increased profitability and longevity
Contact Center Trends to Watch in 2019
Business trends and software trends have a symbiotic relationship much of the time, innovation in one area always drives change in the other. To stay current and competitive in your industry by embracing all the best tools for your business, you should regularly study trends surrounding the software solutions you use in your company.
Cloud software systems are a trend growing at lightning speed for businesses of all types and sizes. Cloud-based contact center software is affordable for businesses in every stage of growth, and is extremely easy to access and use through an internet connection. This means that you enjoy the advantages of a remote workforce, and even scale your customer service to a 24/7 operation easily to service your customers around the clock.
Omni-channel support is one of the fastest growing trends in customer care. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, by 2020, the demand for an omni-channel customer experience will be amplified by the need for near perfect execution. You can leverage the power of updated contact center software by serving your customers across all communications modes in a smooth and synchronous manner.
Self-service customer support is another contact center software component that is developing quickly. Offering a self-service portal where your customers can find answers to commonly asked questions can help boost your contact center productivity by reducing the number of basic questions that come to your agents.
Choosing Your Perfect Contact Center Software Solution
Conduct a Business Review
Before you select your Contact Center solution, it is a great idea to make a list of the specific business needs that are driving your decision to implement a new system or upgrade your existing one. Thinking about the manual data barriers or customer-related issues that may be holding your business back will help you gain insight into just how different contact center solutions will best fulfill your needs and help you meet your goals.
Many companies find it helpful to include company leaders and key partners in their decision-making process of choosing a contact center solution. You can include key people in your business (from executives to support managers and agents) in your selection and planning process to make sure that all of your important needs are accounted for and your solution contains all the features and tools you must have.
Questions to Ask to Guide Your Review
• Are you experiencing high customer churn rates?
• Are you having difficulty meeting your growth targets or other customer-centric goals in your business?
• Are you having trouble attracting and retaining customers?
• What communication gaps occur consistently, and what is their impact on your customer experience and overall in your company?
• Are your existing support processes, tools, and systems outdated and cumbersome for employees?
• Are the costs of operating your existing manual processes or outdated technology outweighing the benefits you receive?
• What tools and features are must-haves for our company? Which features aren’t as vital?
• How tech savvy are the employees who will use the system most?
• What deployment method makes the most sense for our business and budget?
• How many people will use your contact center system?
Build Your Contact Center Budget
After you’ve conducted a complete review of your business needs and have a strong understanding of your contact center requirements, it is important to figure out the budget you can allocate toward purchasing or upgrading your system.
Using the list you prepared while reviewing your business needs, you can determine how much value will be created by your contact center system, and prepare your budget accordingly. You should give yourself spending limit as well as a range of pricing models including one-time installation costs or monthly fees. Depending on the size and needs of your company, one type of plan may make more sense financially over the other.
Determine Which Type of Contact Center Technology Will Best Suit Your Needs
Contact center vendors typically offer an array of different technologies and deployment methods to best meet the size, budget, and needs of your company. While cloud solutions are swiftly gaining popularity, particularly among small and medium companies, larger business still often choose to go with an on-site solution, so they can create a more customized and proprietary solution. Here’s a closer look at the main contact technology options available on the market:
Cloud-based technology is becoming increasingly popular for all types of business software, and contact center is no exception. Cloud technology functions through a third-party platform that is powered by the internet, which supports business mobility and remote system access that a flourishing company needs. Cloud contact center systems are also more affordable, which gives more companies the opportunity to embrace a solution earlier in their business.
On-premise, or on-site contact center solutions are systems that are built on-site in an office building or other physical location. On-premise solutions require hardware and ongoing updates and maintenance, which makes implementation more expensive than cloud solutions.
Think About the People in Your Company Who will be Using Your Contact Center
For your contact center solution to be a success in your business, your employees will need to embrace it and use it to its full potential. If your system is cumbersome or confusing, many employees may become frustrated and not use it as much as they should. This can hinder your growth, so it’s important to pick a contact center software that suits the needs of everyone who will using it.
As you think about the users in your company, think over these questions to find the best fit for your teams:
- How many users will be using the contact center system?
- What data sources need to be integrated with this system? Will it interrupt day to day business for my teams?
- What levels exist in your users? (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced)
- What are the needs of each group of users?
- What type of support will users need as they learn and use and maximize the potential in your contact center?
- What training will my employees need?
Know What to Look for in Your Perfect Contact Center Provider
As you meet with various contact center vendors that you’re interested in working with, you should do some due diligence in researching their reputation before you commit to purchasing their services. Some of the key things you should look for in your perfect contact center vendor are prominence, reviews, and support.
Industry prominence and popularity
While you should not choose a vendor based on popularity alone, a vendor’s standing in the industry can signal what you can expect from their services. Make sure that the provider you select has prominence in the industry and is popular among other companies with similar needs as yours.
Reviews from current or past system users
One of the best ways you can easily research a contact center vendor you’re considering is to look for reviews given by current or past users. Reviews from current companies using the software can give you great insight into how the provider treats customers and how companies value their services and features. Past reviews can establish a history of service values and give you a snapshot into how the provider handles business over time as well.
System support offered
Support is a vital component that all vendors will offer. However, the types and degree of support will vary from provider to provider, so make sure you know what level of support your team will need, and then ensure your selected vendor can easily fulfil those support needs.
Plan Your Integration and Customizations
Choose a time when integration will not impact your core business hours or seasons, if possible. During your integration, some data sources or systems may not be accessible for short periods of time, or may not contain complete data for analysis. Choosing a time when your company is not as busy can help you avoid the negative impacts of the system downtime that is part of switching to a new contact center software.
Understand Hardware Needs of Your Contact Center System
If you choose to implement a cloud-based or hosted Contact Center solution, then you will not require any hardware to get your software up and running quickly.
However, if you’re going to be implementing a solution on site, you’ll need to plan on investing upfront for hardware, installation, and ongoing maintenance on your system.
Research and Compare Multiple Contact Center Vendors
Once you have a firm grasp on all the things you need and want from your contact center solution, and understand what you must invest, then you can begin researching and comparing vendors.
There are many excellent contact center providers on the market, and you’ll undoubtedly be able to find your perfect system if you take a bit of time to really look into what each vendor offers and compare your top choices against one another to determine which is best for you and your business. As you compare your options, make sure to keep your list of key business needs and required features handy so you can reference them and keep yourself on track as you absorb all of the information and create a short list of viable options.
Set up Demos and Get Pricing from Contact Center Vendors on Your Short List
Once you’ve created a short list of three to five contact center solutions that you’re interested in implementing, it’s important to take your preparation and research one step further and get in touch with each vendor. Most providers will happily set up meetings to discuss your needs and requirements and can demonstrate all the key features for you.
Before you participate in a meeting or demo with vendor, make sure that you refresh your memory on all your business and feature needs. It is also a great idea to provide your lists to the vendor prior to meeting, so they can put together the custom options and pricing they have available that will meet your needs. This will make your time much more efficient, and also give the vendor a clear understanding of exactly what you require.