The essential Buyers' Guide tip sheets.

Author:Schelmetic, Tracey E.
Position:Company overview
 
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For this, our annual Buyers' Guide, the editorial team at Customer Interaction Solutions decided that it's not enough to tell you where you can buy from: it wouldn't be a complete Buyers' Guide if we didn't tell you how to go about buying.

So in the interest of keeping it simple, we've broken down the tips we've collected from the various contact center industry leaders into call center sub-categories, and after each tip, we've indicated its source. We think you'll find a lot of great information here. We even learned a few things ourselves!

WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT

Consider integration issues.

It's important to look for solutions that easily integrate with your existing contact center infrastructure. In particular, companies should be looking for workforce management applications that work with any standards-based ACD, dialer, CRM or other back-office applications. This allows organizations to leverage a complete range of information about their company-customer interactions, and gain greater operational efficiency and optimal agent utilization.

Also, contact centers should look for workforce management applications that can be synchronized with other performance optimization solutions, like performance management and quality management, which enable employees at every level of the contact center to understand how their tasks contribute to business goals, hear how they actually interact with customers, and take responsibility for their own performance. (Aspect)

Empower your agents.

Companies should consider looking for a workforce management solution that empowers agents and reduces administrative overhead by automating schedule requests, approvals changes, and notifications, so that staff can focus on revenue-generating tasks rather than clerical details. Leading workforce management solutions now provide tools for agent empowerment, streamlining the interactions between managers, supervisors and agents. (Aspect)

Seek scalability.

Make sure the solution is scalable and easy to integrate with other important optimization components, such as quality management, the agent and supervisor desktop, and collaboration tools. (Calabrio)

Look for Web-based access.

Search for a solution that provides complete Web-based access to all functionality including forecasting, scheduling, administrations and user-appropriate real-time and historical reporting. (Calabrio)

Consider forecasting and scheduling very important.

Look for a workforce management option that provides precise forecasting and scheduling based on real, historical data and the agents you actually have, rather than a hypothetical "best" schedule. Ideal schedules have their place in terms of planning, but a schedule generated based on your contact center realities will provide the most efficient schedule given your current environment. (Calabrio)

Determine your expected results.

To ensure everyone's expectations are clear, companies should start by developing an evaluation team. Once that team is in place, the group should clearly define what it expects to achieve. The center may expect to reduce personnel costs, improve service delivery or gain the ability to plan and manage a complex environment. Once expectations are set, the team should examine current business processes to see if changes are required. Knowing what the center wants up front will help gain buy-in from internal stakeholders and define measurable goals. (IEX)

Consider how you will evaluate whether the vendor will meet expectations.

Build a list of standard vendor evaluation questions. This will help you make an apples-to-apples comparison. The new product should streamline tasks within each user group and provide a pathway for adding new features and functions as departments grow. Questions should focus on "how" the system performs different functions, such as skills-based scheduling. Seemingly small differences in functionality from different vendors can make a huge difference. (IEX)

Determine how introducing the WFM system will impact your existing technology investments.

The ability to integrate critical contact center solutions together unlocks even greater ROI potential. Prospective purchasers of WFM solutions should look to vendors that support open standards such as service-oriented architecture (SOA). Connectors between existing technology and the WFM solution being introduced eases integration roadblocks while increasing the ROI value of the collective solutions. (IEX)

Consider if the vendor's vision aligns with yours.

WFM solutions provide some of the basic building blocks for other critical contact center technologies (e.g., quality monitoring, e-learning and performance management). The vendor's long-term strategy and direction must be aligned with the center's long-term service delivery and technology plans as the vendor's research and development plans will undoubtedly impact the success experienced. (IEX)

Ask if your organization will be able to develop a strong partnership with the WFM vendor.

Delivering the software to the customer should not be the end of the interaction. WFM deployments need to be carefully considered with the vendor acting as a partner to the customer providing assistance with deployment and goal setting in the short term, and development and improvement in the longer term. Some vendors foster an ongoing relationship through customer advocacy programs, user groups and a variety of other programs. (IEX)

Look for products based on pre-integrated architectures (those that run multiple core contact center functions on a single platform) for lower total cost of ownership.

To find true TCO, ask the following questions:

How much is the total cost of licensing, including those for forecasting, scheduling and real-time adherence? What is the cost of required "connectors"? What is the cost of required servers? What is the cost of required hardware? What is the cost of integration services (and training and certification, if appropriate)? What is the cost of support? (Interactive Intelligence)

CALL RECORDING & QUALITY MONITORING

Look for products that offer ease-of-use.

Be sure the user interface screens are simple and intuitive. Be sure configuration offers a good balance between "out-of-the box" and customizable options and don't forget that configuration complexity multiplies with each system it must integrate to. Consider how tightly integrated it is with the ACD--ACD historical data are critical for effective demand planning. (Interactive Intelligence)

Carefully evaluate real-time adherence feature.

Is it real-time or is there a delay? Look for products that offer delays of 10 seconds or less. Also, how much and what type of data does the RTA feature capture? Look for granularity such as by workgroup, media type, skill set, etc. Finally, be sure it includes features for adherence management. (Interactive Intelligence)

CALL RECORDING & QUALITY MONITORING

Be covered from end-to-end.

Look for an end-to-end quality monitoring system that reliably captures, stores and retrieves customer interactions across multiple channels and sites. The solution should deliver high-volume recording functionality and advanced data storage, retrieval and presentation capabilities, along with tools to enhance agent training and performance. (Verint)

Look for a browser-based solution.

Choose a browser-based quality monitoring solution to meet the needs of a broad set of contact centers, from a single center or multiple centers, regardless of whether they deliver service via the telephone, voice over IP, e-mail and the Web. (Verint)

Capture everything.

Quality monitoring solutions should be able to capture a CSRs' voice interactions with a customer and their corresponding computer desktop activities, such as data entry, screen navigation and data retrieval. Moreover, the system should synchronize the captured voice and desktop activity during replay, allowing supervisors to observe and analyze complete customer interactions as they actually occur. (Verint)

Think about form creation.

A quality monitoring solution should allow contact centers to create and customize forms to evaluate contact center interactions. Forms can be tailored to produce accurate evaluations of the people and contacts within the enterprise. Additionally, the system should provide an array of reports that can help managers analyze and report on contact center performance. (Verint)

Look for online learning management.

Seek quality monitoring solutions that include an online learning management tool created for the Internet-enabled contact center environment. E-learning systems are becoming increasingly important in the contact center because they deliver personalized, cost-effective online learning while allowing managers to manage and track the content provided to agents. (Verint)

Consider what you need to record.

In your selection process, consider giving preference to the recording systems that are capable of recording all calls, rather than a select few; this creates a deep database that can be mined to find representative calls for evaluation, coaching and business intelligence. In recent years, the cost of system hardware needed to record and store all calls has come down significantly, meaning that even smaller call centers now can take advantage of full-time recording ability. (VPI--Voice Print International)

Maximize usability.

Plan for maximized usability of your recordings--open file formats and ODBC-compliant databases will allow for better and smoother integration into your existing and/or future systems than solutions with proprietary file formats and proprietary databases. (VPI--Voice Print International)

Think about transition from TDM to VoIP.

Select a solution that will allow for easy and cost-effective gradual transition between TDM and VoIP recording (which may involve recording both for a time period), without negative impact on...

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