Independent Contact Center Consultants: Bridging Strategy, Technology and Operations Since 2004

Be Smart When Evaluating Low Cost Solutions

Low cost contact center technology solutions abound in today’s market. Centers can quickly implement cloud-based applications at a low price point (well under $100 per agent per month!). These options may seem like a slam dunk for companies with limited IT resources, aging or ineffective systems, and limited budgets. And they can easily tempt others as well!

If you’re going to pursue a low cost cloud solution, here are some suggestions as you evaluate, select, and procure a service.

vendor demonstrationFunctionality will be the top interest of users. Make sure you get demos, screen shots, and sample reports, and have deep dive conversations that address your hot buttons. For example, do you want callback queuing? The ability to see dashboards on a mobile device? Easy configuration and scheduling of reports? Find out if your requirements incur additional costs (e.g., higher license level).

Look at channels; voice is a given, but sometimes additional channels cost more (e.g., put you into a higher level license). Do they offer email, chat, text/SMS? How? Some solutions rely on the CRM for non-voice channels; that can have cost and integration impacts. Explore whether they offer WFO. In many cases, call recording is included but things like QM or WFM may be through partners. Explore how integrated those are and how you purchase them.

Many of these vendors have pre-built connectors to popular CRM solutions (everyone has, but don’t assume. Check that they have integration to your environment if you use Microsoft Dynamics, Zendesk, SugarCRM, Zoho, Oracle, etc. If you need integration to something else (e.g., for screen pops), explore how they do it and whether you need professional services (from the vendor or a partner). And if you have any existing technology that you want to use, like an IVR or WFM, explore how they leverage that or if you need to replace it.

Even though the solution is cloud-based and it’s the vendor’s job to architect it, explore where the technology resides, how it is connected, and how it is managed. Most assume you’ll connect over the internet and use a browser, so you need to make sure that works for your environment or understand the implications of alternative connectivity. Understand the level of redundancy, how failover impacts you, and the “what ifs” of various scenarios. Make sure the architecture, connectivity, and performance meet your business needs

Understand what, if any, help you are going to get in implementation. Consider design, configuration, training, and testing. Recognize assistance is likely to be remote, and you will tap their online knowledge base and classes. If you want onsite time and more rigorous professional services, clarify what the vendor provides and where the partners step in and engage with the right resources to define the plans and costs.

Once the system is in, support is going to be your touchpoint with the vendor. Generally, the more you pay, the better support you will get. At the low end, follow up and ongoing training likely come from online resources. Check if you get any SLAs, and if so, are they good enough? How are they tracked? Is there remediation for not meeting them? Look for these in the standard agreement and if they don’t offer any (or they are not well defined), decide if you want to try to negotiate. We don’t recommend unique SLAs as they are hard to manage, but it is a business decision based on risk.

Finally, you need to dive into the true cost because it may not be as simple (and low) as it seems. Vendors often have multiple price options (e.g., two or three levels of licenses), or a la carte options. Calculate total monthly costs for your typical seats, volume, and handle time. Work with the vendor to get a complete quote for your one-time costs and your monthly recurring cost.

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