Featured Image for the blog: How to Choose the Right Contact Center Tools

The war into the mindshare and share-of-dollar for each customer is fought – and won – on the battlefield of customer experience. Some 79 percent of companies say they’ve cut costs by offering up a better customer experience, while 84 percent of companies report adding to their bottom line in terms of revenue and profits.

There is no question, the level of service your agents serve up to your customers has huge company implications. How your customers feel after interacting with your agents has a direct impact on whether or not they’ll purchase more from your company. Those interactions influence the probability that they’ll become loyal customers. And, in the best-case-scenarios, that those customers will turn into brand advocates who promote your products and services. Your customer service drives the overall customer experience. And, the level of service you give your customers can only be as good as your contact center tools allow.

If you don’t have tools that support your customer-centric initiatives, you simply can’t deliver the positive experiences your customers seek out and expect. And, with 81 percent of companies recognizing customer experience as a competitive differentiator, your CSAT scores hovering in the 70s because of your clunky tools means you’re ripe for a solution that actually works for you, your agents, and your customers.

Fight off competitors by investing in the right tools.

To keep those pesky competitors and their shiny new tech at bay, invest in contact center tools that support your goals and company vision. Having tools that improve the experience of your agents and your customers is crucial to running a successful contact center. And it’s crucial to positively impacting your company’s bottom line.

When your agents are bogged down by disjointed tools and juggling interactions on dozens of channels that don’t work together, they struggle to meet their KPIs and help customers. When they don’t meet their key metrics or adequately serve customers, they’re ridiculed for poor performance and feel the added stress of constant scrutiny. All of that stress is then bundled up and tossed to your customers during their interactions with your agents. Agents are flustered, fishing around for answers to fix customer issues. And, they’re using tools that don’t offer up the resources or connections they need, resulting in a lack of clarity and a not-so-personalized, frustrating experience for your customers.

If you take a step back and realize your tools don’t help you meet your goals, it’s time to begin the search for a new system that supports your end game – better serving your customers.

Taking the leap of faith to swap out your 20-year-old system that works, just not up to the standards of today’s customers, is a daunting task. And, deciding it’s time to ditch your supposed-to-be omni-channel system that’s really just a bunch of separate channels is tough, too. You don’t want to break something that works. At the same time, you know you could be doing more for your customers. Changing up your contact center tools is an expensive, time-consuming project. It overhauls the way you and your agents work.

You need a platform that’s the right fit for your business, not one that perpetuates the challenges you’re facing.

The market is saturated with solutions that look and sound the same. They have identical websites, language, ratings, and feature lists where the only differentiator is the logo slapped on them. In a sea of sameness, how do you pick the solution that’s the best fit for your business, not just the one everyone else is using?

Here’s how to kick off your search.

Start by thinking long-term. As you take on the daunting task of changing the way you work and help your customers, I think we can all agree that you don’t want to repeat this time-consuming process in another year or two. You want to find a lasting solution. One that will help you bump your CSAT scores to the 90s for years to come, not just for now. Taking a page out of Vibrant Credit Union’s playbook, it’s not just about choosing the right tools for today, it’s about choosing the tools that will grow with you and help you succeed for years.

“We’re an 80-year-old company that wants to make sure we’re not just around the next 80 years, but we’re thriving over the next 80 years. If you look at the way the industry is shifting, and how consumer behavior is shifting, we know the world is going to change in the next 10 to 15 years. How do we make sure that we’re relevant at that point?” said Vibrant’s CEO Matt McCombs when deciding to overhaul the way their members bank and the tools they use to make it happen.

Shift your mindset to think about future success and the challenges you want to tackle today. And if, frankly, you don’t know what the long-term looks like for your business or your contact center (because let’s face it, technology and customer expectations change daily), then incorporate that mentality into your search criteria. If you don’t know what the next three years look like, then you need nimble tools that can shift with you and change in a snap.

Next up, evaluate your current tools.

Think about the lofty goals your business has and the barriers holding you back from reaching them. Are your CSAT scores stuck in the mid-70 percent range like the rest of the contact center industry? Do you lose agents faster than you can hire new ones? Are you rapidly expanding your business and can’t keep up with the pace of customer demands?

Dig into the root cause behind your challenges. If your customers are constantly repeating themselves, calling in multiple times about the same issue, your tools likely don’t share customer intelligence and help agents problem solve. Or, if your revolving door of agents won’t stop spinning, you might have a tech stack that supports dozens of channels, but it doesn’t simplify how your agents use those channels or how you coach on those interactions. Ultimately, creating a cumbersome, painful process for agents to do their jobs. That pain ultimately leads to agent dissatisfaction and burnout.

The challenges you face are the symptoms of the real, larger problems in your contact center. Discover if your tools are perpetuating those larger problems or resolving them. Ask yourself and your team questions, like:

  • Can one customer conversation span multiple channels without interruption?
  • Will this tool help me provide my agents actionable and relevant feedback about customer interactions?
  • Can agents easily find a customer’s case information to inform their conversations?
  • Are my tools user-friendly for the agents?
  • Can my agents easily collaborate with other departments if they need help?

Your agents are the end-users of your tools. They feel the most pain when your so-called solutions don’t work effectively to help them help your customers.

Now, don your professor hat and do your research.

Based on your goals and current challenges, create your list of must-have features versus your list of nice-to-haves.

Tag in other stakeholders, like your IT, operations, HR, and finance departments to help you dissect industry terms. What’s the difference between cloud-native and on-premises software? And which one do you need? Do you handle sensitive customer information that needs added security, like 256-bit encryptions and business practices up to HIPAA standards? You’ll learn what’s crucial for your business and what you can do without. Your IT genius will quickly tell you that cloud-native software requires no physical hardware and is globally scalable while on-premises software is difficult to scale and doesn’t easily integrate with web-based solutions, like your CRM.

Meanwhile, your compliance officer (if you’re a business that needs one), will know in a jiff that you can’t work with vendors who aren’t third-party PCI certified.

Then, take that information, unpack it, and translate it to the needs of your contact center. If you know you’re about to hire a crop of 100 remote agents spread across the world during the next six months, you know you MUST have cloud-native infrastructure and global data centers to support that initiative. That means you can quickly cross vendors off your list who only offer on-premises solutions confined to the U.S. Then, you can move on to your next high-priority feature.

Next in your vendor discovery phase, see what industry leaders, like Gartner and ICMI, are saying about the tech you need. And scour software review websites like Capterra, Software Advice, and G2 Crowd for user reviews. A few trusted reviews and customer testimonials will give you a better glimpse of the experience you can expect compared to website product pages thought up by marketing teams.

Finally, ask vendors the right questions.

Once you check off your must-have list of priorities and you have a few trusted reviews to back your top-choice vendors, send in your important questions. As you’re seeking new partners to work with, you’ll go through a request for proposal process. It’s where you can get down to the nitty-gritty and ask your vendors specific questions. And it’s where you make sure the partner you choose meets your most crucial business needs. It’s the point in your search when you can hand the RFP back to other company stakeholders, so you give them the answers they need to move forward.

Ask questions about all sides of the business, not just how the platform will help your customers and your agents. Customer service impacts more than just how your contact center operates. It touches every aspect of your business and your customers’ information.

Ask questions like:
  • Will I have to adapt my process to fit the technology’s limits?
  • Do the tools you offer integrate with the systems I already have in place?
  • What does the implementation process look like, and how does the number of seats I need impact these deadlines?

As you explore your options, you’ll find that vendors may appear to closely match up on a feature-by-feature basis. But, when you pull processes and SLAs into the mix, the real differentiators become evident. Some companies might have a 3-month implementation process for a 100-seat contact center. And others can knock it out (and do it well) in 30 days.

Or, even more difficult to see how it translates to real business impact, some companies might boast platform uptime of 99.999 percent while others claim 99.99 percent uptime. You think that extra decimal point doesn’t really make a big difference. But when you ask a vendor to decode that percentage into a concrete number, you find out that 99.999 percent uptime means a platform only experiences a max of 5 minutes and 15 seconds of downtime per year. Meanwhile, a 99.99 percent vendor sees 52 minutes of downtime. And a vendor with 99.95 percent uptime has 4 hours and 22 minutes of downtime. That, my friends, IS a big difference.

Be detailed and picky as you embark on your quest for the best, challenge-expelling tools for your business. Don’t be afraid to dig in and ask the tough questions while you explore your options. And, make sure you understand how each small detail will impact every one of YOUR business outcomes. When it boils down to the make-or-break tools backing your contact center, the details are the differentiators.

Want to know what you’re missing by partnering with vendors like 8×8, Genesys, Five9, or Serenova? See how we stack up to other contact center tools as you kick off your search. Click to view our Competitive Features Report.