This article originally appeared in the Oct. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
For any enterprise, the success of their unified communications or contact center solution hinges on the insights and skills of their solution and service provider (aka integrator). The integrator is the critical link that brings together the customer’s business, its goals, its infrastructure, with all of the various multi-vendor technology components that need to work together to meet those objectives. As a contact center technology vendor, we’ve found the sales and integration channel to be an extremely important extension of our business. From our years of experience in developing our channel, we’ve determined four critical considerations when evaluating an integrator that can be valuable to the end user too.
Seeking integrators with a proven track record in providing implementation and support services is a given. But savvy end users should seek to partner with an integrator who will ask the right questions to understand the business’s technology and business needs. The integrator’s involvement in implementation is essential to provide that holistic view of all of the components that comprise the technology solution. When evaluating integration partners, technology vendors must examine whether the integrators are effective consultants, technically skilled, and attentive in the way they provide ongoing support. The best integrators will also have their finger on the pulse of what’s new and impactful in the market.
Speaking from the vendor perspective, we know the importance of finding the right partner for our business, because it’s essential to each of our customers’ businesses. The following are four key tips we practice when building our channel, and it’s guided us to some real gems. Using the contact center as an example, let’s explore what is needed for integrators to maintain effective alliances with their vendor partners, and be invaluable advisors for their customers:
Contact center solutions are sophisticated systems. The complexity of communication channels is growing, and a new generation of solutions is entering the industry. End users will likely be unaware of many of the new offerings, so it is the integrator’s responsibility to consult thoroughly and guide them. Initial meetings between an integrator and the end user are critical for establishing good rapport and trust. To do so successfully, integrators must ask the right questions and provide sound advice on what solution is best to achieve a business’s needs.
Providing stellar consultation, however, requires more than just technology expertise and its business application. The best integrators also spend time learning the ins and outs of the contact center operation and its role in the company. Doing so ensures that the end user will be outfitted with a solution that matches its needs. Business needs evolve from year to year, and customers should seek a long-term partner who works closely with them to continually recommend, implement and support new solutions.
Modern contact centers continue to advance in their application of technology, using multiple communication channels such as VoIP, video, instant messaging and social media to collaborate. These new communication capabilities require integrators to leverage experience in technologies beyond telephony. If an integrator does not provide an essential competency directly, make sure that it is willing and able to form alliances with vendors that can deliver the capabilities you care about, and the willingness to stay engaged and relevant throughout all areas of the project. This level of involvement is essential to future success.
Translating Bbusiness Needs into Business Solutions
In this struggling economy, businesses are demanding technology solutions to better understand their customers and help improve efficiencies. A skilled integrator helps businesses find ways to do more with less, maximizing resources without sacrificing quality, and seeking customer feedback and other business intelligence to continuously improve.
The contact center is a valuable information hub, with insight into customer satisfaction, sales performance and other business data. Company executives are starting to examine contact center data to identify trends, develop messaging and evaluate campaign or product success.
Integrators need to stay sharp, providing recommendations on how these new capabilities will elevate the contact center’s value within the enterprise. The ability to demonstrate an ROI to the business is essential.
With even the best technology, hiccups might occur. Issues that spring up may need to be remedied immediately. That requires a responsive integrator.
While examining potential integration partners, have them demonstrate an effective path for end-to-end support, particularly when working in multi-vendor environments. These systems will be in place and running a contact center for many years into the future, so it is imperative to partner with a knowledgeable integrator that is committed to the long-term partnership. Customers should demand an integrator who cares about them and cares about their business.
Not All Are Created Equal
A customer seeking to put itself in the best possible position for success must seek the best integrator. Unified communications and contact center solutions can be complex beasts. The best integrators will help seek solutions that are easy to use, simplify points of integration, and bring together those multiple components seamlessly – from the up-front business analysis through delivery and ongoing support.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi