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Publisher's Outlook
December 2004


Nadji Tehrani

What To Buy And How To Buy

 

BY NADJI TEHRANI


Given the rapid technological advancements, geopolitical and global business changes and offshoring issues facing us today, the decision of what products and services to buy, and how to buy them, is more challenging than ever. As the publication that pioneered the training of the world’s leading call center managers about the art, science and technology of call centers, CRM and contact centers since 1982, it is our paramount responsibility to make sure that we help our valued readers to make the right decision when buying products or outsourcing teleservices.

Myth Versus Reality
Don’t think for even one moment that all call center, CRM, customer service and outbound are going offshore!! Companies have discovered that when they consider hidden charges, extra costs of travel, huge training and turnover problems, poor quality, cultural rudeness and now credit card fraud in India and some of the other popular offshoring countries (see article, titled “Offshore Versus Domestic: The Pros and Cons,” by Steve Brubaker of Infocision, in the October 2004 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions® magazine for more information), coupled with a whopping 175 percent cost savings that can be realized by using IP telephony and advanced speech technologies, home agents, virtual ACDs, hosted software, etc., the prudent thing to do is to upgrade your domestic call center and/or outsource to a reputable, reliable and experienced United States-managed call center. In this scenario, you’ll get to keep your customers, ensure very high quality and protect one of your most important assets: your precious database! If you consider the above, and if you factor in the high value of your lost customers, it simply does not make sense to go offshore. This may explain why Dell Computer and many others have left India due to mounting customer complaints.

Indeed, there are plenty of outstanding teleservices companies here in the United States with far superior quality, track records and experience so that you can sleep at night. As I have stated in many of the last dozen editorials, for non-customer-related, much less demanding jobs, some offshore companies may be OK.

As the publisher of the industry’s leading magazine since 1982, it is my vision that the industry is undergoing an evolution with new technologies such as IP telephony and speech technology, and the future of contact centers here in the United States has never looked better!

To give you a broader view and a more comprehensive approach for the judicious selection and purchasing of products and services for your CRM, contact center and teleservices outsourcing, we have contacted several industry-leading companies for their input on this vitally important matter.

Some Practical Guidelines For Selection Of New Technologies And Services For CRM, Contact Centers And Teleservices Outsourcing

Acknowledgements
I wish to gratefully acknowledge the valuable assistance and contributions of the following companies: Concerto Software, EagleIP LLC, FrontRange Solutions, InfoCision Management Corp., Left Bank Solutions, NICE Systems, PeopleSoft, SER Solutions, Siemens, Spectrum Corp., Stratasoft, Syntellect, TARGUSinfo, Tele-performance USA, Telephony@Work, Texas Digital Systems, Verint Systems and Witness Systems.

Concerto Software (www.concerto.com)
Contributed by Ralph Breslauer, Executive Vice President, Sales and Global Marketing

Below are five guidelines for selecting and purchasing products or services in the contact center industry. Customers buying these products should be asking themselves whether this solution:

  • Helps my organization mitigate the risk of securing customers while complying with regulatory requirements?
  • Allows me to maintain and build my reputation by reinforcing brand at the front line?
  • Provides revenue predictability by maximizing current relationships?
  • Enables me to increase market share by seizing every opportunity to acquire new customers?
  • Increases profitability by enhancing systems and people efficiencies?

EagleIP, LLC (www.eagleacd.com)
Following are some hosted contact center services purchasing guidelines:

Flexibility of hosted contact centers in allowing customers to connect via traditional PSTN or IP.

  • An extensive combination of services, including hosted contact center, CRM pop-up, Web chat, call recording, call monitoring and predictive dialing.
  • User-friendly agent desktop interaction with server to eliminate extensive training time, allowing for faster set up.
  • In terms of cost, consider a service with minimal or no upfront costs or per-seat pricing associated with services and fast set up time, allowing customers to start their service within hours and enabling customers to better calculate predictable per-minute pricing whether they have 10 agents or 1,000 agents.

FrontRange Solutions (www.frontrange.com)
Contributed by Kevin J. Smith, Vice President, Products
Consolidated service solutions considerations should be as follows:

  • Strong Product Capability — The best products offer a complete, comprehensive array of functionality to large and small organizations and the ability to evolve as the customers’ businesses change.
  • Swift Deployment — Today’s nimble companies cannot tolerate nine month-long implementations. The best products deploy in less than 90 days and users can be trained in the same time frame.
  • Low TCO, Rapid ROI — Many buying decisions involve C-level management, who demand a low total cost of ownership and a rapid return on investment in technology solutions.
  • Flexibility — To serve the increasingly mobile workforce and distributed enterprise, products must be modular and customizable, as well as offer “anywhere access” through the Internet and mobile devices.
  • Technology Leverage — Most buyers will need multiple products in the consolidated service solutions spectrum, so choose products that are fully compatible with complementary products and open to integration with legacy systems and other software.

InfoCision Management Corp. (www.infocision.com)
Things to consider when selecting a teleservices vendor include:

  • Experience — Ask for case studies and other proof of success.
  • Quality — Meet the people who will manage your project, and visit the call center.
  • Commitment — What resources will the company devote to your program?
  • Technology — Does the company offer value-added services, such as e-mail, fax, Web development and customized reporting?
  • Compliance — Can they comply with all state and federal laws and protect the privacy of your customers’ data?

LeftBank Solutions (www.leftbanksolutions.com)
When purchasing workforce optimization products, keep the following in mind:

  • Understand your list of business objectives and then prioritize them.
  • When viewing vendor demos, make sure the vendor can demonstrate how its solution will meet your objectives and operational needs.
  • When comparing prices, be sure to ask vendors if their figures include ACD integration, real-time agent adherence, Web access for agents and supervisors, maintenance and support, and training.
  • Choose vendors that can install their solutions remotely, including the ACD link.
  • Lastly, compare vendors’ estimated ROIs to your own, factoring in decreases in agent labor hours, operational hours to forecast and schedule across the entire contact center enterprise and an increase in calls handled and service levels.

NICE Systems (www.nice.com)
Contributed by Robin Schaffer, Marketing Communications
Issues to consider when purchasing call recording and analytics products:

  • Stability & Viability — Choose a financially strong and growing company.
  • Service & Support — World-class implementation, maintenance, education and consulting services are vital.
  • Complete Suite — to cover all needs from recording for compliance to recording for business performance improvements.
  • Market Leadership — top ratings for innovation and market share from all industry analysts (Gartner, Datamonitor, F&S)
  • Vision — A commitment to elevating the value of the contact center as a strategic business asset.

PeopleSoft (www.peoplesoft.com)
Contributed by Steve Roop, Vice President, Marketing
When considering customer relationship management (CRM) software, look at the following issues closely:

  • Fit to your industry. Business rules differ dramatically from industry to industry. Choose a solution designed for your industry.
  • Fit to your specific business challenges. Don’t purchase a product. Buy a solution to your business problems.
  • Flexibility and interoperability. Choose a solution that will meet tomorrow’s needs as well as today’s.
  • Vendor viability and commitment to the market. Vendor market commitment is comprised of support, innovation and longevity.
  • User friendliness/usability. If it’s difficult to use, you’re wasting your money.

SER Solutions, Inc. (www.ser.com)
Contributed by Anne Perez, Manager, Marketing and Communications
When selecting an outbound solution, ensure the solution:

  • Maximizes agent productivity. Specifically, it must deliver the most contacts per hour, especially at the mandated FTC/FCC abandon rates.
  • Supports your business processes. It should make it easier for you to achieve corporate objectives, not harder.
  • Offers flexible list management. You should be able to easily change campaign strategies without adversely impacting agent productivity.
  • Scales to meet current and future needs.
  • Meets required regulations and supports changing business requirements.

Siemens (www.siemens.com)
When purchasing a contact center solution, examine the following issues closely:

  • How simple is the solution to deploy? Look for a packaged solution that can be up and running quickly and economically, without lengthy custom implementation or complex training requirements.
  • Is it voice over IP (VoIP) ready? Ensure that your contact center solution can be easily migrated to VoIP without forklift modifications.
  • Can it grow? The solution should have a modular upgrade path to account for growth and the addition of new capabilities.
  • Does it support multiple contact channels? The solution must be able to integrate all communications media (inbound calls, outbound calls, e-mail and Web-based interfaces, for example) with unified routing, reporting and desktop control.
  • Is it presence-enhanced? Truly customer-centric solutions help agents link quickly to experts — on the first try. With presence, agents always know when experts are available and the best way to reach them.

Spectrum Corp. (www.specorp.com)
Contributed by Dan Boehm, Vice President, Sales & Marketing
When evaluating a real-time business intelligence solution, potential buyers should consider the following five points:

  • What intelligence information is needed?
  • When should this performance-based information be displayed to maximize effect and promote efficient operations?
  • Who will be the target audience for each distinct “view” of the data?
  • Where will it be displayed (contact centers, corporate Intranet, network operation center, customer-facing Web page, kiosks, etc)?
  • How should this knowledge-based information be presented (desktops, flat-panel monitor, browser, LED wall displays, or any combination)?

Stratasoft (www.stratasoft.com)
Contributed by Brad Randall, Director, Marketing
When selecting call center/contact center software solutions, consider:

  • IP Convergence, which is an absolute must-have in today’s call center environment.
  • Round-the-clock service and support, a necessity in a shrinking global marketplace.
  • Software automation capabilities: pre- and post-workday processing is key to call centers realizing efficiencies and real productivity gains.
  • Hosted/virtual solutions to minimize start-up costs, eliminate physical boundaries and facilitate geographic independence.
  • Home-based agents to reduce agent turnover and expand talent pool.

Syntellect (www.syntellect.com)
Contributed by Lance Fried, Vice President, Marketing
The field of virtual ACDs and speech requires special consideration when purchasing. Thing to consider include:

  • The ability of product to meet corporate customer service strategy. Consider product functionality and fit for today’s and tomorrow’s business needs.
  • Proven ROI to reduce customer service costs (both live and self-service), the ability to improve and strengthen customer relationships, and a future-proofed solution that performs without forklift upgrades.
  • Proof of product performance that’s verified by relevant reference customers.
  • A vendor’s financial strength.

TARGUSinfo (www.targusinfo.com)
Contributed by Jennifer Chamberlin, Senior Marketing Manager
For contact center industry products, choose a vendor that possesses the following qualities:

  • Industry knowledge;
  • Impact on automation (i.e., the use of data to specifically allow call centers to automate x percent more calls, which impacts operations costs);
  • Ease of integration into existing processes;
  • Coverage and accuracy of data; and
  • Network dependability.

Teleperformance USA (www.teleperformanceusa.com)
Contributed by Alan Truitt, President, Business Development
When shopping for outsourced teleservices, look for a company that offers:

  • Financial stability.
  • An international footprint. With today’s global economy, experience in all regions of the world is critical, and can also enhance/diversify offshore offerings.
  • Referenceable success — What do the company’s clients think about them?
  • Pricing that can be weighed against capabilities and experience.
  • A commitment to quality with high operational standards and processes.

Telephony@Work (www.telephonyatwork.com)
When considering IP contact center technology (on-demand), look at:

  • Multimedia capabilities that are integrated-by-design.
  • On-demand (no cost) adaptability to changing needs; all possible outcomes are pre-programmed across all technologies, and provisioning campaigns and follow-on changes are achieved from menu selections on-demand.
  • Multitenant technology that empowers infrastructure centralization without impacting on local autonomy.
  • Real-time software mirroring that keeps communications alive even if individual servers fail.
  • Network security; secure communications with back-end systems regardless of agent location (via HTTPS technology).

Texas Digital Systems (www.txdigital.com)
Real-time communication tools should:

  • Offer the ability to communicate information from multiple system inputs (ACD, help desk tools, etc.).
  • Have the ability to connect to multiple output options (LED displays, plasma displays, PC desktops, pagers, e-mail and Web).
  • Be easy to use.
  • Have the flexibility to be adapted to changing technical and business requirements.Be scalable to meet the customers’ future growth and to handle the requirements of large multisite contact center operations.

Verint Systems (www.verint.com)
Contributed by Lou Boudreau, Chief Technology Officer
When selecting a monitoring solution, look for:

  • Vendor stability — Track record, financial stability and a focus on core markets to ensure they can be a viable long-term partner.
  • Approach — The ability to go beyond your basic business requirements and assess how their solution can offer you a competitive advantage.
  • Business impact — Transform customer interactions into actionable intelligence — easily understood and shared to improve performance and profitability.
  • Architecture/Usability — The solution should be based on open standards, be able to interoperate with your infrastructure (now and planned), be highly scalable and be easy to use for maximum value.
  • Service — Vendor must have a proven ability to support your needs now and in the future.

Witness Systems (www.witness.com)
When purchasing performance optimization solutions for your company, follow the steps below to maximize your investment:

  • Examine vendors’ financial stability; inquire about R&D investment back into the business.
  • Identify the market leaders with the largest and most referenceable customer bases.
  • Ensure a well-thought-out IP strategy: contact center infrastructures continue to move in this direction.
  • Investigate technology innovation. Is the vendor a visionary, first-to-market with new solutions, and collaborative with customers on future functionality needs/offerings?
  • Consider suite providers. They offer lower total cost of ownership (TCO) through their integrated software and services offerings.

Important
Please be advised that selection guideline contributions by the following companies will be found in the Customer Interaction Solutions® December issue online at www.cismag.com.

Company, Products:
Best Software, CRM systems
Call Compliance, Telemarketing Regulatory Compliance Field
Dictaphone, Quality monitoring/agent optimization
EADS Telecom, IP telephony solutions
IEX Corporation, Workforce management technology
Salesforce.com, On-demand CRM
The Call Center School, Training services
TuVox, Speech solutions
Vocomo, Interactive voice response (IVR) systems

As always, I welcome your comments. Please e-mail me at ntehrani@tmcnet.com.

Holiday Wishes
On behalf of the entire TMC staff, I would like to wish all of you, our friends, customers, subscribers, exhibitors, vendors, conferees and speakers, a joyous holiday and a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year!

Sincerely Yours,

Nadji Tehrani
Executive Group Publisher
Editor-in-Chief

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