Selecting technologies for CRM (customer relationship management), the call center, and
e-sales and e-services contact centers, as well as choosing teleservices offerings is more
complex than ever before.
When choosing technologies for setting up what I call the next-generation of call
centers, you will face many variables and multiple choices, and you will need to keep in
mind compatibility and convergence issues. On the services side, you will also need to
evaluate compatibility between your company and the teleservices agency or application
service provider, thoroughly scrutinize their service offerings, including e-sales and
e-service, and most important, establish trust.
As the crucially important voice and data technologies for call centers converge to
make CRM and e-commerce possible, myriad new products and services are offered on a daily
basis. Making a decision on what is right for you and your call center is staggering.
Having anticipated that, TMC (Technology Marketing Corporation) management and staff
established the TMC Labs, where our engineers test the validity, compatibility,
functionality and interoperability of the multitude of technologies that are presented
every week to our engineers in the laboratory. This is becoming an overwhelming task, but
we believe that TMC's capable staff is up to the challenge. As the magazine that was
called by The Wall Street Journal "The Bible of the Industry" and the magazine
that Alex Fraser of Hewlett-Packard called "The only credible source of information
on the industry," we do not take our responsibility lightly. Our editors, TMC
Labs engineers and TMC management work extremely hard to separate facts from fiction and
reality from hype. Our test drives and product reviews represent market offerings as we
see them. Strong and weak features of every product are indicated in every review so that
you, our valued readers and buyers of products and services promoted and presented in our
publications, do not make costly purchasing mistakes. I think you can appreciate that this
is a monumental task and I am proud to say that our fine staff has lived up to your
By virtue of our three print publications, C@LL CENTER Solutions, Communications Solutions (formerly CTI)
and INTERNET TELEPHONY, as well as
several products we offer on the Web (see www.tmcnet.com),
we reach hundreds of thousands of people each and every month. Our trade shows, COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS EXPO
(formerly CTI EXPO) and our phenomenally successful first-time show, INTERNET TELEPHONY EXPO, add
considerable light to the decision-making process to help you buy the "right"
products and services for your call centers. The comprehensive seminars as well as
numerous Learning Centers and a host of free educational demonstrations on the exhibit
floor, not to mention extremely knowledgeable exhibitors, can shed plenty of light on the
tough decision of buying the right product. Believe me, there is no other way to buy
products and services judiciously. In a nutshell, to ensure satisfaction with your
purchasing decisions, it is imperative to read every pertinent article and TMC Labs
review published in C@LL CENTER Solutions, stay abreast of our Web site
information and updates, and be sure to attend COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS EXPO
(formerly CTI EXPO) and INTERNET TELEPHONY EXPO. By doing so
you can make multimillion-dollar purchasing decisions based on sound, reliable and
objective information, which has been the hallmark of TMC publications and trade
shows for the last 18 years.
To provide you with necessary purchasing guidelines and help you assess the variety of
options available to you, I have asked the outstanding TMC editors to share with you
their words of wisdom on judicious selection of products and services for your CRM, call
center, e-sales and e-service needs. Call centers of today are drastically different from
those of the past. Certainly technology has afforded the call center manager with an
arsenal of products and services whereby he/she can cut costs and overhead while
drastically enhancing the capabilities of the call center; it also has made the buying
process more complex.
Following are important factors to consider when evaluating the products and services
you will need to prepare your call center and thus your company for the challenges of the
new millennium. Good luck and best wishes in your shopping.
Our Purchasing Guidelines
Before you begin to make any decisions on purchasing any products or services,
remind yourself of the old maxim: Talk is cheap. That is not necessarily a bad thing.
Sure, when it comes to product or service hype, its important to be cautious and
read between the lines and thoroughly investigate all claims.
But talk can also be invaluable, especially between colleagues and others who work in
environments similar to yours. Make a point to communicate with as many of your team
members as possible. Find out what they feel will help them to improve their own
performance and what will help the company become more profitable. Discuss technology and
service features you are thinking about implementing and get your coworkers
feedback. This can help you avoid making wasteful purchases. New millennium or not, the
bottom line is customer service; so make sure that technology purchases are aimed at
increasing customer satisfaction, rather than purchasing technology for technologys
Get to know the members of your companys MIS department and be sure they become
intimately familiar with your call/contact center. Discuss all of your ideas for
technology purchases to be sure they are feasible. Remember to think corporatewide.
Everything must work together to avoid information islands. You should also be aware of
knowledge management and use all information wisely to increase sales.
Consider the proactive ways in which to use the data you have to improve your
companys image and perhaps, as an added bonus, increase the amount of information
you have about the preferences of individual customers. For example, outbound calls/e-mail
to customers who have just made a purchase to ensure theyre satisfied with the
product and service received so far; or a call/e-mail to a customer who, according to data
mining analysis, makes large purchases at given times of the year, perhaps associated with
birthdays, anniversaries, etc., to offer a certain discount given their gold
status these types of efforts will help to distinguish your company from its
competitors, increasing the chance that the customer youre targeting will stay loyal
to your brand, which increases that customers lifetime value to your organization.
You should also consider unifying your data which actually means
giving the various departments within your company access to a single database that
contains all customer information possessed. Sales would love to know, prior to making a
sales call, that customer A has had nothing but problems with your company and its
products, while customer B is very satisfied. Product development would like to know what
kinds of problems or questions customers are having, perhaps enabling them to incorporate
sensible changes into future products. Marketing would like to know how a certain outbound
campaign is performing, in real-time preferably, so that they can adapt the message to
maximize positive results.
Make sure any new systems you are thinking about purchasing are compatible with
existing ones. With todays software-driven and object-oriented systems,
compatibility is more important than ever. Your call center systems may actually be
fragments from any companies pasted together and they all should be firing in sync.
Get out of the office. Take advantage of conferences and trade shows, such as COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS EXPO and INTERNET TELEPHONY EXPO. Network and speak to
as many vendors as possible.
If youre looking for a teleservices outsourcer, go to the agencys physical
site. See for yourself how the facility operates and dont hesitate to talk to the
people on the front line. Get references and talk to them.
Today, everyone is concerned about providing multiple means of customer contact. This
means that all products must be Internet aware and Web-enabled. That is, once configured,
they should handle customer relationships online, on the phone, by fax, etc. Otherwise,
you will repeat the same steps over and over for each type of contact and changes to one
are not automatically propagated to other forms.
Keep in mind that if done improperly, Web integration of the call center can hurt you
more than help you. Here are some points about e-commerce to consider:
- Keep it simple. Realize that many potential customers are not tech savvy, so design with
simplicity in mind.
- Provide accurate and descriptive feedback every step of the way. Dont assume your
customers will read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) pages. Give them guidance on
- Provide security. Most people prefer secure sites when paying online.
- Provide real-time credit card transactions. This way the customer can receive immediate
feedback on whether or not his/her order was accepted. Accounting will also have less work
to do verifying credit card numbers.
- Give customers an easy method to check their orders status online.
- Always give customers the option to call the company at any point before, during or
after the transaction.
- Encourage Web and e-mail usage by promptly responding to customers e-mail and
other requests. Many companies have good phone support but lousy Web and e-mail support.
Web and e-mail usage is a Pavlovian process for many people. The more they are rewarded by
using it, the more they will use it. Let them down once and they may never use the site
again. A timely response to non-real-time messages is imperative and cannot be stressed
If you have any doubt about your ability to provide the same service level though
advanced media as you did on the phone, look to a teleservices agency for help. TMC
provides you with many tools to help you choose a teleservices agency, including:
Teleservices Outsourcing Directories that were supplements to our July 1998, November 1997
and June 1997 issues; a booklet, Telemarketing Service Agencies Everything You
Always Needed To Know; the annual rankings of the Top 50 Teleservices Agencies;
the annual Rising Stars: The
Fastest Growing Teleservices Agencies; the annual MVP Quality
Awards; numerous Publishers Outlook columns on the subject, as
well as a monthly feature in C@LL CENTER Solutions on teleservices outsourcing to
guide you in your selection of an outsourcing partner. (To purchase copies of any of the
above products, call 800-243-6002 or see www.tmcnet.com.)
As we draw the curtain on this year and open the door to the new year, the new
millennium, I take this opportunity to thank all of our valued readers, advertisers,
conference attendees, exhibitors and all industry colleagues and vendors in the CRM/call
center arena for your strong support of TMC magazines, conferences, trade
shows and Web site products and services. You helped us make 1999 another spectacular
chapter in TMC s proud history that includes our 18 years of leadership in the
CRM/call center arena.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and we wish you and yours the greatest
holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous Y2K.
Executive Group Publisher