December ends another year, and brings our annual Buyers' Guide issue in the mail. It's a resource we hope you'll refer to throughout the calendar year, particularly when your 17-year-old call center reader board spontaneously combusts, setting off the sprinklers, which in turns ruins all your headsets. Not that we're hoping you experience a scenario like that, but hey'you never know.
One thing at Customer Inter@ction Solutions we try to do every year is to not only discuss what to buy, but how to go about buying it.
We're a nation of impulse buyers. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that. If you have a car air freshener, I can guarantee that you didn't go into the store specifically to buy that freshener, even if your car smells like the bottom of a hamster cage in August.
When we shop, we know we can generally return things to the store if they don't work out. I've heard of people who buy clothes knowing full well there's a 50 percent chance they'll return the item to the store within a few days.
Even on large-scale purchases, we like to know we have options. If we buy a car and find we don't like it after a year or two, we can trade it in and get a new one without breaking our budgets or inconveniencing anyone else. Americans are notorious home-changers. We live in more locations in the course of our lifetimes than almost any other people. Houses bought, houses sold. Sure, it's an arduous process, but we choose to put ourselves through unpacking and repacking, hauling the boxes out of the attic and stuffing Fluffy into the pet carrier for yet another move.
Does This Call Recording Solution Make My Butt Look Big?
When it comes to buying enterprise software, however, we'd be better advised to listen to Grandma. My grandmothers both raised children during the Great Depression, and even decades later, would stand in the supermarket aisles scrutinizing two different brands of canned peas for a full 10 minutes, trying to determine which was the better buy.
It's no secret that product marketing material seems designed to confuse you. I don't know about you, but after too many instances of reading about 'real-time enterprise artificial intelligence customer facing hosted delivery drag-and-drop upwardly mobile cross-integrated platform independent' solutions, I want to slap someone in a marketing department somewhere.
It's easy for us to tell you to 'choose wisely when you buy call center solutions,' but this is no can of peas you're buying. Talk is cheap, and we're not the ones sitting behind the leaning tower of product brochures. So let's get to specifics.
Consider buying hosted solutions. Since you read every page of this magazine (humor me), you know that the decision about hosted versus on-premise can be summed up fairly easily. If your business is static, you have a lot of cash on hand and you have a good IT department, buying licensed software is probably right for you. On the other hand, if you're short on up-front cash, your call center service levels vary quite a bit from season to season or even day to day, your last IT guy went out for coffee three weeks ago and never came back and the prospect of being able to spread your costs out over time appeals to you, put the software down and call a company that provides hosted solutions.
Don't be afraid of speech. Many analysts and editors (this one included) are a bit perplexed by the strange resistance to speech technologies the call center market is holding onto. If you looked at speech three years ago and were appalled by the price, it's time to look again. Hosted delivery has been a boon to speech; up-front costs are reduced or eliminated, administration is taken care of by experts and the positive self-service results that can be attained using speech are dramatic.
It's time to optimize. If your workforce management solution is old, chances are you're missing out on the truly staggering benefits that can be had by modern workforce optimization solutions. It never made much sense for workforce management and call recording to be found in separate boxes. Increasingly, it's not. Added bonuses include the fact that with a newer workforce optimization solution, you can also reap the benefits of real-time analytics and e-learning. If that isn't impetus enough, workforce optimization solutions can eliminate most of the pain involved in reviewing and coaching your agents.
Modernize your training. Do you remember high school calculus class during the last weeks of school? Of course you don't. Like everyone else, you were asleep or daydreaming about hitting the beach and flirting with lifeguards. What makes you think that as adults, your call center workers have suddenly attained enormous enthusiasm for classroom learning? Statistics show that people retain very little of what they learn in a classroom setting. The good news is that nowadays with smart e-learning and call center simulation training, your agents can be learning before you've even realized they're deficient in certain areas.
IP for the contact center. No, it's not just about cheap phone calls, though those are nice too. Voice over IP is just about carrying telephone calls over the Internet. Internet protocol-based call center solutions allow you to deliver and share all your center's applications via your company network. This enables you to shift your call center operations quickly and easily to other locations, direct customer communications to other call centers when the queues become too long or you are short-staffed, hire agents, sales people or product experts to work from home or other remote locations with just a PC and a broadband connection, and keep your eye on your call center's metrics while you're laying on the beach in Tahiti.
'But Tracey,' you might say, 'I'm not going to Tahiti.' With the increased time you can save from cutting-edge call center technologies, and the increased revenue that can be realized from more efficient operations, all I can say is, 'Why the hell not?' CIS
Tracey Schelmetic, who has never been to Tahiti either, may be reached for comment at [email protected].
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